Story by Rick Redding | Photo by Janesse Brooner
If you ask 18-year-old Evan Stoner, the June 25 Jeffersonville Pride Festival that he’s organizing is a historic event for Southern Indiana, a first-of-its-kind happening that will go a long way toward continuing the process of LGBT acceptance in his hometown.
While still a senior at Community Montessori in Jeffersonville, Stoner began organizing what will be the city’s first LGBT event. A victim of bullying and a target of hateful online comments, Stoner’s dream was to have everyone be accepted for who they are, regardless of sexual orientation. And he knew the battle could not be waged online.
“I wanted to have an impact and not argue constantly on social media,” said the Hanover College freshman. “I received my fair share of negative comments, especially at the beginning of this, but I think what I’m doing is going to be truly productive.”
Historically, activity on the LGBT front hasn’t often crossed the Ohio River, although an active Fairness Campaign in Louisville hosts events, including the annual Kentuckiana Pride Festival. There are also many other activities, including the family-friendly Louisville Pride Festival.
In a year, what Stoner has accomplished would be pretty amazing even if he weren’t just 18. He’s asked for and received the support of Mayor Mike Moore and is well on his way to raising $8,000 to cover Festival expenses. That includes $3,000 from Clark Memorial Hospital, an early supporter of Stoner’s efforts.
“That was a great surprise. Clark Memorial has been extremely helpful and was the first business to join in,” he said.
Working with the Southern Indiana Equality organization, Stoner has put together a five-person team to handle marketing, vendor relations, entertainment, social media and parade activity. The team includes Brad Bell, president of Southern Indiana Equality.
In addition to the festival, Stoner and Southern Indiana Equality have been actively pushing for a city wide fairness ordinance for Jeffersonville. They organized a group to attend a city council meeting on May 16 during which the new ordinance was introduced. It could pass as early as June, in time for the festival.
If that occurs, it would be almost exactly one year since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage equality, culminating what Stoner believes has been an amazing 365 days for the LGBT community.
“It’s a turning point in the city’s history,” he said. “We’re not about attacking someone for their beliefs, and it’s not about changing minds, but about promoting the idea of love and kindness.”
2016 Jeffersonville Pride Festival
Big Four Station
Parade begins at 12 p.m. down Spring Street
Festival ends at 10 p.m.