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Oxford Pride Week to Celebrate State’s Queer Community 

By Clara Turnage

University of Mississippi

The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies organizes Oxford Pride Week each year as a way to celebrate and honor the LGBTQ+ community in Mississippi. This year’s celebration, themed ‘ Long Live the Queens,’ features a variety of activities. Submitted photo

The Lafayette-Oxford-University community will break out the tiaras this year during the annual Oxford Pride Week celebration, which is themed “Long Live the Queens.” 

The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, in collaboration with University of Mississippi and community partners, hosts Oxford Pride Week from April 30 to May 6. 

Pride Week, first held in Oxford in 2016, is an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate, said Jamie Harker, director of the Isom Center. 

“For us, this is a way to celebrate what’s already here, and the Mississippi queer community is here,” Harker said. “Like most of our good ideas, it came from students. When students want to do something, we listen because we know it is important for them. 

“It’s really powerful to say you can be who you are. You don’t have to be afraid. People love you just for who you are.” 

This year’s Pride Week parade honors Mykki Newton, former School of Journalism and New Media equipment manager, director and videographer, and former English professor Colby Kullman as honorary grand marshals. Both Newton and Kullman died in the last two years and were champions of the LGBTQ+ community, said Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator for the Isom Center and lead organizer of Pride Week. 

The events, particularly the parade, give members of the LGBTQ+ community an opportunity to shine, Cozart said. 

“Queer kids have a day that they get to be themselves and they don’t have to hide,” Cozart said. “The university puts itself forward as a place for everyone and so does Oxford, so it’s important for at least one week, the queer population is not only visible, but publicly embraced.” 

Cozart said this year’s theme came about for two reasons: the coincidence of the parade occurring on the day of King Charles III’s coronation and recent legislation restricting the rights of drag queens and transgender people in the United States. 

“There’s this national backlash against LGBTQ+ people in America right now,” Cozart said. “We are an institution of higher learning with precepts of diversity, equity and inclusion. Our job is to educate by creating an environment where we can celebrate the community, including the queer community.” 

The Oxford Pride Parade shows members of the community how to support queer Mississippians, said Ethan Robertson, a junior political science major from Pontotoc and the secretary of the Associated Student Body. 

“You show up for your community and for what you believe in – that’s how you be a good ally,” Robertson said. “Supporting LGBTQIA+ rights helps everybody, regardless of your sexuality, because it opens the door for all people to be treated equally and have rights.” 

Caleb Ball, a sophomore political science major from Ingomar, said last year’s parade was one of the first times he felt loved and supported for who he is by the community. 

“I got to the Episcopal Church, and it said in rainbow letters, ‘Jesus loves you,'” Ball said. “For a long time, I had wondered if that was true. That’s what pride is. It’s being able to look around you and see friends and allies and know that they support you and you’re not alone.” 

Oxford Pride Week events include: 

Sunday (April 30) 

  • Interfaith service, 2 p.m., Paris-Yates Chapel 
  • Picnic and games at Out at the Park, 4 p.m., Avent Park 

Monday (May 1) 

  • Movie screening, 4 p.m., LGBTQ Lounge in Lamar Hall 

Wednesday (May 3) 

  • Queer Poetry Night, 6:30 p.m., Powerhouse Community Arts Center

Thursday (May 4) 

  • Lavender Graduation, 4:30 p.m., The Inn at Ole Miss 

Friday (May 5) 

  • Ian Whalen, UM alumnus and doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Colorado, speaks on queerness in Mississippi, noon, Lamar Hall, Room 555 

Saturday (May 6)

  • Oxford Pride Parade, 2 p.m., starting at the Oxford-University Depot 
  • Pride on the Plaza Resource fair, 3 p.m., Student Union Plaza 
  • Drag Show, 8 p.m., the Lyric 

For more information, visit https://www.oxfordmspride.rocks/.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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