An already picturesque neighborhood, Oleander gets a little busier this Saturday during the Oleander Pride.
For the third year in a row, the community event invites residents to decorate their backyards with demonstrations of inclusion and support for the LGBTQ community. Attendees can see these displays, as well as art created by artists from Creative Crossing Co-Create while walking and driving in the neighborhood.
Like many pandemic events, Oleander Pride continues to grow, not only in attendance but also in participants, including neighbors and 23 artists, as well as community partners.
“I think one of the biggest ways this event has grown and changed is its scope,” said Olivia Garrison, an Oleander resident and one of the event’s founders. “It started out as a really small event in the community and grew into more.
“It’s still a community event, but many volunteer groups are coming to show love and support for the community. Some of them are volunteers to provide water for walkers, others come and set up a booth to provide information. “
The Girl Scouts, as well as teenagers from the Sexual and Gender Alliance of Local High Schools (SAGA) and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) will offer water to walkers, as well as representatives of The Empty Space.
The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity will have a presence in the park, which will also host a booth where people can make their own flag of pride.
The garrison and neighborhood volunteers were busy Tuesday night in the park, making signs to wear and display on Saturday.
“This is a really special place,” she told Oleander. “There is a lot of community here, not just a community that has to look a certain way.
Participants are welcome from all over to feel part of the neighborhood on Saturday.
“A lot of people want to be in a space where they feel celebrated. They’re excited to have a neighborhood in their city and a county that does that.”
This message of inclusion and support is what keeps Mario Gonzalez from participating in the event. The artist helps coordinate his peers for the artistic part of the event.
“Oleander Pride started the pandemic,” he said. “Organizers and Creative Crossing have found a community suffering from isolation and depression.”
Kay Deragon, one of the founders of the mass art group, lives in the neighborhood and helped organize the permanent murals, which are now part of the Oleander landscape (and will be on display during Saturday’s walk).
“We can continue the art in the neighborhood only because of the residents (donated space in their property),” Gonzalez said. “Oleander and Creative Crossing create a safe space through art and inclusion.”
The event’s sponsors also helped the cause, starting with the Kern Arts Council, which managed to provide scholarships for participating artists. Art supplies and event promotion were supported by financial support from Dignity Health Bakersfield, Atlas Financial Solutions and Howie’s Mikeladas.
The art for Saturday’s event will consist of 12 pieces of chalk art and 11 posters on display in the neighborhood, and six large canvases that will be in Beale Park.
Regarding the pieces, which will be completed by Friday night, Gonzalez said: “Many artists show their pride through self-identification, whether they are allies or any letter from the LGBTQ community. Many children show this through phrases and quotes, others show it through hearts and rainbows. “
For his song, he will portray the Spice Girls, one of his favorite growing up bands.
“As a young, strange Latin American, I was raised on Spice Girls and Days of Our Lives.” These beautiful eccentric plots inspire my music and my art. “
Whether associated with pop culture, vibrant colors or a sense of community, Saturday event attendees will feel included, whether they live on zip code 93304.
It won’t be hard to see where it all started, Garrison said of the initial gathering at Beale Park.
“It’s the kind of park where you can see everything. It’s very obvious where we are – just look for the rainbow.”
Stephanie Diaz can be found at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.