Equality Fest: Beaumont Pride may be gone, but new gathering rises from its ashes

James Aubey, Linda Walker, Tanjila Tabassum, Nirmal Chandra Gope, Ruth Aubey
Equality Fest: Beaumont Pride may be gone, but new gathering rises from its ashes

Beaumont’s Pride festival started in 2014 and had between 2,500 and 4,000 attendees annually, according to former volunteer chair Jacqueline Hays, but the nonprofit folded last year under the weight of financial difficulties, as previously reported by The Examiner on March 9.

But now a new event, Equality Fest has grown out of the movement, which included a march and street fair this past weekend.

“The success of Beaumont Pride helped us make this event happen, but this is not Pride,” said Hays, who is also the president of PFLAG Beaumont. “This is a grassroots movement where everyone can come together and celebrate each other.”

“Like the Women’s March and March for Science, we are seeing how people want to visibly come together to be heard,” event organizer Payshunz Nagashima said. “The community does not want to lose Pride, and I am sure many feel that this is a replacement of Pride, but this happened organically.”

Sandra Hammerling, local art collector and Beaumont resident for 55 years, served as the drum major leading the march.

She said in a release announcing the event that she feels that “a lot of good” came from Beaumont Pride in the last several years, and she wants to see that continue.

“Grassroots effort allow[ed] the organizers to keep cost low while including all walks of life.” said Olivia Busceme, event organizer and gallery director of Victoria House.

Victoria House, a local entertainment booking collective, partnered with PFLAG Beaumont to host the march and festival.

The Equality March began at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 11, at 650 Orleans Street, outside The Publicity. Participants walked up Orleans Street to 200 Crockett Street for live music and more celebration and booths outside the Gig.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office came out to the festival with a SWAT truck.

“Our new sheriff is committed to bringing a culture of inclusion and developing community relationships,” PFLAG Beaumont said in a release. “We completely support these efforts.”