Sunday, June 29, 2008

Peace, Pride, and Great Performances

The Michigan Pride March and Festival on Saturday got through the day with great weather and, later in the evening, with no rain or downpour as threatening clouds passed over. The excellent line-up of musical artists was able to perform as scheduled but, unfortunately, the planned fireworks had to be cancelled because of consistently strong winds.

I volunteered at the Michigan Pride event for the third time in 4 years (last year I was in Atlanta for the U.S. Social Forum). I usually help out at vendor booths, but this year I was a member of the Michigan Peace Team (MPT), which was invited by the event organizers to help “keep the peace” and prevent violence should any disturbances arise. MPT had a presence throughout the parade, the Capitol rally, and the all-day festival at Lansing’s Adado Riverfront Park.

No protesters materialized, which generated comments from some surprised event observers and participants. At one point during the Capitol rally I spotted a person vigorously waving a large sign at the corner of Ionia and Capital avenues and a crowd gathering. As I got closer to the scene, I could read the sign: “Free Cold Drinks.” Thank you, I’ll have another.

For peace team purposes, the day was relatively uneventful but we remained vigilant and watchful throughout. As I stood around with the bright yellow MPT vest, a number of event-goers expressed thanks for our participation, which was nice.


I am officially adding the Michigan Pride Festival to my list of premier Mid-Michigan events. As a member of the peace community and independent media, I have the opportunity to attend a number of great events throughout the year. For example, the Cristo Rey Festival during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is three-day gem with great crowds, food, and music.

The Michigan Pride Festival has two great qualities. First, you find a fun crowd that exhibits shining love, tolerance, and a humanistic spirit, including optimism in the face of a culture of oppression and hate. Second, the festival includes a day-long music concert (with a bargain $5 entrance fee) that deserves recognition in its own right. The organizers of this event – which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year – deserve praise and congratulations for a job well-done.


During my various shifts outside the festival gates for MPT, I was able to catch great performances by Kung Fu Diesel, Barbara Payton, and Sista Otis & the Wholly Rollers. (I took a mid-day break missing some other great acts.) As the festival’s late acts, Payton and Otis put on back-to-back shows that made me an instant fan of each. I bought both Otis CDs and will soon be tracking down Payton’s music. The biggest disappointment was that more people did not stick around to see these two performances. It was obvious the party had moved elsewhere at that point. Nevertheless, Payton and Otis (pictured above) put out high-energy performances for a small, yet enthusiastic audience. It put a great wrap on a peaceful Michigan Pride Festival.
-- Rico Thomas Rico
Part of the Michigan Peace Team
at Michigan Pride Festival 2008

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