Every year, the City of Bismarck gives out humanitarian awards to those who help the community. This year, one of those awards went to Dakota OutRight, an LGBTQ+ group serving central North Dakota.
“This is the first major acknowledgment that we’ve ever gotten,” Secretary Jonathan Frye said at the group’s weekly meeting.
Frye says Dakota OutRight’s been around about 20 years, and the award was a major milestone.
“It’s an enlightening moment to have this recognition, but there is still an uphill battle,” Frye said.
Board members say they were pleasantly surprised to have won. The group was presented with a plaque from Mayor Steve Bakken at the latest city commission meeting.
“We’re a really conservative city, and I didn’t think that a group like ours would be recognized,” Vice President Zayden Bartosh said.
The LGBTQ+ group provides resources, advocates for equality and sponsors events, like Capital Pride every summer.
President Erin Pringle says it’s been a place for countless North Dakotans to be who they are.
“Every single year that we have a pride event, without fail, there is a number of stories that come out, or we hear feedback from people that it was the first time a parent’s child felt they were welcomed, and they were in a place where they could be themselves,” Pringle said.
Casey Nelson is one of those members who’s been impacted.
“I was very closeted and closed off myself because I didn’t want to be part of that community that fears living where I live. To have a program that you can turn to who they’re there to help you, and give you the resources to live your life the way without fear, without hesitation of expressing who you are. I love the fact that this program exists and that I was able to find it,” Nelson said.
Brandi Hardy serves on the city’s Human Relations Committee, which chose Dakota OutRight out of about a dozen nominations. She says it’s a step forward for Bismarck, but there’s still work to do.
“We felt that the mayor and city commissioners sent a message that everyone is welcome here in Bismarck… and we’re going to continue embracing those city values.”
The group is currently planning its Capital Pride event this June, which was canceled last year because of the pandemic. Pringle says in the past, more than 500 people have attended.