SOUTH COAST — Last year, Pride Month was celebrated over an entire weekend.
This past June, the new coronavirus pandemic drastically changed how Pride Month was celebrated. Even though there couldn’t be an event, Southern Oregon Coast Pride activist Jamar Ruff said that “We wanted to keep the momentum going.”
“It threw us off not having Pride Day, but how do we keep engaging?” he asked, looking back on the dilemma.
Youth from Q&A of Coos County, a grassroots organization that creates a safe place for LGBTQIA+ youth and their allies, nominated advocates to showcase every two days in the community. The last person would be recognized as a trailblazer.
“It shows a collective of so many different people attached to so many different organizations and shows Coos County is supporting its local LGBTQIA+,” Ruff said. “We had a Facebook page where we hosted it and an Instagram. Pride was celebrated on social media.”
In an email to The World, Ruff spoke about Pride Month’s history. It begins on June 1 to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which took place at the end of June in 1969. Those riots fought for equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community.
“As a result, many Pride events are held during (June) to recognize the impact LGBTQIA+ people have had in the world,” Ruff wrote.
The allies showcased last month by Southern Oregon Coast Pride were recipients of the LGBTQIA+ Ally Award. There were also virtual events and educational resources available throughout the month.
The recipients of the award included:
- Laura Erceg, Assistant Program Director at Kairos and Founder of Q&A of Coos County
- Tanya Sinko, Facilitor of North Bend High School's Gay-Straight Alliance
- Nina Nolen, Attorney, Community Advocate, Q&A of Coos County Elder
- Greg Dalton, Program Director of Casa of Coos County
- Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
- Hailey Smith, Community Advocate
- Kara Long, Executive Director of the Egyptian Theatre
- Marie Small, Mental Health Specialist, Founder of UNI-T, Q&A of Coos County Elder
- Gabi Colten, Program Manager of Youth Era
- Anse Tauber, Access and Assessment Specialist at Kairos & Q&A of Coos County Elder
- Jen Shafer, Executive Director of United Way of Southwestern Oregon
- Alan Brown, Community Activist
The recipient of the Trailblazer Award was Jeremy Mims.
“If it were not for (him) … Southern Oregon Coast Pride would not have existed,” Ruff said. “Through endurance and perseverance, we get to stand on the shoulders of … giants.”
Ruff wrote that when speaking with advocate Justin Buckles, he responded by saying, “Jeremy Mims, who I graduated with from Marshfield in 1997, has been a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community in the area. He was out and proud during middle school at Sunset in the mid-90’s and even louder during our years at Marshfield. He was the first out and proud person that hundreds of youth knew and accepted.”
“It was a much different time as it was not so accepting back then, Mims says,” Ruff wrote. “It was the acceptance and love of his amazing family and fabulous friends that got him through those trying years and they are still close today.”
After Mims graduated from Marshfield High School, his sister founded the Gray Straight Alliance at the school.
“(Mims) believes that Coos Bay has grown and has come a long way of acceptance and tolerance,” Ruff wrote. “All the advice he can give is, ‘Honey, live your truth… It may seem hard now … Believe in yourself and listen to your heart and never allow anyone to tear you down. You only have one life to live. So live truthfully, live bravely and most importantly live with love. Live your best life.’”
“We are going to keep the ball rolling,” Ruff said. “Virtually we will make sure we are supporting our local LGBTQ community. We can’t stop.”