Published date: Thursday, 1 June 2023

Celebrating Pride and the power of community

By Rachel Blank, Senior AE, Measurement

2005 was the year I witnessed the power of community. The previous year my friend, Dan and I formed the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), at our high school, Pikesville High, in Baltimore, Maryland. We attracted over 80 highschoolers in our introductory meeting. Our launch was an incredible success. 

Next Fall, we planned our own Pride week. Students who identified as LGBTQIA (A is for asexual) and/or allies were encouraged to dress up in ways that would echo the week’s daily themes. The night before our week kicked off, I received a call from a private school friend whose mom was in PFLAG, (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). 

The PFLAG meeting was centered around the surprising news that a local university’s radio station, in addition to a church group, were planning to stage a boycott at our public high school. Supposedly, Oprah, the Oprah Winfrey had called our principal and expressed interest in filming, and the Westboro Baptist Church was rumored to be there too. 

Our goal was to do everything we could to spread the word and organize a counter-protest. 

At the end of the next school day, our counter-protest took form on the front lawn following the last period. We completely outnumbered the protestors. And while our principal turned down my one and only opportunity to speak to Oprah, the news stations caught our relentless joy on camera, and we left the day empowered, knowing that our Pride week was a success. Kids from all over the state attended. 

Although our event was a hit, the LGBTQIA community still faces unfair scrutiny. The individuals who wanted to put a stop to the GSA’s Pride week are just one example of the growing list of folks who spew hatred and enforce their beliefs upon others.  While I am not a member of the LGBTQIA rainbow, my friend group has always consisted of a diverse crowd. It’s hard for me to fathom why people concern themselves with the personal lives of others and why hatred towards marginalized groups exists within this country. While some states are challenging the freedoms and safety of the LGBTQIA community, there are many organizations like the HRC and NAACP who are fighting to protect the community. 

Minority groups have always been resilient— they’ve had to be.  While I am certain that the tide will eventually turn, we need to encourage everyone to be vocal in their support of all marginalized communities.  

To any Looper in the DMV area, my theater company Stillpointe is hosting an event to kick off pride week in Baltimore aptly called, “Queerscape” on June 22nd. Queer-scape “UNDRESSED” a pun on Baltimore’s famous “Artscape”. We will feature visual artists, performers, and organizations tied to the community. 

Lastly, if you’re an ally who wants to support the community, but doesn’t know where to turn  check out the Trevor Project, who’s ( mission is to end suicide among LGBTQIA youth. If you love drag and find joy in the art of drag then please help preserve their right to perform their art by donating

16 year-old Rachel rocking a pink striped shirt during the GSA counter protest, (Fall, 2005).