Legislators, community activities, and youth spoke at an ‘Out Loud!’ rally at Town Hall Saturday morning preceding the West Hartford Pride celebration of diversity and inclusiveness.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Pride hosted “much more than a party” Saturday, as the tagline promised.
But before the celebration, there was a call to action – an “Out Loud!” rally with a message that was even more urgent coming the day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion rights on a federal level.
Johanna Schubert, co-chair of West Hartford Pride, emceed the rally, noting that Barry Walters, the other co-chair, had been instrumental in the planning but was unfortunately unable to participate due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
“[The decision] by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and take away a person’s right to autonomy over their own bodies and thus their own quality of life and lifestyle took my breath away,” Schubert said.
“The inability to access safe abortion affects not only cisgender women but also trans men and non-binary people, pushing a vulnerable community further to the fringes of an alreaday fraught healthcare system. At West Hartford Pride, we in a person’s body autonomy and will do our best to connect people with safe and affirming health care,” she said.
West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor told the crowd of well over 100 people who braved the hot sun and gathered in front of Town Hall steps Saturday morning that they are fortunate to live in Connecticut. “We are just incredibly lucky to have wonderful leaders,” she said, noting that while she was incredibly furious about the Supreme Court’s decision, she praised our state legislators and the governor who guaranteed protection for patients who travel to Connecticut to seek abortion care form a state that has outlawed it. Gov. Ned Lamont signed Public Act 22-19, which also expands the types of practitioners who can provide certain types of abortion care, on May 10.
“Happy Pride, West Hartford. Happy ‘be who you were born to be’ West Hartford,” state Rep. Kate Farrar said, pointing to the words on her shirt: “Love is Love.”
Farrar said she was so proud to join together Saturday in “allyship, as accomplices, and as champions for our community,” and what is possible has been shown in Connecticut.
“It’s very easy to feel devastated, angry, heartbroken, but we’ve shown here in Connecticut what is possible. … We’ve shown what is possible when we celebrate love, when we celebrate human rights,” said Farrar. “We only got to today because of what we’ve done together, and we’re only going to fight forward because of what is possible together.”
U.S. Rep. John Larson also addressed the crowd, with a greeting of “Happy Pride, stand up West Hartford. Stand up Connecticut.”
He expressed his thanks to local and state leaders, but said that real change needs to come in the Senate, where the filibuster and cloture vote are a barrier to progress. One chamber should not be allowed to have the control it does, and he said the Senate has blocked more than 400 bills from consideration.
“There is nowhere in the United States Constitution that says it takes 60 votes to pass a bill,” Larson said as the crowd cheered and applauded.
“Russia, China, a global pandemic, Middle East terrorists … are not as big a threat to this democratic republic as is the filibuster and the cloture vote,” Larson said. “Vote, so that the American people can then judge on accountability who is with them and who is not.”
Styx Hatch, a rising junior at Hall High School, said they have been out since age 12, and have been gender non-conforming since the summer of 2020, “and after more growth and work than I would like to admit, I am proud to say that as a queer person I am happy, and part of that is thanks to the support of the community I have been lucky enough to have found in the Town of West Hartford.”
#Pride2022 celebration continues in #WestHartford with “More Than A Party” in @bluebacksquare – but first there was a rally at town hall @ShariMayor @kateforct @RepJohnLarson pic.twitter.com/9s81N88GxH
— We-Ha.Com (@WeHartford) June 25, 2022
While there is a lot of work left to be done, they said, “We have to take a moment and look how far we’ve come. We fought for this moment y’all, the first ‘Pride’ was a riot. We fought to be here,” Hatch said.
Keren Prescott, the founder and CEO of PowerUp CT, a nonprofit organization that amplified marginalized voices and advocates for social and legislative change, was the final speaker at the rally.
Prescott, who said she is 40, thanked those – including her daughter – who gave her the courage to come out as queer in 2015. “I did not have the courage, and the strength, and the tenacity that people like you at your age have because I grew up in the 80s which is a lot different than now, and I grew up with father being a pastor and I tried to pray the gay out of me,” she said.
“But I think the more I prayed it out of me the more it came into me.”
Prescott, who said she is a proud Afro-Latina, said her parents fought and shed blood and tears “so that my beautiful Black, queer self can stand here before you today and tell you that I am happy.”
Prescott said, however, that she was triggered when she tried to attend a press conference Friday following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She said she was surrounded “by so many white people talking about their bodies and their choices,” and said it’s important to remember the intersectionality, that many Black bodies don’t have a choice.
“We don’t have the same liberties, we don’t have the same freedoms, and so when you can hear about abortion rights being taken, especially as a Black woman who in 1999 had to get an abortion because I was brutally raped at Virgina State University, and I think to myself if that had been today I don’t know what I would have done,” Prescott said.
It’s scary, she said, to think that if a woman’s right to choose can be taken away, “the rest of our rights are following behind it.”
Saturday is a day for celebration, Prescott said, “This also should be yet another wake-up call, that pretty soon same sex marraige is going to be on the line. Voting rights is going to be on the line, inter-racial relationships and marriages are on the line. … When you take care of the ‘least,’ then you take care of the most.”
Prescott, echoed by Schubert, asked the crowd to consider what they are going to do. “What are you going to do today, so that when you become the ancestor, your kids’ kids won’t have to stand out here and fight as well.”
Following the rally, beginning at noon Saturday, the party began and Isham Road in Blue Back Square was full of positive energy, as diversity and inclusiveness were celebrated, amid a sea of rainbow decorations, with music and other performances, food, and fun.
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