Flint Pride, Wellness Services brings visibility and access to health services for LGBTQ+community

Flint Pride, Wellness Services brings visibility and access to health services for LGBTQ+community

Often Pride events are put on by larger organizations such as Michigan Pride, but when Wellness Services, Inc. noticed the lack of Pride events in Flint, it decided to launch one.

Eight years ago, the first Flint Pride event began as a small event to increase visibility for the LGBTQ+ community in the Flint area, and it has been growing annually.

“I feel like every year we got 300 more people than the year before. We always plan for about 1,500 to 2,000,” says Teresa Springer, director of programs at Wellness Services.

This year the event was held on June 23 at Riverbank Park.

The organization launched and continued Flint Pride, motivated by the belief visibility is an important way to encourage equality and acceptance, as well as create safe spaces.

Teresa Springer, director of programs at Wellness Services, Inc., and Tom Moore, Flint Pride volunteer and participant at the Wellness Services, Inc. office.

“For a long time, it was super taboo for somebody to come out of the closet and, depending on how ‘clockable’ you are, you can risk a lot just walking out your door sometimes,” Springer says.

“For example, if you are a trans woman with very masculine features, then you aren’t treated very well in this society. If you are an effeminate gay male, you aren’t treated very well. There are safe spaces, but overall, it can be really challenging to navigate our society. At Pride, you don’t have to worry about that,” she says.

With Flint Pride, the community has a chance to see many people identify across the LGBTQ+ spectrum in this area. Wellness Services, Inc. believes awareness can help those who attend the Pride event to feel the comradery and see other people who look and identify the way they do.

“It helps reinforce my faith that there are people out there that do want to help and who are doing good,” Tom Moore, Flint Pride participant and volunteer says, “It also reinforces that there are safe spaces and safe agencies out there, and sometimes we aren’t aware of them. Plus, you can just see how happy people are. Not just the LGBTQ+ community, but the allies and the kids who really love it, too.”

In addition to the crowd growing annually, the number of community sponsors has grown as well.

This year, besides Wellness Services and Safe Space Ally Center, the community partners for Flint Pride include The University of Michigan Flint, Blue Cross Complete of Michigan, American Liver Foundation, Greater Flint Arts Counsel, The Good Beans Café, Genesee Health System, Between The Lines, Kroger, Affirmations, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Equality Michigan, PFLAG, Dort Federal Credit Union, Unified, and MTA.

“We got a lot of sponsors this year and it is super helpful,” Springer says.

Flint Pride offers hours of entertainment and vendors for the duration of the event, there is always a kid’s corner with fun and games for the children, and Wellness Services maintains a strong focus on health. Consequently, Flint Pride always offers HIV testing. This year there was also HVC testing and Hep A vaccines available for the community.

“We just want to have a safe access point for the community to get tested without feeling stigmatized,” Springer says.

About 35 people are tested at the Pride event every year over the span of three hours. With about 10 tests an hour, Wellness Services is reaching people who might not otherwise get tested, potentially saving lives.

National Testing Day is June 27 and the Wellness Services staff will be testing at Walgreens on 3753 S. Dort Hwy. and in their office at 311 E. Court St.

Another addition to the 2018 Pride event was the dedicated and launch of the Deon Jackson Memorial Scholarship.

Deuntia Lamar Jackson (Deon), one of the co-founders of Flint Pride, recently passed away and Wellness Services created a scholarship fund in his name to support people who identify across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It will consist of $250 or $500 scholarships for any education after high school, such as vocational school or college. To learn more about the scholarship, or to donate please click here.

Wellness Services focuses on providing a safe space for HIV and STI testing. They also provide many other resources such as support groups, an LGBT safe space, HIV case management, access to clean syringes and naloxone/Narcan rescue kits. For more information, visit wellnessaids.org or stop in at 311 E. Court St.




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