North Clackamas students show their pride in march
Student members of the Gender Sexuality Alliance at New Urban High School organized a parade through Oak Grove earlier this month to honor the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Founded in 2005, the international day commemorates the World Health Organization's decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases on May 17, 1990.
Oak Grove's May 17 event with more than 100 marchers promoted inclusivity, safety, respect and pride; participants were encouraged to bring their own parade accessories, such as signs, costumes and pride flags. School buses were available from middle schools in the North Clackamas School District for younger students who wanted to participate.
"We stand together with compassion, love and pride for one another," said Annarie Wergeland, a school counselor at New Urban.
Wergeland thanked the Rev. Heather Riggs of the Oak Grove United Methodist Church for driving the truck that towed the parade float and encouraging about 10 of her parishioners to volunteer as school prom chaperones.
New Urban student Ana Bloxham-Davis kicked off the parade by reading a poem titled "Vows (for a gay wedding)" by Joseph O. Legaspi. Bloxham-Davis is graduating early as a New Urban junior this year to attend Clackamas Community College.
Other poetry readers in the parade's opening ceremony included New Urban sophomore Sophia Sheinin, who chose a piece about Pulse, the Orlando nightclub in which 49 people were killed by a mass murderer in 2016. "A Poem For Pulse" by Jameson Fitzpatrick spoke to Sheinin, she said, "because that shooting made me think that kind of thing could happen to me, and the violence we see so often hit home."
Another poetry reader at the event said she is glad to be graduating from New Urban this year after attempting suicide in the eighth grade.
"I know that I am here for a reason, and I'm glad that I'm still alive," she said.
This student told a local newspaper editor that she had to remain anonymous, but several of her peers commented that her statement into the microphone was a brave way to kick off the parade.
After the poetry readings, the students marched along an approximately half-mile route through the Oak Grove neighborhood before returning to the school for refreshments and a dance party.