We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the midwest and beyond.

Joshua is an independent bookstore manager with a passion for LGBTQ equality. In 2018, Joshua was a part of planning Pierre's LGBTQ Pride Festival, marking the state's first Capital Pride. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Pierre. I grew up being a creative kid, getting involved with art club and theater. I chose not to attend college after high school, opening a small photography business at the age of 18. I became involved with various community groups around the same time, most prevalent being a member of the Board of Governors for South Dakota’s longest running community theatre, the Pierre Players.

After a few years, my talents in photography earned me a job offer as part-time photographer and newsroom clerk at the Capital Journal, Pierre’s daily newspaper. I balanced working at the publication with my creative work. Within a year, the Capital Journal offered me a promotion to work full-time as graphic designer and paginator. For the next two years, I would design the South Dakota Outdoors magazine and other publications.

After the election of 2016, I became very determined to be involved in the Pierre/Fort Pierre community. I would combine efforts with Sarah Edie, Malcolm Mcleod, Peter Kleinpass, and Megan Fischer to form the Pierre Area Center for Equality (PACE), Pierre’s first equality group. 

As of June, I was offered a wonderful opportunity to manage Pierre’s only independent bookstore, Prairie Pages. I use my photographic and design talents to help South Dakota groups that align with my values, making meaningful connections across the state.  

I hope to one day be an advocate for the arts, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health awareness, and many other causes I feel passionate about.

This summer you were a part of making history with our first capital city Pride festival. How does it feel?

I originally had conflicting emotions, having actually left the leadership team early in the process. After soul searching, I realised I needed to be a part of the change I wanted to see. Sarah, Malcolm, Peter, and Megan warmly welcomed me back and we set our goal of hosting Pierre Pride.

So many people attended the event, including a large number of LGBTQ+ youth from the area. Seeing that we were able to provide them a safe space to be themselves was humbling and highly motivational. The PACE leadership team left the event with a better sense of what our community needs from us.

How was the first LGBTQ Pride received in Pierre? 

Pierre’s first LGBTQ Pride was welcomed by a vast majority of the community. It was very heartwarming, in addition to life-changing, to receive so much warmth and support for the event. Businesses were more than happy to sponsor the event. People knew this was something important, contributing in any way possible to make something long overdue a reality.

What made you want to start a Pride festival in your community?

In the summer of 2017, Malcom, a member of the PACE leadership, posted on public Facebook page about having a Pride parade in Pierre. Some people in the community made negative comments on his post, causing allies to spring into action. A few hours later there was a large group of supporters sitting in the back of a coffee shop, rallying to make a difference. A year later, after much deliberation and help, Pierre Pride happened.

Any advice for people looking to do the same?

Making Pierre Pride happen took time, patience, and more. I recommend a group sit together to share their visions for the event. The earlier you start planning ahead the better. When working with others, please set aside your egos for the end goal. If you realize you need help, then reach out to similar organizations with more experience to get guidance. They will be more than happy to help you. Do not be afraid to ask for what you want. Even when people said no to our initial requests, they still wanted to contribute something to Pierre Pride.

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