As June rolls on, we are all still learning to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. People are standing up across the country to fight against injustice and racism. At the same time, we cannot and must not forget that Pride Month continues throughout June. Many towns and cities in New Jersey celebrate Pride by holding festivals, parties, street paintings and flag raisings. Due to the current public health crisis, most of these have been postponed, cancelled or moved online. Some of these communities are still holding flag raisings in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. Here in Hawthorne, as our community evolves to be more welcoming and inclusive, we realize that Pride Month needs to be a priority for the town's future. Where will Hawthorne be in all this?
Mayor Richard Goldberg has once again displayed the Rainbow Pride flag in the window of the borough hall for June. Some have said that’s enough or that it’s a nice gesture, to those of us who are allies of the LGBTQIA+ community, it appears to be a measured step. Numerous calls were made to the mayor to take the flag out of the window and fly it on our flagpole. Even during the virtual Town Council meeting last Wednesday night, the mayor stood by this decision, despite our call for it to be flown, if not in June, then in July.
Mayor Goldberg did announce the formation of the Hawthorne Pride Alliance which will be led by Mike Stracco. We commend this amazing news since most communities do not have a town-backed group like this. Some towns may have a broader based Diversity & Equality Committee, but this is a very progressive move from our Republican Mayor. We have spoken with Mike and are letting the mayor’s office know we would like to be included as an ally during the formation of the Pride Alliance since there are a lot of details still to work out. We hope that the members of this new Alliance will be appointed by Mr. Stracco since we definitely need local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, intersexual and asexual representation.
Per our conversation, the bylaws and mission of the Alliance are being formulated. The mayor’s office is accepting calls and names to be considered. In the one week since being established, Mr. Stracco said “A lot has been accomplished with more in the coming week. I have been in contact with the Mayor at least once a day.”
Mr. Stracco has assured me that he will be working directly with the mayor to review everyone interested in joining the Pride Alliance.
After a momentous month in the community with our March in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter (over 400 attended) and this announcement by the Mayor, we heard of an event being organized for this Friday night. This gathering will be outside Borough Hall from 5:30-6pm. It is called “Hawthorne Pride Day. The community is invited to join us as we symbolically raise the Pride Flag in Hawthorne. We will gather in recognition of Pride Month and celebrate diversity and inclusion in Hawthorne! All LGBTQI+ and Allies invited!”
Of course, everyone should attend and celebrate. Unfortunately, we found out that it isn’t all that inclusive. It is being organized by members of the Democrats of Hawthorne, who moved forward without input from the newly formed Pride Alliance. They have failed to directly invite Mr. Stracco of the Hawthorne Pride Alliance to attend.
Pride events should transcend partisan politics, but it appears that under the guise of a community event, party politics may be involved here. Mr. Stracco said: “I received a Facebook message from someone I’m not friends with to notify me that a few members of the community will be gathering at Borough Hall Friday night. That’s all. I said thank you, but have not been formally invited or asked to have a liaison speak.” Mr. Stracco also said, “This Alliance will be a non-partisan group and welcomes everyone to join.”
As advocates and allies to the community, we will attend in support of issues that the LGBTQIA+ community constantly faces. We also hope the organizers will provide a platform for those affected.
The Green Party has stood up for LBGTQIA+ community for decades. We have a New Jersey caucus: Lavender Greens and a National Lavender Greens Caucus that helps to steer our party, policy and platform. What we need in town is to allow people to be heard that have felt hidden or unwelcome. Hawthorne needs to show them that we are, in fact, a welcoming community.
Each year, more students are identifying as transgendered or non-binary. As a town we need to show support and camaraderie and that our community is becoming more open and diverse. Hawthorne is beginning a new chapter in becoming more inclusive, so we call on the newly formed Hawthorne Pride Alliance to support and fight for the following now and in the future:
The town should raise the Progress Pride Flag starting this July 2020, not just the traditional rainbow flag. The reason is to show support for our Transgender community and the black transgendered community, communities still persecuted each day in this country.
The town should cover the purchase and installation of a separate flagpole if we cannot fit all the flags on the existing one. Temporarily moving the New Jersey State flag to another pole or take it down for now as an interim solution. There is room in the budget to buy a second pole. It could be situated right next to the current one.
We call for the town to work to promote Pride month in June 2021. Our pride month should begin with a giant kick-off party held at our Borough band shell, which will ring in the start of its season the first weekend of June. Many towns have celebrations for Pride. We can be a leader and host a large event for our county to respect and help promote.
We recognize the importance of Mayor Goldberg in creating the Hawthorne Pride Alliance but recognize that as an ally, we must work to elevate the issues our LBGTQIA+ community wants. We look forward to assisting in any capacity as the Alliance is formalized. I particularly look forward to next year when I can assist and support the Pride Alliance, hopefully as your Ward 3 councilman.