Vermont Mad Pride Day will take place on July 16, 2022, in Burlington. Attendees will gather at Church and Main streets for a march at noon to Battery Park, where festivities will continue – with speeches, music, and food and drink – until 3 p.m.
Cities around the world host Mad Pride events, timed often to coincide with Bastille Day, the holiday commemorating the Parisian uprising that freed seven prisoners (including two “lunatics” and one “deviant”) during the French Revolution. Before COVID-19, marchers gathered annually in central or southern Vermont, where Vermont Psychiatric Survivors organized the most recent Mad Pride in Brattleboro in 2019.
This time, Another Way Community Center has taken the lead. Organizer Ericka Reil, a peer specialist at Another Way, mentioned additional help from Pathways Vermont, MadFreedom, the Vermont Center for Independent Living, and Disability Rights Vermont.
In the hope of staging Vermont’s biggest Mad Pride Day yet, Another Way has shifted the location for the first time to the state’s largest population center. “We did have to secure permits,” Reil said, “and it was actually very, very easy. The City of Burlington was very kind to us, and they were very receptive to the whole thing.”
Reil has attended previous events. “I’m a psychiatric survivor. I’m proud of that fact,” she explained. “I want to be visible with that fact, and I want people to know that we’re out there. We’re independent, we’re one of you, we’re your neighbors, we’re your coworkers, we’re your community, and we want to be seen for who we are.”
Mad Pride also offers family members and allies a chance to stand with psychiatric survivors against stigma and oppression. “I encourage people to show up in any way they feel fit and come out and join us,” Reil urged.
As of early May, organizers hadn’t yet finalized the programming, but Reil noted that the local a capella group Root 7 would perform. “Of course we’re going to have speakers,” she said, “but we also want to have poets, and we want to have artists and musicians and anybody who wants to come out and show their artistic side or their mad side and work with us.”
The celebration could get a bit noisy. “For somebody who is not good with a situation that’s overstimulating, it could be overstimulating,” Reil cautioned. “Sometimes it can be a little chaotic. But we’re all there. We’re all very easy to talk to you. If somebody has questions about anything, we’re all available to help.”
Reil sees value in “just being together and being as one and being one voice” and looks forward to seeing fellow activists and mental health peers from across the state in person. “Any time you can get together with people that know what it’s like to be hospitalized, institutionalized, just having shared experiences, is a good time in my opinion,” she said.
Prospective attendees can help organizers’ preparations by registering at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/vermont-mad-pride-2022-tickets-320688847977. The event is free, with ASL interpretation provided.