Jake Sahr, Capital City Pride, and the Intention Behind Inclusive Spaces

June 24, 2024

Jake and the Capital City Pride board of directors. Image Source: Facebook

Jake Sahr built his barbershop, The Mobile Barbering Co., on the ethos that everyone who walked in would be safe and affirmed, no matter their race, gender, sexuality, or ability.

He set up his business in a trailer to take hairstyling services to those who may not be able to travel. One day, a board member of Capital City Pride (CCP) came into the shop, and the conversation led Jake to become the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair for CCP, the Des Moines nonprofit responsible for the city’s PrideFest and other events celebrating and honoring the LGBTQ+ community.

Jake showing a Mobile Barbering Co. guest his new hairdo. Image Source: Facebook

“My mission and my purpose is to try to make things more accessible for anybody, whoever they may be, and to just allow them the space to feel comfortable and part of the world, just like everybody else,” said Jake.

Because he knows what it feels like to feel unwelcome.

Jake lives with cerebral palsy. He knows what it feels like to not feel included or accepted in a space. He’s dedicated his life to ensuring other people don’t have to feel that way around him.

Jake and Capital City Pride root their work in intersectionality—the idea that we all have layered identities that give us various privileges and disadvantages, and those complexities should be considered in all aspects of justice work.

With this idea in mind, Jake and his team approached making PrideFest more accessible for people with disabilities.

They’ve worked with the Iowa Department for the Blind to incorporate support for blind or low vision attendees, such as braille menus or the Pride Guide adapted for screen readers. They added additional movement support for people with ambulatory issues and arranged to have American Sign Language interpreters for all of the events.

They continue to make efforts in areas one might not think about first when considering intersectionality. For example, they offer and serve more non-alcoholic drink options. They collaborate with Iowa Safe Schools to host an annual Pride Tailgate for students and their families, to give younger attendees a space away from the more adult themes of Pride.

“We’ve been focusing on trying to root ourselves in the community even more than we already have been,” Jake said.

What it takes to broaden perspectives

Beyond PrideFest, CCP hosts a year-round speaker series that Jake believes is key to broadening perspectives and eliminating the misunderstanding that often leads to oppression of the LGBTQ+ community.

“People might walk away from those events and take what they learned and apply it to their own lives, whether it’s being more thoughtful or checking in more intentionally with others in their lives,” Jake said.

The Speaker Series includes people from all walks of life with ties to the LGBTQ+ community. In May, they welcomed Anthony Rapp, who portrayed Mark Cohen in the Tony Award-winning musical “Rent.” In February 2023, Zoey Luna spoke about her experience as one of the first transgender youth public figures. The series resumes in September with Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that secured marriage equality for all. These speakers discuss their work for LGBTQ+ justice and inspire audiences to advocate for a more inclusive future.

Members of the CCP team with guest speaker Tiq Milan. Image Source: Facebook

“Our goal is to highlight the experiences and perspectives for other people who may not have experienced those things,” Jake said. The stories they share broaden the community’s understanding of who our LGBTQ+ neighbors are.

“Storytelling is such an important part of improving humanity. There’s been so much legislation that is sensationalized using buzz words, and it’s stripped the humanity out of the situation. We really try to use storytelling to highlight the true core message that people deserve to be treated well,” Jake said.

Jake relates deeply to people whose stories have been taken away from them. He believes the world can be better, as long as we do this work with intention. So each day he parks his barbershop and opens the doors for the next customer. And each day he looks for more ways for CCP to be inclusive and accessible.

“I'm a person of color, and I have a disability. I know the barriers that exist. But my purpose is to stick up for everybody. That’s the whole point of being in community. We’re trying to move forward together.”

CultureALL believes that sharing the cultural richness of our community with others will elevate our society and the quality of life for all.