Carol West, Rafael McDonnell chosen by record turnout of voters, DTG director says
Tammye Nash | Managing Editor
The votes are in and the community has chosen the Rev. Carol West and Rafael McDonnell to lead the 2014 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade as grand marshals on Sept. 21. Both said this week they are surprised and honored to have been chosen.
“It’s really a great honor,” said West, pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth. “It’s always a great honor to be chosen to represent our community in some fashion. But there is just so much good happening in our community right now, our community is so alive and vibrant right now, that it is an especially wonderful time to be participating and to be honored this way.”
Pointing to the victories the LGBT rights movement has won, including a growing number of legal victories around the issue of marriage equality, West said, “We’ve come a long way, baby, and I am glad to be here and be part of this community.”
Like West, McDonnell, who is communications and advocacy manager for Resource Center in Dallas, said he thinks being chosen as grand marshal is as much an honor for the organization he serves as for him as an individual.
“I think this is a reflection of the work we do here at the center, our advocacy work and in terms of the programs and services Resource Center offers,” McDonnell said.
But he also appreciates it as recognition for the work he did as a journalist, before he joined the center’s staff. “My involvement with the community dates backs to at least 1991,” he said.
Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, the organization that puts on Dallas’ Pride parade each fall, said there was a record voter turnout in this year’s voting, with more than 1,600 ballots cast.
Each year, a male and a female grand marshal are chosen. Doughman said that in years past, Tavern Guild members chose the parade grand marshals. In 2012, however, they changed the process to allow the community to vote.
Doughman explained forms allowing the public to nominate potential grand marshals are posted on the Tavern Guild’s website for six to eight weeks. Tavern Guild officials then narrow the nominees down to the top three men and the top three women, based on how many people nominated them.
Then the nominees are posted on the website and the voting opened to the public for four to six weeks, Doughman said.
The first year the grand marshals were chosen by community vote there were about 600 to 700 votes cast. Last year, there were about 1,000 votes.
This year’s tally increased by more than half.
Doughman said it is also the first time that both the male and the female grand marshal have been from Fort Worth, as best as he can remember.
And West is the first person, as far as anyone knows, to have been chosen grand marshal of Pride parades in both Dallas and Fort Worth. She was Tarrant County Pride Parade grand marshal in 2010.
But Doughman said both McDonnell and West have earned the right to be recognized in Dallas as well as Fort Worth.
“Carol has a really, really rich history in the Dallas community,” Doughman said, noting that she was previously a minister with Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas, which is now Cathedral of Hope, a United Church of Christ congregation. And while McDonnell has been active in Tarrant County, “most of the work he does is here in Dallas, with Resource Center where he works, even though he lives in Fort Worth.”
McDonnell agreed. “Yes, Dallas and Fort Worth each have their own issues. But we are a regional community,” he said. “As the late Tom Anable [of Fairness Fort Worth] and I used to tell each other, equality doesn’t stop at the county line.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 1, 2014.