Celebrating Pride: Deana Spencer
Communities thrive when leaders dedicate themselves to change and uplifting marginalized voices. Deana Spencer, co-president of BC Pride, transforms the culture of Calhoun County through her commitment to empowering the LGBTQ+ community. Showcasing the power of boldness, Spencer aims to reshape the culture of Battle Creek, fostering a community where queer people are taken seriously and valued for more than just their romantic relationships.
Spencer finds inspiration in community leaders, but one person who has strongly influenced her is Reverend Emily Joye McGaughy. As a strong female community leader, Reverend McGaughy embodies boldness and provides fresh perspectives in challenging circumstances. Spencer is inspired by Reverend McGaughy’s fearlessness and unwavering commitment to doing what is right.
Spencer finds herself further inspired by the youth she has met through BC Pride’s Constellations Youth Group. These youth have met monthly for over two years under Spencer’s co-leadership. “This group gives space and freedom to LGBTQ+ kids to be their authentic selves and feel like they belong,” Spencer explains. “We do crafts, learn and explore more about who we all are, play games, have pizza parties, and just belong… I’m really proud of these kids. They are an inspiration.”
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
Under Spencer’s leadership, BC Pride implements several impactful initiatives. By partnering with the South Michigan Food Bank, BC Pride offers a monthly food distribution, addressing food insecurity and giving people in Battle Creek access to healthy meals. Spencer smiles and says, “It’s easily one of my favorite things that we do.”
BC Pride also organizes a free annual Thanksgiving dinner, creating a welcoming environment for anyone who wants to join. The dinner fosters a sense of community. Spencer explains, “The holidays can be such a challenging time for people in the LGBTQ+ community. Many attendees are estranged from their families because of their identities. They can come to our table and build a chosen family.”
MORE THAN JUST A FESTIVAL
BC Pride’s Pride Festival celebrates and provides an opportunity for people to express themselves freely. The event allows individuals to embrace their identities and assert their rights to live authentically and fearlessly. Spencer explains, “It’s more than a celebration. For some, it’s the only time of the year they get to be their whole self in public.”
SERVING THE COMMUNITY
Spencer’s dedication to uplifting voices extends beyond BC Pride. On top of her work, she serves on the Battle Creek Human Relations Board, the Population Health Alliance of Calhoun County, and the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Calhoun County, ensuring LGBTQ+ voices have representation at every table she is invited to. She shares, “Until recently, queer people had never been asked to sit at these tables. When the ask is there, how could I possibly say no? I want to ensure our voices are heard.”
By actively participating in these organizations, Spencer strives to create more equitable and safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.
PROUDEST MOMENTS & LESSONS LEARNED
Spencer has experienced several proud moments during her time with BC Pride. The establishment of BC Pride’s Resource Center stands out as a significant milestone that she takes pride in. The Resource Center is a dedicated space that offers support and a sense of community for LGBTQ+ individuals in Battle Creek. Additionally, seeing the Pride flag flying over Battle Creek’s city hall for the first time symbolized the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community—a testament to the progress made.
Reflecting on her own journey, Spencer shares advice she would give to her younger self: “It’s okay to be yourself. Your voice matters so much!” Having experienced seasons of self-doubt in her own life, she encourages others to embrace their authentic selves. Further, she challenges people to use their voices to advocate for those who have not yet found their own. Deana Spencer emphasizes the importance of being bold, speaking out, and challenging societal norms.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Spencer’s commitment to advocacy, involvement in various initiatives, and vision for a more inclusive world demonstrate the impact one person can have. Spencer’s story inspires embracing one’s true self and empowering others to do the same. With her unwavering determination, Deana Spencer shapes a brighter future for Battle Creek’s LGBTQ+ community and beyond.