Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Local LGBTQ Activist Making Strides on Inclusivity, Diversity in LOU Community

By Austin Newcomb
Hottytoddy.com intern

Resilience, courage, and determination are traits that one California-born, Mississippi-raised native embodies. The courage and passion to increase inclusivity and diversity are directly reflected through what LGBTQ activist Blake Summers provides to the Oxford-Lafayette and university communities.

Blake Summers and his partner, Jonathan Kent Adams, enjoy the Oxford Pride parade May 6, 2017. Photo courtesy of Blake Summers.

Summers was born in a town near Yosemite National Park, so it was a culture shock when he moved across the country to Hernando, Mississippi to attend high school. 

“I have earned my ‘y’all.’ I even practiced using it. When I could say it right, I used it,” Summers said.

Summers has roots in performance art dancing. As his involvement in the LGBTQ community in the area began to grow, he was invited to perform at a Code Pink – an LGBTQ dance night that gives queer people a safe place to connect and experience new perspectives. The event aims to create an intimate environment for LGBTQ members and allies to engage in fellowship with one another.

“I was doing weird performance art like dumping soil into the bar. It was really weird and experimental, which is what I brought to the scene,” he said. “The transformation from not really caring about the gay community to being the second person in charge of Code Pink was a weird transition. I really care about everyone, and I am really lucky to be in charge of Code Pink now.”

LaDarius Lee, a Code Pink attendee, said he knows the significance of having a safe place to make connections and express himself freely without judgment. Attending many Code Pink events, he said Summers’ innovative and creative ideas for each event is evident through his decoration skills and bringing numerous drag queens and dancers to perform. 

LGBTQ activists (including Summers, second from left) marching in Jackson, MS in response to House Bill 1523 June 25, 2017. Photo by Lauren Abbott.

Summers said building a healthy community helps establish a positive environment to empower and encourage others. The smallest interaction between two people shows that kindness is a positive impact on the bigger picture of change.

“All of the impacts in my life have transformed me into the happiest I can be. I’ve empowered a lot of people, which a lot of people have given me love to empower others,” he said. “I want to keep giving people the strength to not swallow hate and to use positivity as a way to transform our nation. It’s the small interactions between two people at a coffee shop that will change someone’s perception.”

With a negative connotation still surrounding the LGBTQ community in the South, many ask why Summers stays in Mississippi to advocate for a community that has sometimes questioned the queer community’s place in society.

His answer is simple: “Why not?”

“It doesn’t take much to bring people together and I think that’s what is missing. A lot of people don’t have someone to just say ‘picnic!’ or ‘house party!.’ It only takes a little bit of energy to change that. I’m happy to give people a space to feel comfortable in,” Summers said.

With events like Code Pink, Oxford Pride, and other gatherings coordinated and planned by Summers, a blanket of reassurance enfolds many members of the LGBTQ community because of his diligence promoting inclusivity and diversity to all walks of life.

“Blake is a reminder that it’s OK to be yourself however you may identify. He’s used his connections and skills to come up with various opportunities that Mississippi has never quite offered to the community,” Lee said. “It takes a lot of courage and confidence to do what he does. Blake has definitely taken a part of a new inclusive movement here in Oxford.”

If you want to learn more information about getting involved with the LGBTQ community in Oxford, contact UM Pride Network, OUTGrads, OutOxford, the Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement, and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.


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