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A spirit that is not afraid

Nonprofit provides safe space for community

The Auburn and Opelika communities gather at Kiesel Park to celebrate Pride on the Plains on June 5, 2022.
The Auburn and Opelika communities gather at Kiesel Park to celebrate Pride on the Plains on June 5, 2022.

In 2017, a group of students founded Pride on the Plains, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the LGBTQIA+ community in Auburn, Opelika and surrounding areas. 

The story of Pride on the Plains starts, as all good stories do, with a long-held rivalry. 

 "We were all sitting around one day and someone said Tuscaloosa has their own pride organization and if they can do it, why can't Auburn have one? And so we did it. I guess you could say it was a battle between the SEC schools," said Seth McCollough, music education graduate student at Auburn and current president of Pride on the Plains. 

McCollough began as the treasurer of Pride on the Plains in 2017 for two years, then continued on to be the event coordinator for the next two years. 

The mission of Pride on the Plains, according to their website is, "to foster a sense of community through celebration, education, empowerment and inclusion among Alabama's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied peoples." To carry out the mission, the organization puts on events and fundraisers for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies throughout the year. 

In October, for example, the organization will be holding a pageant on Oct. 15 at the Opelika Center for the Performing Arts. Early registration for this event lasts until Oct. 8 for $30. During the day of the event, in-person registration begins at 3:00 PM, followed by an interview at 4:00 PM, with the event beginning at 7:00 PM. Doors open at 6:30 PM for all spectators.

Their organization also hosts trivia once a month at The Avondale Bar and Tap Room on North College Street, in downtown Auburn, which is a way for students to meet people in the club as well as join themselves. 

Bob Cloud is the current treasurer for Pride on the Plains and has been serving the organization for three years now. 

Cloud said, "I just love seeing how many people come out to our events and how much joy people get out of coming to things that we put together."

Cloud explained that there wasn't anything like Pride on the Plains when he was in school. Being a part of a community like Pride on the Plains is so important to Cloud because he gets to reach the people that were like him, that didn't have anybody.

"Pride on the Plains is something I wish I would've had growing up as a teenage," McCollough said. "For me, this is being who I wish I could've had as a role model." 

Pride on the Plains offers many opportunities for community and connection within the Auburn area through education and engagement.

McCollough said, "We firmly believe the more educated someone is, the more open-minded they are going to be."

Pride on the Plains holds bimonthly meetings for all students that are open to the public. 

McCollough said, "Pride on the Plains is here to let people know, especially in South Alabama, the LGBTQ community does exist. We are here. We are proud. We are out." 

Chris Landry is the current secretary of Pride on the Plains and holds a very similar sentiment to Cloud.

"I came from Houston in a big city where pride is much more common and much more open," Landry said, "Being in a place like Auburn, where that is not something a lot of people see, it's pretty moving to see a lot of allies come out to the events and celebrate the community."

Fitzgerald Webb is the current Vice President of Pride on the Plains.

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Webb said, "Pride on the Plains is an awesome opportunity to create spaces for LGBTQ+, but also educational and outreach spaces."

Pride on the Plains held a virtual drag event called Amplified that pulled together different black queer talents. 

Webb recalled Amplified as one of his favorite events, "Knowing that beautiful black, talented people can have their voices and can be heard through a space we provided was a really awesome opportunity."

Pride on the Plains holds a yearly pride parade and festival in June. McCollough described this events as one of their biggest events at Pride on the Plains.

McCollough shared a story, "One of my favorite past memories of Pride Fest was when it started raining, my husband started playing "Rain on Me" by Lady Gaga. All of these students were literally dancing in the rain at Pride Fest and it was a solidifying moment for me that we were really doing something good."

Pride on the Plains holds monthly Sunday family fun events. The next family fun day will be held Sunday, September 18th at Coffee Mafia at 3:00 PM. There will be board games, coffee, tea, and a family-friendly drag show for all guests.

Students can get involved with Pride on the Plains through their social media platforms: @prideontheplains

Harlee Meydrech | Editor-in-Chief

Harlee Meydrech, senior in public relations with a minor in business, currently serves as the editor-in-chief of The Auburn Plainsman. She previously served as the assistant managing editor and an editor in the culture section.

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