Jason McCarty grew up in Pearl, graduated from Pearl High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from New York University and lived for a decade in New York. He works as a public healthcare consultant/activist.
McCarty organized and developed Mississippi Capital City Pride, a nonprofit in Jackson that represents the LGBTQ+ community. He built the brand from the bottom up and Capital City Pride is recognized as the leading and largest Mississippi-based LGBTQ+. He created the organizations bylaws, trained and developed its board of directors and selected its 2020-2021 steering committee.
Co-founder of the Mississippi Positive Network, McCarty serves as a member of the Grace House board of directors, the Mississippi Center for Justice HIV Council, the Mississippi HIV Planning Council and Pearl Community Theatre. He was the first openly gay candidate for the Mississippi Legislature.
What is the purpose of Mississippi Capital City Pride?
“Mississippi Capital City Pride started out as an idea to bring our community together and to create safe spaces. There was no social organization in Jackson doing this type of work. We have community partners like the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, but they do political work. There was no peer-to-peer social organization.
“In June, we had a bowling event at Fannin Lanes and about 100 people participated. The bowling event was eye opening because out of the 100 people there, over 50 percent were under 21. That showed that there was a need for an organization that helped all LGBTQ+ ages.”
What motivates you about Capital City Pride?
“I personally do this work because of numbers like those found in The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. It showed that more than half – 52 percent – of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, compared to 40 percent of all LGBTQ youth respondents. A peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience gender identify-based discrimination.
“Too many LGBTQ+ youth are attempting suicide, and, sadly, we are losing a large number of them in Mississippi. My goal is for Capital City Pride to continue to be visible for LGBTQ+ people and to have events where they can freely express themselves.
“I tell my team every time we meet that ‘You never know who might be watching us and if we can give them hope to live another day because we are living our true, authentic selves, then our mission is successful.”’
Who directs Mississippi Capital City Pride?
“Mississippi Capital City Pride is made up by a 12-person steering committee. The committee members represent all sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds and races and range in age from 22 to 65.”
What events does Capital City Pride organize?
“We do a drag brunch once a month at Hal & Mal’s in Jackson. About 200 people have attended each one. Our sixth brunch will be Oct. 3 at Hal & Mal’s.
“In June, we had a block party on Duling Avenue celebrating Pride Month and about 400 people came. We partnered with Fondren Renaissance on that. We have moved our big celebration of Pride Month to October because it’s so hot in June.
“We have partnered with Urban Foxes for an after-work event that was a sober event and free of alcohol. We do a Monday meet-up at Barrelhouse in Fondren on the first Monday of each month.”
When was the last big Pride event in Jackson?
“There hasn’t been a big Pride event in over 10 years.”
When is the big Pride event scheduled?
“It is Oct. 1-3. It starts on Oct. 1 with a gala from 6-9 p.m. at Ecoshed at 133 Commerce Park Drive in Jackson. There will a silent auction with all proceeds being donated to Grace House Services, heavy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and a performance of Almost Elton John by Jared Price. Tickets are $100 each. For tickets, go to mscapitalcitypride.org.
“On Oct. 2, we will have the first Rainbow Run. It’s a 5K family fun race/walk that will start at 7:30 a.m. at Smith-Wills stadium parking lot and go through Eastover. To register, go to mscapitalcitypride.org.
Also scheduled on Oct. 2 is the City with Pride Festival at Smith-Wills Stadium. It will feature over 13 bands, 45 drag queens, over 40 vendors and a children’s area that will feature representatives of the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Jackson Zoo and the Mississippi Natural Science Museum. It is a free event, but upon entry everyone will have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result from 48 hours before the event. There will be free testing in the parking lot at Smith-Wills Stadium the entire week before the event.
“We’re going to have face masks and encourage everyone to wear masks. We’ll be following all city of Jackson guidelines., we
“On Oct. 3, we will have the Pride Drag Brunch with Silky Nutmeg Ganache. For tickets, go to mscapitalcitypride.org.”
How much money do you expect to raise from the Pride events?
“After Pride is done, we’re estimating we’ll give $50,000 to Grace House. Every dollar raised goes to Grace House because it is our 2021 beneficiary.”
Why was Grace House selected as the 2021 beneficiary?
“Each year, Mississippi Capital City Pride’s Pride celebration will have a charity aspect, and the steering committee will vote on a nonprofit that embodies the same beliefs of Capital City Pride and ensures they are promoting the well-being and health of our LGBTQ+ community. We felt like Grace House was the perfect fit.
“Grace House is a nonprofit founded in 1995 to provide a place where men with a common bond, (HIV/AIDS), could live with integrity and without fear and prejudice. At that time, Grace House consisted of one house which could take in a maximum of 12 residents.
“In October 2014, Grace House Services opened Grace House for Women, a 90-day secondary and long-term transitional apartment living program for homeless women recovering from chemical dependency.
“Grace House is the largest HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS) housing provider in the state of Mississippi, providing services to persons living with HIV, poverty, chemical dependency and housing insecurities.”
Does Capital City Pride have any other plans?
“We want to work with the city of Jackson and our community partners on a needs assessment for LGBTQ+ people and to develop a strategic plan to help with housing disparities, social networking support groups and peer-to-peer services.”
What’s next for Capital City Pride?
“Applications for the 2022 steering committee and the beneficiary for the next big Pride event will be available in December.”
Are you happy with how Capital City Pride has grown?
“Yes. It’s become bigger than I thought it was going to become. I truly believe this organization will save lives. I believe there are people in our community who are not out (of the closet) yet, but we’ll be there with arms open. Gay people want the same things from life as everybody else.”