Erika Lockwood grew up in Springfield and is a Shawnee High School graduate.
However, years ago, she didn’t expect she’d be back in her hometown building connections and community through an uplifting non-profit.
Brown, who now lives in Bellefontaine, says she spent a number of years as a stay-at-home mom before getting her real estate license about three years ago. And, while her main office is in Bellefontaine, about a year ago she opened a satellite office in Springfield.
Around the same time, Brown began looking for an organization she could connect with and get involved with. She found Equality Springfield
“I was getting so depressed and tired of hearing all the horrible and hateful things from the last few years,” Brown says. “The only way I would be able to stay sane was to try to be a louder voice for good than the bad voices.”
Brown says she identifies as an ally and hopes to use whatever privilege she’s been given in life to do good for others.
“I like to do a lot of volunteer work, so my goal was to help (Equality Springfield) with whatever was needed,” she says. “I just think it’s doing good things for Springfield, and I have so much hope for this city.
“It feels good to be part of an organization that is trying to grow and give hope to people.”
Following the first Equality Springfield meeting Brown attended, there was a planning committee meeting for the annual Pride celebration. She jumped right in, asking if she could stay for the Pride meeting to learn how she could help.
“I’m very excited to give people a space. I’m very excited for Pride because I find that love, happiness and people wanting to have a good time – everyone deserves that,” she says. “Everyone deserves to not feel alone and that people are here to support them.”
Brown says another reason she wanted to join Equality Springfield is because she has a son who is gay, which drives her to be supportive of him.
Equality Springfield’s Vice President Kyle Scott says having allies like Brown support the organization is important and emphasized that Equality Springfield and Pride are welcoming to everyone – both members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies.
“It’s meaningful because there’s a need in our community. It shows there’s a real need in our community,” Scott says. “There’s a need not just in the '3Cs' everyone things of – Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati. We have the power to do more things here, and now we’re exploring those opportunities and the community has really responded.”
This year’s Pride celebration will once again cover a full weekend, like in 2022.
Festivities start Friday, June 23, with an author talk at the Clark County Public Library
’s main branch. Ohio-native LGBTQ+ author Raechel Anne Jolie
will have a discussion and Q&A about her book Rust Belt Femme
from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be provided.
Follow the talk with a Silent Disco party on the Downtown Springfield Esplanade – where the fountain is between the Courtyard by Marriott
and COhatch Springfield
. Headphones are $5 each, and the Esplanade is within the DORA, so attendees can bring adult beverages along with them.
Mela Urban Bistro
at the Courtyard will have their patio bar open and decorated for Pride during Silent Disco, Scott says.
The Pride festival will be from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 24, along West High Street, between the Courtyard and City Hall Plaza. The event has moved into the street this year – similar to last fall’s CultureFest
– because of the ongoing renovations on the Plaza.
The festival will include food trucks, vendors, and live performances on a stage sponsored by Brown.
“For the second year, we’ve had a double digit increase in our fundraising dollars,” Scoot says. “That means the community is behind us and behind our missions. I’m really excited to see that.”
7-11 is one of the presenting sponsors for Pride this year, Scott says, and the business will be bringing a slushy truck to the event. The Clark County Public Library’s Book Mobile will also be there.
Cooling stations will be set up in various spots throughout the festival, and a kids and families area will include arts, crafts and resources again this year, he says.
“One of the main things that is important for our area is to show diversity. There’s still a need for inclusion efforts, and that’s really meaningful for our members,” Scott says. “We’re in a less populated area compared to bigger cities and people are seeking connections. We’re a conduit for those connections.
“We’re filling a real space for the community that’s not being filled by anyone else.”
Following the festival Saturday will be a drag show at Mother Stewart’s Brewery
from 7 to 11 p.m. featuring five drag queens. While there’s no cost to attend, there will be a silent auction fundraiser at the event, featuring about 20 items, Scott says.
On Sunday, June 25, the festivities will wrap up with a Pride brunch at the Courtyard by Marriott. Tickets for the event were presale only.
For more details about Springfield’s Pride weekend of events, check out the Equality Springfield Facebook page
Springfield’s Pride celebration is important to the community because it not only celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion, Scott says, but also because it is a visual reminder of how many local businesses, organizations and individuals support the LGBTQ+ community.
“When we look at it, we realize representation does matter. People like seeing themselves represented in the media and in our own community,” he says. “And, people can not only accept you but celebrate you, and that’s important for people to have as an experience for growth.
“It’s eye opening to see so much support in this community.”