What does Pride Month mean to you? 9 questions with Director of Fort Wayne Pride

Nikki Fultz, Director of Fort Wayne Pride, tells us what Pride Month means to her and how all citizens can do their part to make sure Fort Wayne is a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ neighbors. Nikki Fultz, Director of Fort Wayne Pride.
Fort Wayne Pride's annual celebration will be July 23-24 at Headwaters Park. The group hosts year-round events, as well.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
NF: My wife Kara and I just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary earlier this week. We both identify with she/her pronouns and are both teachers with FWCS. We actually have five kids. Our oldest three joined our family through the foster care system, and they are all 26. Kara carried our younger two who were photographed with me, Riley, 3, and Tegan, 9. Our oldest daughter made us grandmas in March with the birth of her son, Sebastian.
2. How long have you lived in Fort Wayne, and what do you love about living here?
NF: I have lived in Fort Wayne my whole life (almost 40 years). Fort Wayne is such a cool city that doesn’t get enough credit. People are friendly, and there are many cultures represented. I love the growth of downtown and the many things to do including summer festivals at Headwaters, the Landing, Promenade Park, the huge selection of restaurants, and the zoo. 
Our family loves to utilize the trails and find there are beautiful places to walk and bike all over town. I like that it isn’t a huge city, but it is big enough to offer many resources and have a variety of things to do.

Nikki Fultz's wife Kara carried their two youngest children, Riley, 3, and Tegan, 9, photographed here.
3. What does Pride Month mean to you?
NF: When I think about June, I first remember the sacrifices of LGBTQ people long ago including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who, at Stonewall, helped propel our community forward into seeking rights and recognition. 
Of course, I love seeing rainbow flags and various pride merchandise, but more importantly, Pride Month provides time for honoring what our community has been through. From being jailed to being killed to being fired, LGBTQ people have suffered so much, and some are still suffering all over the world. Outside of the history of oppression, this month also celebrates the contributions LGBTQ people are making every day in our country. 
4. When and why did you get involved in Fort Wayne Pride?
NF: I started volunteering at Fort Wayne Pride while in high school in 1999 and joined the Board of Directors in 2000. Originally, I got involved to meet people. Being a teenager and before there were ways to connect with people online, the only way to meet people was to get out there, and do it. 
I am a big believer in volunteering and wanted to give my time and talent to an organization that meant a lot to me. Being a part of Pride has provided me with so much fulfillment over the years. I have made a difference in the lives of people in our community and have helped build the organization to where it is today.
5. What will Fort Wayne Pride's events be like this year?
NF: Because of COVID, we were not really sure what to expect for this year, but I am happy to report that Pride 2021 will look pretty similar to festivals of the past. We will not have a Pride March, but we will have a festival on July 23rd and 24th. 
This year, our festival will expand to include the east and west sides of Headwaters to allow for a second stage and more space for our vendors. We are recommending, but not requiring, masks for attendees and will have sanitizing stations around the plaza. People will be able to enjoy live entertainment, a vendor market, a nonprofit resource fair, a beer tent, a food plaza, workshops, a KidSpace, and a renewed sense of community that has been especially missed because of COVID. 

Nikki Fultz's wife Kara carried their two youngest children, Riley, 3, and Tegan, 9, photographed here.
6. What's something people might not realize about Fort Wayne Pride?
NF: I don’t think many people realize how much is done outside of the festival. Most people are familiar with our big summer event, but they don’t know we do year-round events to bring the community together. We provide assistance to families in need around the holidays and give scholarships to LGBTQ youth. 
Pride has an online directory connecting people with area resources. We provide training to help others understand how to best work with our community. These training sessions include a partnership with FWPD where we, along with other leaders in the LGBTQ community, are working to strengthen relations with local police.
7. What have been some of the biggest hurdles to LGBTQ+ acceptance you've experienced in Fort Wayne?
NF: Over the years, I personally have faced some discrimination in the workplace, as well as things like namecalling and harassment, but it really has been pretty rare. That is, unfortunately, not the case with everyone in the city. I know that there are still teens being thrown out of their houses for being LGBTQ. There are people being harassed and bullied, especially trans members of our community. 
LGBTQ young people still have higher rates of suicide, mostly due to lack of acceptance from those close to them. I have been hopeful about the changes we have seen in recent years, but know things are far from perfect. 
8. How can your average citizen do their part to make sure Fort Wayne is a welcoming place for our LGBTQ neighbors?
NF: There are many things people can do to be great allies. Here are some:
  1. Call out homophobia, whether it is intentional or not.
  2. Find out what types of anti-discrimination policies or LGBTQ training your workplace has, and if improvements are needed, ask for changes to be made. 
  3. Reach out to LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable people in our community to let them know you accept them and are an ally. 
  4. Put your pronouns in your email signature, so that it becomes more commonplace and not just done by transgender and nonbinary people. 
  5. Learn more about the LGBTQ community and reflect on your own beliefs and any harmful stereotypes you may have. 
  6. Read children's books that include same-sex families and discuss different types of families with your children.
  7. Attend, volunteer, or support LGBTQ events in our area. 
 9. What are your hopes for the future of Fort Wayne?
NF: I hope Fort Wayne continues to build acceptance for all different kinds of people. I look forward to new projects, including Electric Works and the continued Riverfront Development. I hope there is new, meaningful development in the Southeast side. I’d love to see some places to dance in some of the new downtown projects. 

I think Fort Wayne could benefit from adding more things for teens to do to keep them connected and out of trouble. I hope future leadership continues to see the value of investing in the improvement of our city. 

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