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‘Pride Is Power’: West Hartford Raises Pride Flag to Commence Pride Month

Pride flag raised in West Hartford center for the start of Pride month. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

West Hartford locals, leaders, and community supporters gathered on the Unity Green Thursday evening to celebrate the beginning of Pride month with the raising of the Pride flag. 

By Bridget Bronsdon 

The month of June, also known as Pride Month, was not lost on the West Hartford community as families, leaders, and advocators gathered on the Unity Green in a celebration of love, unity, and most importantly, Pride. 

Onlookers waved flags, passed out stickers, and proudly sported pins to demonstrate their support for the LGBTQ+ community. The raising of the Pride Flag officially commenced the month-long celebration inn West Hartford – now in its fourth year – which will feature a variety of events throughout town.

West Hartford crowd watching as the Pride Flag is raised in the town center. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor was first to speak as she noted the town’s solidarity and commitment to every community member and resident. “We are so proud to be supporters of Pride,” Cantor said. “We are so proud of the love our community has for each other and that we support all kinds of love.” 

Cantor read a formal proclamation that included this year’s theme of  “#standagainsthate” and included the following language: “All people, regardless of age, gender identity, race, color, religion, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation or physical challenges have the right to be treated based on their intrinsic value as human beings. Whereas we as a society are learning, understanding, embracing, and including definitions of sexuality and gender, and recognizing education and awareness remains vital to end discrimination and prejudice. And whereas the town of West Hartford will raise the Pride flag representing light, healing, sun, calmness, art, and spirit in front of City Hall.” 

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor speaks at the raising of the Pride Flag. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

Cantor went on to officially proclaim June 2023 as “lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, transgender Pride month” and called upon the community to work towards eliminating discrimination and prejudice to “celebrate our diversity.” 

Barry Walters and Johanna Schubert, co-chairs of West Hartford Pride, then stepped up to say a few words regarding how local, regional, and national leaders are working with the LGBTQ+ community.

Walters began by recognizing the hardships that the LGBTQ+ community faces due to restrictive legislation and violence. However, he stated that “here in Connecticut, we are reminded that life is better for LGBTQ+ families. Our laws protect us and guide us.” Walters went on to note that “Connecticut has become known as a sanctuary state, offering refuge for others who suffer at the hand of what amounts to state-sponsored hate in places like Texas and Florida.”

Although Walters noted that Connecticut is not perfect, leaders are continuously working together to guide us toward a brighter and more accepting future. “It is up to us to give everybody – each other – hope. It’s up to us to live our joy, our truths.” Walters added.

West Hartford Pride Co-Chairs Barry Walters (left) and Johanna Schubert at the Pride flag raising. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Schubert shared a personal story to reflect upon what Pride has built for the LGBTQ+ community. She recounted a story about how her cousin was an attendee at the very first Pride because he yearned “to be in a community with those who identify the way that he did, to look around and not just be the only.” Noting the ways in which Pride has grown since then, Schubert said, “Look around, we built it.” 

West Hartford Pride Co-Chair Johanna Schubert speaking to community members. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

As sentiments of pride and unity hung in the air, Mel Cordner, founder of Q Plus – a program for Queer youth in Connecticut – stepped up to the mic. As a sea of rainbow flags was waved in the audience, Cordner spoke with ambition. 

Cordner first explained that a wave of people are moving to Connecticut from other states to escape regulations such as the restriction of access to gender-affirming healthcare. But although she spoke of the disheartening legislation from other states in the country, Cordner made sure to highlight the good.

“Pride and joy is how we do everything, and how we overcome all of that,” Cordner said. “We have a lot of work to do, but pride and joy is how we’re going to do it. Because the thing is, Pride is power.” With that, applause erupted from community onlookers in a demonstration of power, unity, and enthusiastic support of the message. 

Community members watching Mel Cordner speak on the Unity Green in the town center. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

Cordner made sure to note the hallmarks of being true to oneself. “Pride is the power you find in knowing yourself as well, which is a very important thing in the queer community. It’s the power you find in being yourself. And arguably strongest, it’s the power you find in being loved as yourself and for yourself.” 

As Cordner continued, they made sure to note how the fight for rights and support has spanned decades. Cordner noted that in the 60s, transgender individuals were fighting for their rights to dress how they liked, be themselves, and simply exist in public spheres. They compared that fight to today. “We are still protecting our rights to exist today, our right to work as ourselves, our right to live as ourselves, our right to education, our right to healthcare, our right to making the best decisions for ourselves, for our bodies, for our children, and for our families. This is about our right to safety, and our right to autonomy. That’s what we deserve, and that’s what we’re fighting for, and that’s what love is.” 

Community members in attendance for the raising of the Pride flag to kick off Pride month. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

As the fight for rights joins forces in a celebration of love and support for Pride, Cordner noted, “Pride and joy are both forms of love – but like – in different colored outfits. Okay? Celebration, advocacy are both forms of care, but in different colored wigs.” 

They continued, “The queer-plus tagline is to uplift and empower queer youth because those things are equally important. Uplift and empower, celebrate and advocate, enable and support, we need both all the time. All of that needs to come together to create a space where we can actually be,” Cordner said. 

Cordner’s words truly hit home and packed a strong punch for the crowd as they finished by calling the public to action. “… we mean being Pride and joy, we mean looking at each other, looking around, and saying ‘you belong here and I’ll fight for you.’ It’s about hearing that same thing back to you … It’s about building together. That’s what love is, that’s what we deserve, and that’s what we’re fighting for.” 

Mel Cordner speaking to West Hartford community members. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

As an elated crowd cheered, the true sense of community and support was flawlessly demonstrated.

Miles Wilson-Toliver from the Voices of Hartford ensemble took to the mic to sing a touching rendition of “Make Them Hear You.” Crowd members clung to loved ones, held hands, and recorded the touching moment as the Pride Flag was raised while lyrics – “Go out and tell our story let it echo far and wide, make them hear you, make them hear you” _ rippled throughout the audience. 

As the celebration came to an end, the rainbow colors of the Pride flag flew in the summer evening breeze. This marked the start of month-long celebrations hosted by the community.

The next event is The Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus on June 4 at 4 p.m. in the Conard High School auditorium.

Families gathering for the celebration of Pride. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

West Hartford crowd listening to Mel Cordner speak at the kick off to Pride month. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

West Hartford residents watching as the Pride flag is raised over the Unity Green. Photo credit: Bridget Bronsdon

Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye and her wife, Tracey Wilson (seated on bench) were among the attendees at the Pride flag raising in West Hartford on June 1. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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Bridget Bronsdon

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