Group plans gay pride festival on Bradenton Riverwalk

Bay News 9February 26, 2014 

BRADENTON -- An upcoming gay pride event is making history in Manatee County.

The first Manatee Pride event will be held rom noon to 4 p.m. March 22 at the Riverwalk in Bradenton.

Parade organizer Shannon Summers, executive director of nonprofit charity Prism Youth Initiative, which was established in 2010 to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth of Manatee County.

"We will unite this community that's been underserved in Manatee County for a long time," she said.

Summers is hoping the event will lead to more widespread acceptance.

"We've had kids who were suicidal," said Summers. "There is so much pressure to not be who you are and that's why we're throwing the first annual Manatee County Pride Festival. We want them to see they're not alone and they have a place in this community."

Prism services include: individual and family therapy regardless of ability to pay, free HIV prevention counseling and testing, a peer-led support group, homeless youth services, tutoring and mentoring.

Summers, a former teacher and social worker, said the Pride event was needed after she noticed gays and lesbians didn't have enough support in the community.

"When we bring this community together, these kids will see they're not alone and they have a place here," said Summers.

Benjamin Brown, 18, said he is thankful for Summers' efforts and looking forward to the upcoming Pride event.

"We want to let kids know it's safe to come out," said Brown. "It gets better when you come out and get these feelings of anxiety and repressed emotions out."

The first Manatee Pride Festival was approved by the Bradenton City Council.

Manatee Pride expects to attract more than 1,000 visitors.

There will be food, vendors and live music.

Everyone from the community is invited to attend.

Proceeds will benefit Prism's youth services.

Information: 941-357-0111, Prismyouth@yahoo.com or ManateePride.org.

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