Equality Springfield creates comfortable spaces for LGBTQ+ community

Editor's Note: This is the second of two stories sharing the voices of members of Equality Springfield, leading up to Springfield's annual Pride event. You can find the first story here

Promoting broader awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and participating visibly in the cultural life of the local community, Equality Springfield strives to allow people to feel comfortable in their own skin.

For Shantel Pickett, who recently moved to Springfield, the non-profit helped her to branch out and meet new people and to become involved with her new community.

“It’s a community-based group that helps bring people together with similarities, and I personally joined Equality Springfield because I wanted to meet more people, as I really didn’t do much in my own community,” says Pickett, a Dayton native who works for the State of Ohio in law enforcement.

After seeing event posts on the Equality Springfield Facebook page, Pickett decided to attend  a meet-and-greet event.

"I had planned to only be there a half hour because I didn’t know anyone. A couple of members came over to talk to me, and I really enjoyed talking to them and ended up being there for about four hours," Pickett says. 

Equality Springfield was formed in 2010 by a group of citizens who wanted to fulfill a vision of an inclusive Springfield, in which  LGBTQ+ people feel both welcomed and appreciated. 

The group, which plans Springfield Pride each year, champions an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community through education, advocacy, and social connections and envisions seeing a Clark County community that honors, values, and embraces a tapestry of diverse individuals, according to its website.

A volunteer-driven organization, some of the Equality Springfield's goals include working to diversify and enrich the civic life in the greater Springfield area,
building coalitions of supporters, and contributing to the strength of LGBTQ+ and allied communities by providing opportunities for fellowship and mutual respect. 

Equality Springfield will host Springfield Pride from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 25, on City Hall Plaza. The event will include sales vendors, sponsor tables, a beer garden hosted by Equality Springfield, a drag show, drag queen reading time, a family area, prizes, crafts, music, and other live performances, including Shelby Knightley, Amanda Sue, and more local talent. Check out Equality Springfield’s Facebook page for more details.

Though she's a newer member of the organization, Pickett volunteered to help with the 2022 Pride event. 

Pickett will be helping to set up and clean up after the event, as well as floating around to help wherever needed during the event.

“I love fairs and festivals, and I like to meet new people,” Pickett says. “Joining Equality Springfield was a big step for me. I had never been on any committee."

Pickett credits the organization with helping her feel connected within Springfield. 

"It’s really been a way for me to get out in the community and feel comfortable in my own skin - not hide. I feel like I was hiding," she says. "I feel ready to be a part of something. For the longest time, I was afraid of being a part of something, but Equality Springfield has helped me.”

Pickett says that though her family has always been a huge support for her since she came out when she was a teenager, she appreciates the additional support she has found through both Equality Springfield and the community as a whole.

"I’m passionate about Springfield and, honestly the community has really surprised me. I was scared about buying a house because I wasn’t sure how the community would take a black lesbian," Pickett says. "My neighborhood is great. The neighbors are really nice, and I am ready to be more a part of it and embrace where I live.”

Read more articles by Cindy Holbrook.