RETURNING FROM THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR LESBIAN AND GAY RIGHTS ON OCTOBER 11, 1987, A SMALL GROUP FROM WEST MICHIGAN SET COURSE TO MAKE A CHANGE.
This trip provided them the experience of being a part of something bigger. They had the opportunity to promote a sense of pride, of security, of belonging. At that time, this was something new for the LGBTQ community. The group returned with energy, passion, determination, and ambition to achieve equality. They started with a series of casual meetings originally hosted in homes and welcoming businesses, and then the group ultimately formed a new LGBTQ community center to bring West Michigan together.
In 1988, they hosted Grand Rapids' first Pride Celebration in the Monroe Amphitheater (the predecessor of the beloved Rosa Parks Circle). Then, as now, Pride put LGBTQ people right where we belong, at the heart of the Grand Rapids area. There was some controversy - the group asked then Mayor Gerald Helmholt to issue a proclamation recognizing LGBTQ Grand Rapidians and the Pride Celebration, but the Mayor publicly refused to do so.
Despite Helmholt's objection, the event took place on Sunday, June 19th, 1988. Since then, public support of and commitment to the LGBTQ community has grown, with the Network being a community partner in major steps such as Grand Rapids' historic civil rights ordinance protecting Grand Rapidians from discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Network grew organizationally, moving into its current space on Atlas Ave in the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids in the 1990s.
In 2014, we launched a comprehensive, strategic restructuring to modernize the Network's activities. Throughout 2015 we added new social and support groups, increased the size of each of our existing groups by more than 100% and conducted educational outreach initiatives to hundreds of students, teachers, case workers and mental health professionals, culminating in a stronger organization with a true stake in improving the lives of the local LGBTQ community.
On February 22nd, 2016 The Network took its boldest step yet: The Lesbian Gay Community Network became Grand Rapids Pride Center! Our new name better aligns with and represents our mission to "Empowering our LGBTQ Community through supportive services and awareness."