Macomb County Pride hosts opportunities for LGBTQ+ community to connect year round

While Macomb County Pride (MCP) has a number of events on the calendar to celebrate Pride Month and the local LGBTQ+ community, the new nonprofit’s work continues all year long. 

MCP is a grassroots organization that was developed by residents who felt the long-standing need for LGBTQ+ resources in Macomb County. The group was established in 2019 when cousins Carrie and Phil Gilchrist were planning a New Year’s Eve party with their friends.

“Macomb County Pride came to be from some conversations that I was having with other folks, and it became really clear that there was not an existing organization in Macomb County that really worked to convene the LGBTQ community,” Phil Gilchrist says. 

MCP’s initial goal was to establish a Pride Festival in the county. The inaugural festival was planned for 2020, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, however, the festival launched in Mt. Clemens, in October.

Throughout the pandemic, Carrie and Phil Gilchrist held virtual opportunities for the community to stay connected, and MCP began forming an executive board to run the group — Carrie Gilchrist took on the role of vice president and Phil Gilchrist became the president. 

The board filed for nonprofit status with the state of Michigan in the summer of 2020 so the group could fundraise — they obtained 501(c)(3) status later that year.

Pride Festival, 2021. Photo: Supplied / Phil Gilchrist.

“I think that having a nonprofit status sort of reinforces, too, that this is an organization that is intended to benefit the community,” Phil Gilchrist says. “We're not in it for ourselves. We're not in it to make any money. This is really about providing those opportunities for the community where those opportunities don't currently exist.” 

Pride Festival, 2021. Photo: Supplied / Phil Gilchrist. The nonprofit is largely volunteer-run with elective opportunities ranging from managing resource tables during events to consistent work on committees for fundraising, program-planning, outreach, and merchandise. The group is currently looking for more volunteers

The MCP board is also focused on other outreach efforts. A town hall meeting to expand the group’s connections with other organizations in the county for future partnerships is in the works. 

“We try every year to encourage cities and townships to provide a proclamation for June Pride Month, so we do some letter writing and some phone calling if we're connected with people and attend those city council meetings and try and show support for those declarations,” Carrie Gilchrist says. 

MCP is also beginning to fundraise and find sponsorships for the second annual pride festival — Fall into Pride 2022. The family-friendly festival will take place on Friday, October 7 through Sunday, October 9 in downtown Mount Clemens. 

The weekend-long festival is already full  of events: a pub crawl will happen on Friday, Saturday will be the main celebration with a street fair and performances, and Sunday’s events are yet to be determined. 

Pride Festival, 2021. Photo: Supplied / Phil Gilchrist.“All three days we will have a midway — Skerbeck Family Carnival will be on Main Street. Saturday, we will have Nikki Holland & The Dirty Elizabeths as our headliner, as well as Jadein Black, as our queen, hosting,” board member Chris Kipp says. 

While MCP’s Pride Festival isn’t until fall, the board will be hosting a Pride Picnic on June 26 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Dodge Park. The event is free and open to the public (with a suggested $5 donation), and guests can bring their own picnic supplies, meet new friends, and enjoy yard games. 

In addition to Pride celebrations, MCP also has a Book Club that meets monthly, online gaming nights, and the Outlook podcast. 

“[The podcast covers] a variety of things — sometimes we talk to local talent,” Kipp says. “The last one we did was about religion in the gay community, and we had somebody from the Jewish community, somebody from the Christian community, as well as someone from the Muslim community talking about [...] how they've come to terms with their religion and their identity within the LGBTQIA community. Our next will be in July and that one will be about trans and nonbinary pronouns.” 

To stay connected and for information on upcoming events, MCP has a Discord channel that is open for all to join. The group is also active on Facebook and Instagram @macombcountypride. 

While the executive board is pleased with the events they have held thus far, the board wants to continue that momentum and provide more resources to Macomb County’s LGBTQ+ community. 

Phil Gilchrist says: “Because we're still really new, we're still trying to find kind of how we fit into this landscape here, and the programming that we've done has been providing really good opportunities for the community to be able to come together, but there's still more that can be done [...] so we're starting some efforts now to look into what those issues are, what those gaps are, and what our community still needs here.” 
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Read more articles by Sarah Gudenau.