Outside of her work as a festival organizer, Oaks works as a therapist at Frontier Health and an adjunct professor at East Tennessee State University, where she teaches cultural diversity. With this background, Oaks said getting involved in organizing the first LGBTQ festival and parade of its kind in the Tri-Cities was a suitable fit.
On Wednesday, Oaks spoke with the Johnson City Press about what she has been up to as an organizer, as well as what she does with her free time.
Hobbies: Spending time with her dog, painting and hiking.
Favorite TV Shows: “Orphan Black,” “Transparent” and “Doctor Who.”
Favorite local restaurant: Mid City Grill. “They have an amazing vegan menu.”
Biggest pet peeve: Leaving windshield wipers on when they’re not needed.
Cat or dog person: Has both, but is “more of a dog person.”
Can you tell us more about your role in helping organize the festival and parade?
My role is the volunteer coordinator for TriPride. I wouldn’t have been able to perform in this role without the help of the board and committee members, especially Aislinn Bailey. With their help and input, we’ve had over 70 people commit to volunteering for the parade and festival. Volunteers will help with setup for the parade and festival, help our entertainers throughout the day, help keep the area clean, help give information to festival goers, help with our merchandise table, help ensure the kids' zone stays alcohol-free and other tasks.
What made you want to get involved with TriPrideTN?
I wanted to get involved with and help organize the parade and festival because it is important to me, both personally and on a professional level, to advocate and give back to my community. I believe that TriPride will create opportunities for connection and will offer those in attendance the chance to celebrate, learn about and support the LGBTQ+ community.
What were some of the main obstacles organizers such as yourself had when first working to help organize the events?
One of the main obstacles I think that I faced, specific to my role as the volunteer coordinator, was taking into consideration all the possible obstacles, as well as all the possible needs for volunteers at the event. Having never coordinated volunteers for an event before, the support from the board, committee members and community has been invaluable and helped make this process for me be a success.
What do you think about the community’s response so far?
I’m in awe at the community’s supportive response to TriPride. I’ve seen both majority and minority group individuals in our community come together in unity and support, and I think it is amazing. The love and support that I’ve seen and felt from others has been truly remarkable, and I’m privileged to be a part of such an important moment in our community’s history.
What has been your favorite part of organizing this event?
My favorite part about organizing this event has been meeting so many kind, open and accepting individuals. I came out a couple of years ago, and I have often felt isolated. The opportunity to be a part of organizing this event, being welcomed and accepted as I am, has been amazing for me. The chance to be a part of creating an environment where others can be welcomed with open arms regardless if they are newly out, have been out for years, or are thinking about coming out, is an honor.