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Lansing's LGBTQ+ Center Celebrates Pride Month With Community Events

The front of the Salus Center in Lansing. The sign is in a custom font of block letters, each in a different color. In the window is a painted mural of a unicorn for Pride and several LGBT flags.
Sophia Saliby/ WKAR
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The Salus Center is located in Downtown Lansing.

Lansing's Salus Center is commemorating this year's Pride Month with community outreach events that are COVID-19 safe.

The month of June is a time for LGBTQ+ communities to celebrate themselves and promote the increased visibility and equality of queer people around the world.

WKAR's Sophia Saliby spoke with one of the co-directors of the Salus Center, Oprah Jrenal, about Pride.

Interview Highlights

On The Work The Salus Center Does

We serve LGBTQIA+ community folks. That's young folks. That's older folks, and everybody in between. And we serve them by creating space. If you are interested in sewing socks for kittens, and you're a queer person, and you want to do that in community, we can help connect you with other folks who like sewing socks for kittens.

On One Way The Center Is Celebrating Pride

June 4, which is this coming Friday, we've partnered with the Greater Lansing Food Bank to do a food giveaway. So, that'll be from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. at the Salus Center, and folks can just come and get food and then maybe hang out for a little bit, with their masks on, on the street there and talk to folks and meet with some community and see people they haven't seen in over a year.

On How Jrenal Is Personally Marking The Month

I am personally marking the month by spending time with friends [and] really getting in touch with that part of myself that needs rest and self care in that real way. Not in like bath bombs and facials, but in the way of like, how am I sustaining myself? How do we do this work without being self-sacrificial?

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby.

Today is the first day of Pride Month. Pride celebrates members of the LGBTQ+ communities and promotes the increased visibility and equality of queer people around the world.

Oprah Jrenal is one of the co-directors of the Salus Center which serves Lansing’s LGBTQIA+ communities. She joins me now. Thank you for being here.

Oprah Jrenal: Thank you for having me.

Saliby: Can you explain to listeners who may not be familiar, what the Salus Center is and what kind of work you do?

Jrenal: The Salus Center is Lansing's only LGBTQ community center. We serve LGBTQIA+ community folks. That's young folks. That's older folks, and everybody in between. And we serve them by creating space. If you are interested in sewing socks for kittens, and you're a queer person, and you want to do that in community, we can help connect you with other folks who like sewing socks for kittens.

We serve them by creating space.

But really, the community center is what people make it. So, we have folks leading groups. We also host the TRUE group which is for LGBTQIA+ teens, and that's in collaboration with Child and Family Charities. So, we do a lot.

Saliby: How is the center celebrating Pride this year?

Jrenal: So, of course, celebrating Pride this year is going to be really different, and we are trying to figure that out kind of on a day-to-day basis.

But the few things that we have lined up [include] June 4, which is this coming Friday, we've partnered with the Greater Lansing Food Bank to do a food giveaway. So, that'll be from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. at the Salus Center, and folks can just come and get food and then maybe hang out for a little bit, with their masks on, on the street there and talk to folks and meet with some community and see people they haven't seen in over a year.

We're, you know, trying to reinvent and do things differently this year because of the pandemic, and making sure that people still know we're here, and that we're still queer and awesome.

We also partnered with the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union to put up an art installation in one of their big box windows at the front of their facility for Pride Month. So we're, you know, trying to reinvent and do things differently this year because of the pandemic, and making sure that people still know we're here, and that we're still queer and awesome.

Last thing, we have partnered with Queering Medicine and the Ingham County Health Department to host a COVID-19 vaccine distribution day for our community. And so, we're still working on the logistics of that, but check out our social media and our website for the solid dates for that.

Saliby: Is there any way you're personally marking the month?

Jrenal: I am personally marking the month by spending time with friends [and] really getting in touch with that part of myself that needs rest and self care in that real way. Not in like bath bombs and facials, but in the way of like, how am I sustaining myself? How do we do this work without being self-sacrificial? And that's really how I'm focusing on this Pride Month.

Headshot of Oprah Jrenal
Credit Salus Center
Oprah Jrenal helps lead Lansing's Salus Center along with two other members of the LGBTQ community in town.

Saliby: Do you think there's anything different about Pride celebrations this year, in 2021, as opposed to last year toward the beginning of the pandemic?

Jrenal: With more people given access to the COVID-19 vaccine, we're going to see some more strategic hangouts and community building in-person that just wasn't available to folks in 2020 June because the vaccine wasn't so out there and accessible.

So, it feels different this year. This year, June 2021, feels like there's more information about COVID and how to stay safe that just wasn't available last year.

Saliby: And what are some ways that queer people and allies can commemorate the month in a safe way, given the pandemic and vaccinations and all of this that we've already mentioned?

Jrenal: Community members and allies can always donate to local LGBTQ centers and folks serving LGBTQIA folks, and not just the Salus Center, but there are plenty of organizations in Lansing and Michigan that are trying, that are doing their best for the LGBTQIA+ community.

You can always educate yourself and folks around you about the Stonewall Uprising, which celebrated 50 years in 2019, so how far we've come and how far we have to go.

You can always educate yourself and folks around you about the Stonewall Uprising, which celebrated 50 years in 2019, so how far we've come and how far we have to go.

And always, always educate yourself about the current climate that is impacting LGBTQ folks, specifically trans folks. We have a lot of legislation out there, all over the country that is attacking trans youth, specifically trans youth athletes. So, making sure that you are educating yourself about oppression that is happening now. And you actually, you know, call that governor or send that email, whatever mechanisms are set up to block all those ordinances, and to show that trans people are here, they've always been here, and they are always going to be here and we need to change our culture and society.

Saliby: Oprah Jrenal is one of the co-directors of the Salus Center. Thank you for joining me.

Jrenal: Thank you for having me. This was a delight.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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