PRIDE! Kent celebrates 40 years of activism

Submitted photo.

Submitted photo.

Drew Parker

PRIDE! Kent celebrated 40 years of gay rights activism at the Kent Gay Liberation Front reunion ball Saturday.

The organization held a semi-formal event from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. The evening included keynote speaker Ed Kancler, a best-dressed contest, refreshments and dancing.

Ed Kancler, Akron chapter president of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said he became part of this organization to help straight allies become knowledgeable about LGBT issues.

“I know there’s a lot of straight people who believe in fairness,” Kancler said. “Sometimes they just aren’t aware of LGBT issues, and that’s what we’re here for.”

PRIDE! Kent alumnus Jeff Bixby began attending PRIDE! Kent in 1972, one year after the organization began, and said it was the first time he had found so many people he could relate to.

“I came out back when I was in my early twenties here at Kent State,” Bixby said. “I had been silent for a long time, and Kent State was the first contact with other gay people I had ever experienced. Just having a group of friends and support was incredible.”

“We have successfully paved the way for LGBT organizations across the country,” said Amanda Fincham, senior English major and PRIDE! Kent president.

During the event, Timothy Lewis, senior nursing major and member of PRIDE! Kent, described a day during his first year at the university when PRIDE! Kent members helped him move out of a dorm where he was being harassed.

“Whenever I had troubles, I knew I had to go to PRIDE! because they were my family,” Lewis said. “I know that if anyone has a problem in the group, I will be there for them, and they’ll be there for me as well.”

Kara Bindus, senior English major and PRIDE! Kent programming director, said the organization helped her find her identity.

“When I first came to Kent, I was struggling with my identity and PRIDE! was there for me,” Bindus said. “Thanks to this organization and everyone in it, I’ve found a home.”

Contact Drew Parker at [email protected].