Kent State Celebrates Diversity with a Show of Unity at Akron Pride 2017 | Kent State University
Kent State University faculty, staff members and students took part in Saturday’s Equality March, which kicked off the inaugural Akron Pride 2017 event.
Kent State University faculty, staff members and students took part in Saturday’s Equality March, which kicked off the inaugural Akron Pride 2017 event.

Kent State Celebrates Diversity with a Show of Unity at Akron Pride 2017

More than two dozen Kent State University faculty, staff members and students took part in Saturday’s Equality March, which kicked off the inaugural Akron Pride 2017 event.

This is the first time the city of Akron has sponsored a Pride event, and the university participated as a sponsor for the day’s activities, which begin with the march at 11 a.m. in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood.

The march headed west on West Market Street about 1.5 miles to Hardesty Park, where a Pride festival took place from noon to 8 p.m.

Katie Mattise, program coordinator for Kent State’s LGBTQ Student Center, said about two dozen participants originally signed up for the event. The numbers grew as more students returned to campus over the weekend.

Kasey Willener, president of PRIDE! Kent, said the student organization’s board also took part in the march.

In addition, the university sponsored a shuttle bus from the Kent Student Center to Hardesty Park throughout the day.

Ken Ditlevson, director of the Kent State’s LGBTQ Student Center, said the university set up a booth at the event in an effort to connect with Kent alumni in the area.

A main goal of the shuttle and the booth, Mattise said, was to recruit participants for the LGBTQ Center’s Quest mentorship program.

The program, which has been in operation for about three years, pairs students with professionals from throughout northeast Ohio, to offer advice, guidance and career exploration to students in the LGBTQ community during their college years as a way of promoting student retention, Mattise said.

“Hopefully they’ll finish their schooling at Kent,” Mattise said.

Ditlevson said identifying Kent alumni who are part of the LGBTQ community also will help to create a data base from which the center can recruit board members.

Ditlevson, who also is a member of the Akron Pride steering committee, said he was pleased the city had taken steps to sponsor a community-wide event and 20 others, including Kent State, which had signed on as corporate co-sponsors.

Events at Hardesty Park following the march included food, live music, and more than 120 vendor booths.

There were two stages of live entertainment, with featured performers Martha Wash of the Weather Girls, famous for their 1982 hit “It’s Raining Men,” and Derrick Barry from Rue Paul’s Drag Race Season 8.

The event also featured children’s activities, including bounce houses, and carnival games as well as a rock climbing wall and bungee jumping for adults, Ditlevson said.