PrideFest marches on
First Posted: 7/29/2013
About a month after the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, an official in Montgomery County started granting marriage licenses to Pennsylvania gay couples, but state law still bans same-sex marriage in the Keystone State.
This is just one of many challenges facing the LGBT community in northeast Pennsylvania, but thanks to the NEPA Rainbow Alliance, they don’t have to do it alone.
For the past 10 years, the nonprofit organization has worked with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied citizens in the region to educate people about and develop resources to serve their needs while building a strong community.
“What we ended up being for a long time was kind of the gay and lesbian switchboard. And then we got involved with engaging and giving a voice for LGBT issues in the region,” NEPA Rainbow Alliance co-founder and executive director John Dawe said.
“We’ve really positioned ourselves to be that researched, educated voice on all LGBT issues. We don’t necessarily engage in a lot of direct activism, but we certainly provide information to our constituents, around how they can get involved in legal or legislative affairs. We do a lot of legal referrals because of the inequalities that can exist for the LGBT community.”
The 31-year-old Kingston resident, who is also president of Dawe Consulting, has seen the delivery method for such information change from magazines and Myspace to networks like Facebook, but their mission has stayed the same.
“The latest issue is two women who have a child and one is the birth mother and one is sort of the adopted mother. Well, what do they need to do to either get a second parent adoption or figure out if one can’t pick them up from school, can the other pick them up from school? In every sense of the word, the second parent is a parent, but in the eyes of the law, they’re just some random person, which is not a healthy way for the child to have to look at the two people in the family. So we’re working on things like that,” Dawe explained.
The Alliance’s outreach has also grown through its annual PrideFest. What began as a small picnic has turned into an annual week of events culminating in a festival in Wilkes-Barre’s Kirby Park, which is now in its fifth year.
“The first year we had about 500, the second year we had about 1,500, the third year we had like 1,200 because it poured rain, last year we had almost 2,000, so this year, we’re expecting at least somewhere around there. If the weather is good, I would say we might break 2,400 this year,” Dawe said.
“It becomes the way for us to bring the community together. It becomes the way for us to have vendor and exhibit booths so those people looking to provide services have direct access to members of the community, it provides a way for straight people and allies to come out and show support, it provides fundraising…(and) we provide entertainment at it.
“People will come because of the entertainment, but what they’ll walk away with, having visited the vendors, is talking about the services available… It’s driving economic development and economic action because they’re identifying with the people who are the sponsors and the vendors there to see where the LGBT-friendly businesses are.”
The group hopes to raise money for program development and new services through a planned community center that may open as soon as September.
As a non-profit, the Alliance does not participate in direct lobbying, but elected officials will likely be in attendance at PrideFest. Attorney General Kathleen Kane attended last year, and the Barack Obama campaign handed out literature during the presidential election season. Dawe believes the recent Supreme Court decision, which put LGBT issues back in the news, will drive some involvement.
“I think there’s education to be done about that, too. The Supreme Court decision, because it doesn’t directly affect Pennsylvania, means that at some point, maybe through the (American Civil Liberties Union)’s lawsuit that they’ve done, marriage equality will end up in Pennsylvania sooner or later. So the question is, ‘What is the path to that? What will that look like?’ Nobody has a crystal ball, so nobody can tell you that in two years, we’ll have marriage equality in Pennsylvania and this how you’ll get your license and this how you’ll register and this is how you’ll file your taxes,” he noted.
“We can’t do that. What we can do is educate people on what you can do to get ready for that day. And if that day doesn’t happen, we can educate them on what they need to do because that didn’t happen yet.”
The LGBT community may still be spread out across NEPA, but the Alliance continues to work to bring them closer together as America marches forward.
“If you were to take a gay person who lived in northeastern Pennsylvania 20 years ago, if you were to take them from 1993 and beam them through time and put them in the middle of Kirby Park, they probably would faint. You go back 10 years and they probably would faint. And so PrideFest is a celebration of the progress the community has made, too,” Dawe said.
“As society continues to evolve and accept and embrace LGBT community members, more and more people are going to look to our organization and PrideFest as the one-stop shop for everything they need as far as LGBT issues, from legal to health to education to access to service to nondiscrimination in employment – we get all the calls. And as more and more people come out and more and more people are supportive, it’s important for the community as a whole to see that support so that has a catalytic effect on the future of the organization and of the community, keeping in mind that the goal of every nonprofit like this is to put itself out of business.
“Someday, it won’t be an issue, and everyone will be treated equal.”
-Rich Howells, Weekender Editor
Barta brings fun pop music to PrideFest
What would PrideFest be without one hell of a dance party?
There are many different acts that will grace the stage during the event, and one of them includes Bronx-born Adam Barta, who not only brings tunes that make you want to shake your hips, but may even emit a giggle or two.
Barta has forged his way in the music world with a unique pop/dance blend with a humorous tilt, recording songs with the likes of reality TV and pop culture personalities like Octomom and Tan Mom.
That’s not to say the blue-eyed singer’s music should be taken lightly; Barta has recorded a song with Sister Sledge lead singer Kathy Sledge, which went to the Top 20 Billboard chart in October 2011, and has captured the “Ultimate Sexiest Video of All Time” title on the LOGO network for his song “Standing in the Rain.”
Barta, who just made his third appearance on “Howard Stern” yesterday, also just released the song “You Seemed Shady to Me” with Pandora Boxx from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and is hitting the studio again with Tan Mom.
He’s busy flying from city to city, but he’s excited to visit NEPA and bring the party with him.
THE WEEKENDER: How did you get into the business? Is it a family thing?
ADAM BARTA: It’s funny because I was just with my family and we had this exact conversation. I’m like, “I think I’m the most famous/talented one here,” and they were like, “Yup.” Either I’m adopted or…I don’t know where I came from! My family has no musical background. They’re so talented in so many other ways, though. From a young age, I just had the bug; I wanted to perform.
W: Many people look at pop acts and see them as all the same. What separates you from the rest?
AB: You know, Howard Stern said this the last time I was on the show, that I really made a nice niche for myself, and I realized that yes, I do the pop, the dance, and have fun music, but I’m sort of a hybrid. I’m doing all these crazy songs with Octomom and Tan Mom, and I think I’m bringing an element of fun to it all. I’m kind of taking Weird Al, who is famous for his music parodies, and bringing it into a real pop music realm. The songs are originals that are totally hilarious, but still have the element of real pop music to them.
W: How do you end up working with such strong, and sometimes controversial, personalities like that?
AB: I work with an amazing talent agency who represents a lot of these clients. It’s also gotten to the point that, as my name gets bigger and bigger, I find it’s easier to talk to people. I was having a conversation on Twitter with Cory Feldman the other day, someone who I grew up watching. It was crazy.
W: What was it like working with Kathy Sledge?
AB: I call her Aunt Kathy, and she’s like, “Don’t call me that; it makes me feel old!” But really, it’s because she’s such a mentor to me. She’s a sweet, warm person. I call her up every now and again and get advice from her. I always say that one of the highlights of my career, the most surreal moments, is when we first walked into the recording studio together and sat down to write a song and she said, “Ok, let’s harmonize” – and started singing “We Are Family.” I’m sitting there and here’s this woman who sings a legendary pop song and she wants me to sing with her. It was like, “Is this happening? Is this for real?” The culmination of that was actually last month, when I had the chance to perform in New Jersey with her.
W: Why is an event like PrideFest important to have?
AB: I’m always one for equality of any kind, and really, I think that things like this are so important for the youth. We want the youth to be able to look up and be inspired and not scared to be who they are, to know they’re growing up in a world that, when they get older, they’re going to have the opportunity to marry someone they love and they aren’t going to be denied certain things. This is setting the stage for future generations, not even just us. It’s going to leave a legacy for kids to be able to grow up in a world where they feel welcome, special, and that they can make their lives happy without any sort of problems.
-Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer
Pride Week 2013
Aug. 6: NEPA Pride Week Out at The Woodlands Inn, Wilkes-Barre, at 7 p.m., 50 percent of profits from drink sales (from 7-9 p.m.) will be donated to the NEPA Rainbow Community Center Project
Aug. 7: NEPA Pride Week Out at POSH at Scranton Club, Scranton, at 7 p.m., $1 from each drink will be donated to the NEPA Rainbow Social Activities Fund, dinner specials for all budgets featured in the dining room
Aug. 8: NEPA Pride Week Out at The Venture Lounge, Hanover Township, at 7 p.m., happy hour drink specials and karaoke night
Aug. 9: NEPA Pride Week Out at Tomato Bar and Bistro, Pittston, 6-10 p.m., happy hour drink specials; NEPA Pride Week All Ages Dance Party at Twist Nightclub, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.
Aug. 10: NEPA Pride Week Pre-PrideFest Party at 12 Penny Saloon, Moosic, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., happy hour drink specials
Aug. 11: Pride Week Prayer Service at Kirby Park, 11:30-11:45 a.m.
Aug. 11, noon-6 p.m.
12-12:10 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies
12:10-12:40 p.m.: DJ Brian K from 12 Penny Saloon
12:40-12:55 p.m.: Performance by drag queen Estella Sweet
12:55-1:10 p.m.: Performance by drag king Oliver Twist
1:10-2:10 p.m.: The Chatter Set 1
2:10-2:20 p.m.: Announcements
2:20-2:35 p.m.: Performance by drag queen Vivica Von Peters
2:35-3:10 p.m.: JLINE
3:10-3:50 p.m.: DJ David Petrilla
3:50-4:15 p.m.: Adam Barta
4:15-5:15 p.m.: The Chatter Set 2
5:15-5:45 p.m.: Sherry Vine
5:45-6 p.m. p.m.: Performance by drag queen Estella Sweet
6-7 p.m. p.m.: DJ Rose Muro from The Venture Lounge