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SUNY Potsdam students organize county’s first gay pride parade

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POTSDAM — A class of SUNY Potsdam students is organizing St. Lawrence County’s first gay pride parade.

John D. Youngblood teaches a course on gay and lesbian issues. He tasked his class with coming up with a collaborative project, and together they decided to hold a parade.

“Nobody can remember anything like this,” Mr. Youngblood said, pointing to a lack of any other similar events in St. Lawrence County.

The parade will be held April 26, and travel from SUNY Potsdam to Ives Park in the village. The start time has not been decided, as the class is working with the village to finalize the schedule.

The class is building floats, and all campus groups will be invited to participate. High school groups and marching bands will be invited as well.

“It’s the first time there’s been a gay pride parade, and I want to do it responsibly and respectfully,” Mr. Youngblood said.

The students have been organized into various committees to raise funds, design floats and take care of all the other details that come with organizing a parade.

“This is something we thought would reach the community as well as the campus,” said Allison S. Escolastico, a senior from the Bronx and teaching assistant in Mr. Youngblood’s class.

Mr. Youngblood’s class explores all aspects of gender and sexuality. He uses current examples to illustrate the topics, such as the criticism of Russia’s anti-gay laws and the controversy surrounding Michael Sam, who could soon become the NFL’s first openly gay player.

Two talks will be held on campus the week of the parade: one on sexuality from 7 to 9 p.m. April 22 and one on gender from 7 to 9 p.m. April 24.

The parade is a chance to celebrate the accomplishments and increasing acceptance of the LGBT community, but also to note the hardships of the past and the difficulties that remain, Mr. Youngblood said.

“It’s kind of a sobering, depressing conversation,” he said.

John McKenna, a junior from Pearl River, said he hopes the parade will help raise awareness and end discriminatory behavior, such as the casual use of anti-gay slurs.

“As young adults, we wanted to do our part to better our community,” he said.

He said he wants to create a tradition that will be continued by future students.

“We want to start the torch and keep it going,” he said.

The class is composed of a diverse group of students of varying sexual orientations whose message is one of diversity, Ms. Escolastico said.

“It’s OK to be different, any kind of different,” she said. “We don’t want it to be just an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) thing. We want to open the doors.”

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