Every June, the LGBTQIA+ community honors the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, which served as the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the 1960s. Pride Month is a national celebration of diversity and inclusion, and locally, it brings together thousands of St. Louisans for PrideFest. T&S spoke with Jordan Braxton, director of diversity, inclusion and outreach for Pride St. Louis, to learn more about this year’s event and the work the nonprofit does in the community.
Tell me about Pride St. Louis’ mission.
We have been around for more than 40 years. Our mission is to foster understanding and tolerance for LGBTQIA+ individuals in the St. Louis community. We want to create a world where diversity is celebrated, and we work toward that through community events, leading up to the annual PrideFest—the largest Pride event in St. Louis. However, we aren’t just about putting on a festival. We are a year-round organization. We lead outreach, provide information and connect people with vital resources.
How important is community support to the organization?
We don’t have any paid staff and are completely operated by volunteers. We really do rely on community involvement. It takes between 300 and 500 people to put on PrideFest every year. We’re lucky to have the community partners we do, including our corporate sponsors. They often send us many of the volunteers who make the event possible.
What does it mean to bring PrideFest back after a two-year hiatus?
We’re excited because it’s the first time the LGBTQIA+ community has been able to come together since 2020. The last two years have been tough, and we’re more than ready to get back into the community. That’s why we came up with the theme Together Again. We’ll get to be together to celebrate uniqueness. The event spotlights our past and history, where we are today and how we will continue to make changes for the future. PrideFest is a chance to rejoice in one another and who we are. It really will be like a big family who hasn’t seen each other for a long time getting back together.
What can people look forward to from the event this year?
We’re going to have fabulous entertainment. That’s going to be a big highlight. The LGBTQIA+ community in St. Louis has so many talented members. We’ll also have a children’s area, and for the first time, there will be a special sober space. A lot of people are in recovery, so we’ll provide a safe space and materials on sobriety. Along with our vendor area, we’ll also have booths so people can access information and resources they need.
How else does Pride St. Louis serve the community?
We do a lot of outreach on diversity and inclusion in schools and businesses around St. Louis. During the holidays, we also have an initiative to feed people in the community who may not have a family to celebrate with or access to a meal. During the pandemic, we expanded that service by providing chicken dinners to people who needed them.