ACTION - Lammas 2010 - Article 2

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Pagan Pride Project - Pagan Pride Day 2010
Interview with Brian Ewing By Christopher Blackwell

As we move through Summer it is already time to think of Fall and harvest, the results of all of our projects and work. This includes a growing Pagan Pride Day and the group behind it Pagan Pride Project.

I got permission from Executive Director/National President: Brian Ewing for this interview to find out what is in store for 2010.

Christopher: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how long you have been with PPP?

Brian: I started with Pagan Pride in 1999 by helping to organize the first Pagan Pride Day in Los Angeles. That first event went pretty well and the second event in 2000 was much bigger. I like to think that L.A. has always been one of the largest events, but other events are catching up.

A couple years later I was offered the Western Regional Coordinator position, and in 2005 I moved into national office, advancing to President in 2008. I still help run the Los Angeles event too.

I am an attorney for my day job. I'm married and live in a home in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley with my wife and two cats.

Christopher: When is Pagan Pride Days scheduled? Is it a set date or a window period of time?

Brian: When we first started, we kept all the events in September, to coincide with the harvest. Sticking with that theme, we developed the idea of holding a food drive to celebrate the harvest. But various weather issues and the growing number of events forced us to expand the "event window" so that events are now scheduled anywhere between August and November.

Christopher: Why Pagan Pride Day? What do we Pagans get out of it and what does the local community where it is held get from it?

Brian: Pagans benefit greatly from Pagan Pride Day. Many Pagans who practice alone can use this day to meet other Pagans and other groups, and maybe even find a coven to join. Most events also have a wide range of workshops that Pagans can attend to widen their knowledge. Pagan merchants benefit from networking at the events by expanding their business.

But Pagan Pride Day is not a festival, and this is the most important reason for Pagan Pride Day: education of non-Pagans. All events are open to the public and the press. Events have been very successful in educating the public and, especially, gaining press coverage in almost all cities where events take place, to get the word out to everyone that Paganism is OK.

Christopher: Who can have an official Pagan Pride Day and what services does Pagan Pride Project provide for the local Pagan Pride Day event people?

Brian: People, interested in holding an official Pagan Pride Day, need to apply with the national organization to become a Local Coordinator. An applicant should be prepared to explain what skills he or she will bring to the Project, provide a rough idea of how they intend to organize an event, and provide references. A Regional Coordinator might interview the applicant before acceptance.

Above everything else, the Pagan Pride Project provides Local Coordinators with advice and assistance. There are written materials that help explain how to organize an event. Our private national email list is very active. All local coordinators and national officers read the list and are available to answer questions. The Pagan Pride Project also helps Local Coordinators establish the organization that will plan the local Pagan Pride Day. We also have pamphlets for copying and distributing at events, and merchandise to sell as a fundraiser. All events are listed on the national website, which gets a lot of hits in the late summer leading up to the events. This is not a complete list of services we provide.

Christopher: Where can people go to learn more and how can they apply to start their own Pagan Pride Day celebration? How small a group can make it happen?

Brian: Some of the largest events are actually organized by just a few people, so there is no set size of group required to make it happen; it varies from city to city depending on the needs of the event and the amount of time volunteers can give. People can learn more at paganpride.org or by emailing me.

Christopher: How many Pagan Pride Day Celebrations are signed up for so far? Any new areas represented?

Brian: There are over 120 events this year in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Central and South America, and one in the Philippines. There are new cities holding events every year; this year's new events include Bangor, Maine; Orlando, FL; Anderson, SC; Wichita, KS; Mt. Pleasant, MI; Bloomington, Ill.; Kingman, AZ; Imperial County, CA; Yakima, WA; Kingston, Ont.; Plymouth, U.K.; Praha, Czech Republic; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Mexico City, and Manila, Philippines.

Christopher: Is there still time to sign up for a new Pagan Pride Day event?

Brian: We are still taking applications, because the new event can be organized in a couple months and scheduled anytime between now and the end of October.

Christopher: What does a basic Pagan Pride Day event include?

Brian: A basic Pagan Pride Day event is just a food drive and a public ritual, open to the public, and the press must be invited (i.e. sending press releases, calling to follow up if appropriate.) That's all there is to it. However, to add some "glitz" to attract more people, some events now include vendors, entertainment, and many rituals. More importantly, to add to the educational mission of Pagan Pride Day, most events have organizational booths, and workshops or guest lecturers. All the famous Pagan authors, and even many not-so-famous ones, appear at Pagan Pride Days near them.

Christopher: How and when did Pagan Pride Project get started?

Brian: The Pagan Pride Project was started in 1998 by Cecylyna and Dagonet Dewr, with 18 events in the U.S. and Canada, including the founders' event in Indianapolis. Cecylyna Dewr wanted to depart from the traditional Pagan festival by running an event that was meant to increase community good will towards, and public relations for, Paganism. This format for the events included public rituals, charity events at PPD, and public relations activities.

The Fall Equinox was chosen as a central date for the event because of the harvest theme: the events would benefit food drives as a way of celebrating the harvest and showing that Pagans give back to the community. By 2000, almost 10,000 people attended 55 Pagan Pride Days, and Pagan Pride Days started in Europe in 2001.

Christopher: What were some of the important developments over the years, some of the records broken?

Brian: In 2000, the Project was able to start expanding greatly, with the addition of Regional Coordinators to oversee the current Local Coordinators and recruit new ones. The use of email lists has been crucial to the Project: new events are recruited that way, and current Local Coordinators communicate and help each other, so that the solution to an event's problem is just an internet connection away.

The tragic events of 9/11 focused Pagan Pride Day's efforts that year on charity, and 15,175 pounds of food and goods and $15,090.21 was donated to charitable causes, much of it going to 9/11 relief efforts. Pagan Pride Day gained significant media coverage that year, including Los Angeles' healing ritual on September 15 that was featured on the local evening news. (Los Angeles postponed it's Pagan Pride Day to October to accommodate the many people who were affected, but held a Day of Healing in the park where PPD was originally scheduled on the day it was originally scheduled.)

2002 saw marked growth, with over 31,000 people attending Pagan Pride Days, including 4,000 in Brisbane and 3,000 in Jacksonville.

That was nothing compared to New York City's attendance record of 10,000 in 2005. Charity was a central focus again in 2005 with many of Pagan Pride Day's efforts geared towards Hurricane Katrina victims, including raising money for a New Orleans Pagan church that was deeply involved in the relief effort.

Since then Pagan Pride Day has continued to grow and give back to the community, and Pagan Pride Days are featured in the media in dozens of newspaper articles, internet postings, and video news stories every year.

Christopher: What about the future? Anything new on the horizon?

Brian: For the future, Pagan Pride Day will continue to expand. Events should occur in every state and Canadian province, as well as more countries in Europe. I am currently heartened to see how much the Project has grown in South America.

I am currently focused on providing more resources to our Local Coordinators. This involves several internal projects that the entire Board of Directors is working to develop. The national website will also be revamped, improved, and updated, to provide more resources to the public.

Also, I'd like to see Pagan Pride Day focus even more on public relations. This can include media outreach, but also networking more with Pagan and non-Pagan groups.

Christopher: Anything else you would like our readers to know about?

Brian: Visit our website, www.paganpride.org, and come to your local event! Pagan Pride Days are nothing without the local Pagans coming to support them. None of this is possible without the support of the all of you, who help organize the local events and run their rituals and workshops.

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