2017 UP Rainbow Pride Rally calls for inclusion

Published: Jun. 11, 2017 at 8:35 PM EDT
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Dozens of people showed up at the Marquette Commons to celebrate the Fourth Annual UP Rainbow Pride Rally.

In 2009, President Obama declared June to be LGBT Pride Month.

Allies and community members themselves gathered together for support and to give hope to their friends and neighbors.

June became the LGBT pride month to honor the Stonewall riots that happened June 28th, 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York, New York.

Until about 5 years ago, there was not any organized LGBT community in the UP.

"When I first moved up here, there was absolutely nothing up here," U.P. Rainbow Pride organizer, David Shew said. "There were so many people I knew up here that were gay or lesbians or transsexuals that were always had nothing to do and were so closeted and so afraid of becoming out in the public that a bunch of us got together a few years ago and decided we needed to do something."

Several speakers, including internationally recognized author PJ Stephens, stood among the rainbow colored flags to give a message of hope and unity.

"I think I have an important message to say to the youth about not giving up," author PJ Stephens said. "Letting them know there's resources out there and there's people who can help."

Community leaders also spoke out against a serious issue.

According to, an estimated 1,500 gay or lesbian youth commit suicide nationally every year, and 30% of gay youth attempt suicide by 15.

Community leaders say they hope these gatherings can spread their message of unity to their peers.

"A big part of that is to reduce the incidents of suicide because of being really scared to come out so I think it's important that people are out into the community and talking about it," Director of Marquette area SAIL Sarah Peurakoski said.

"I want to be able to help other people who are like me or just in the LGBT field in which we have such a high suicide rate and harassment rate," Former President of NMU's Outlook Aidan Pietila said.

Suicide prevention is the most important, but inclusion is also a message the community members want to spread

"I think the biggest thing to remember is that as we progress in our communities is to remember all people are part of our communities," Peurakoski said.

"A lot of times there's not too many people listening it's why we come together for pride for a week for a couple days," Stephens said. "To be heard."

Pride Fest at Tourist Park will be held September 16.

For more information about U.P. Rainbow Pride,