- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - Hattiesburg Unified Southern Fried Pride - a weekend of events including music, a march and a tea dance - marks the city’s first gay pride festival.

City police did not have crowd estimates when The Associated Press asked Sunday.

“I would love to see this event spread to other cities and become a collaborative effort where we can put aside our differences and just be one community,” Keenon Walker, founder of Keenon Walker Public Relations and Consulting, told The Hattiesburg American (https://hatne.ws/1LprvMb ).

Events kicked off Friday with discussion forums and a wine and cheese tasting at which sexual health information was offered.

Saturday, there were speakers, musical performances and a peaceful march downtown. Sunday’s events included a service and a chicken-and-waffle brunch at Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church, and an afternoon and early evening tea dance at Brewsky’s.

The Rev. Ray Peacock led some counter-demonstrators on Saturday, WDAM-TV (https://bit.ly/1MpLfQu ) reported. A photograph showed four protesters.

“I don’t believe in what they stand for. We’re just out to show that as Christians, we have a purpose too, and we have Christian rights,” Peacock said.

Brandiilyne Dear said she founded Joshua Generation because her faith remained strong in spite of prejudice against her sexual orientation, and she wanted a church where diverse people could feel welcomed.

She said she had her first romantic experience with another girl when she was 11. She said she struggled with conflicts between her upbringing and sexuality, turning to drugs after her parents discovered her and her first girlfriend.

“I participated in the Bible banging and trying to scare kids straight because I was trying to push down my own feelings about who I was,” Dear said. “When I did come out, I lost my ministry and credentials. The local newspaper, who a few days prior had called me a local hero, ran a letter that called me an abomination.”


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