Youngstown celebrates 10th annual gay pride festival - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Youngstown celebrates 10th annual gay pride festival

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

Downtown Youngstown was filled with color Saturday afternoon as the city celebrated gay pride.

 People marched from Vindicator Square to downtown during the 10th annual gay pride festival.

Joseph Jackson said, "I think we've come a long way. We've got this great parade here in Youngstown and festival. We are having a good time down here."

Youngstown councilor and retired Youngstown police officer Anita Davis said, "I had no idea how people would react when I came out of the closet in 2008 or if I would still have a job. I have been embraced by folks in Youngstown.

"People know I work hard and measure me by my abilities. I became the first openly gay black elected official in Ohio. We were hoping to have a festival and didn't think that 10 years later we would still be doing it and that we would have LBGT protection here in Youngstown, Ohio," Davis said.

After the parade ended, Reverend Lewis Macklin began the festival with a prayer.

Mayor Jamal Tito Brown also presented a proclamation to the grand marshal of the parade Denise Russell.

Russell began performing at the Trubador Lounge on the Uptown area of the south side.

Russell said, "In the 1980s a female impersonator could be arrested if they were not wearing at least one item of men's clothing. Things have changed significantly for the better. Back then just to get in and out of nightclubs was dangerous and we learned to arrive early."

The entertainer is the only female impersonator to perform in 80 years, at the Grand Ole Opry for a charity event.

She sang several songs for the crowd including, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."

Russell added, "We started a grassroots effort to help people in this community who were struggling and that is how gay activism started in the entertainment community." 

The Mahoning County Health Department offered free and confidential screenings for HIV. 

State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan says Ohio has more work to do to make sure all people's rights are respected.

Lepore-Hagan said, "Right now there is House Bill 160. It is the fairness bill in housing and employment. It's based on gender equality. It has had two hearings."

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