Next month, in the North Topeka Arts District, known to many as NOTO, there will be an event that even ten years ago would have been seen as more than odd in Topeka — A community pride event.
As the city has learned to be more inclusive over the years there is much less static and much more excitement and celebration surrounding such an event in a city that most of the world only knows for it’s Wizard of Oz jokes and as home to the much more infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
Many Topeka community leaders have made plans to attend the Topeka Pride Street Fair. Additionally, two city council members will speak to attendees about equality and bringing Topeka away from policies of discrimination and non-inclusion against many people who are taxpayers, homeowners, and generally normal Kansans that you meet in your everyday interactions.
Pride is important not because it seeks to elevate one status above another, but because it allows everyone to come to a common center, normalizing the culture when one position is clearly favored over another. In this case, this event seeks to have pride in its community as well as allow its community to have pride over all its residents, no matter who they are and where they came from or what they believe. Even some churches in Kansas have began to show embracing acceptance, like the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, who are the top sponsors contributing to this event, as well as the Central Congregational Church of Topeka.
According to Stephanie Mott, former state chair of Equality Kansas and founder and director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, as well as a current Washburn student, everyone can attend or even be a vendor — if the Westboro Baptist Church decides they want to set up a stand, no one is going to stop them. This not only demonstrates this event’s tolerance level to members of the community that may stand entirely opposite of their views, but also shows what it really means to have pride in and want to celebrate your entire community.
This is a free, family friendly event as well, with plans to include bouncy houses, face painting, balloon artists, sidewalk chalk, as well as street performances by local artists and the Topeka High Drum Line, drag performances as well as many more activities. After dark there will be an adults-only after party at Serendipity, 820 N Kansas Ave.
In the spirit of inclusion and equality of all types of people there will be a canned food drive. According to the Topeka Pride website, all donated food items will be delivered to local food pantries. There will also be a voting registration booth to allow people from all walks of life to participate in our community through voting.
“I would like [Washburn students] to know is that the city of Topeka is working toward becoming a more inclusive city,” said Mott. “We’re not there yet but we’ve made strides in the last couple of years.”
The Topeka Pride Street Fair is set for Saturday, September 6 from 3 – 8 p.m. To learn more about the event and how to become a sponsor or donor, visit www.topekapride. org.