Savannah Pride preview

Savannah Pride marks its 12th year on Saturday with its annual festival that attracts hundreds to the city’s famous Forsyth Park for entertainment and community. A “March for Equality” organized by Act Out Savannah will also be held Sunday through the downtown streets of the historic city.

This year’s Savannah Pride fest celebrates “Empowering Equality Through Pride” and includes live entertainment all day on the main stage of the park. Organizers say more than 40 local businesses, churches and elected officials will be on hand at the festival to show support of LGBT Savannah residents.

A major change also takes place this year — the fest is no longer free and a $5 admission for those 16 and older will be taken from a gated area of the park.

“Change for equality among all people does not happen overnight, nor does it change by taking the silent seat in the back,” said Heather Byars, executive director of Savannah Pride, in a prepared statement.

“2011 has been a year of new and positive changes in the name of ‘Equality.’ So we thought what could be more fitting to celebrate,” Byars added.

Savannah Pride is a family-friendly event with plenty of children’s activities. Numerous vendors will be on hand including food, drink and even a dog-washing station. Live entertainment includes performances by drag artists Spykey van Dykey, the Vida DeVoid’s Burlesque Show and headliner Liquid Ginger. There will also be a special guest appearance by BeBe Zahara Benet from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the winner of Season 1.

Elke Kennedy, mother of Sean Kennedy, will also be at the fest speaking about the Sean’s Last Wish foundation she formed to remember her gay son, Sean, who died in 2007 after being punched by a man who called him “faggot.”

“Equality should be the sole right that is deserved by anyone just for being human and not based on the color of your skin, sexual orientation, region, economic status, or handicap,” said Byars. “With that first breath we take, we are given the right to life, it should also stand that we should all have the right to equality.”

Savannah Pride is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. at Forsyth Park.

‘March for Equality’

A planned “March for Equality” was planned for Sunday but has been postponed until Sept. 24.

The Facebook page for the “March for Equality” has a comment from organizer Cody Patterson saying the march had to be postponed “due to conflicts in events and logistics.”

The march on Sept. 24 will be the second LGBT equality march in Savannah. The historic first “Queer Power March” last year attracted hundreds of people.

A month after last year’s Savannah Pride and Queer Power March, the Savannah City Council voted to approve domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Kevin Clark, chair of the Savannah chapter of Georgia Equality, noted these two events as helping keep pressure on elected officials which he said likely led to a unanimous vote by the council to approve the measure.

“There’s no doubt in my mind if our community had not risen up and showed we are indeed a powerful force … that we are seizing this moment in history to demand equality, this would not have happened,” Clark said after the council approved domestic partner benefits in October 2010. “This community has a lot to celebrate today.”

A rally in Savannah was also held in June 2010 after a gay man was attacked by two U.S. Marines after they allegedly became upset because he winked at one of them. LGBT activists including Georgia Equality urged the attack be considered a hate crime. Authorities however the crime was not a hate crime and only one Marine was charged with a misdemeanor.


Top Photo: Last year’s Queer Power March (left) included a speech by gay activist Derrick Martin (top right), the young man from Cochran, Ga., who fought to take his boyfriend to the prom, and complemented Savannah Pride’s live entertainment. (File photos)