HAWTHORNE, NJ - On Friday evening, Hawthorne residents gathered at the Municipal Complex in support of Pride Month. Some members of the LGBTQI community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) and their allies braved the heat in order to call for flying the Pride flag on the borough's pole.
While the borough has displayed the rainbow flag in the window of the Municipal Complex near the front door, some residents expressed that Mayor Goldberg should have done more. Hope Ehman-Osborne, one of the speakers during the event, said, "Three years ago, my family and I donated this Pride flag to our town. We were so happy to see it on display the next day, even if it didn't make it to the flagpole." She continued, saying, "Now that no one can go into the lobby, and it's hard to see it through the window, we should finally join other towns and put it on the flagpole for everyone to see!"
Not all Hawthorne residents support moving the rainbow flag to the town pole underneath the American flag. On social media, some residents have said that the town's pole should only fly the American flag along with the POW/MIA flag. Others have expressed their belief that the Pride flag's current placement in the window is appropriate and satisfactory. Others still have called for a separate pole to be constructed where the Pride flag--and by extension any other flag the town wished to recognize--could be flown at the discretion of the borough without interfering with the present municipal flag pole arrangement. Mayor Goldberg said at the June 17 council meeting that they would take recommendations from the newly-created Hawthorne Pride Alliance, chaired by Michael Stracco, regarding the future display of the flag.
Kimberly Maciejewski spoke to the leadership in town, saying, "Show the youth, the closeted, the proudly out members of our amazing town that you and all of Hawthorne support and stand behind us and raise the pride flag over borough hall." Maciejewski shared her own personal story with those in attendance, "Today I’m also speaking to you as a member of the LGBTQ community. I’m speaking to you as a bisexual woman. So, that was the first time I’ve ever said those words in public." The attendees applauded and cheered in unity and support. "I applaud Hawthorne leadership, and Mike Stracco, for forming the new Hawthorne Pride Alliance committee. There is still so much that needs to be addressed and so much that needs to be done to be sure Hawthorne is inclusive and a true stigma free town. But we don’t need a committee to decide to raise the Pride flag proudly during Pride Month. All it takes to fly the universal symbol of love and acceptance is leadership."
Guest speaker Michael Galluccio, author of "An American Family", shared the journey he and his husband took in order to become the first gay couple on New Jersey to adopt children. He discussed the struggles they faced, the backlash they received, and the overwhelming support that came from it. "That taught us something. It taught us that you can make a change. We didn't have to get violent. We just had to be us." Referring to the demonstration at the Municipal Complex, Galluccio said, "You can't give up. It's not all the way there yet. This is the kind of thing that does it, honest."
An appearance and speech by Anida Tension, a drag entertainer and Hawthorne resident, added a touch of humor as she shared her story of strength. There were others in attendance who took the bullhorn to discuss what life has been like for them being part of the LGBTQI community while living in Hawthorne. Bridget Grenier, a queer member of Hawthorne, discussed homophobia. She recounted the first relationship she had while at Hawthorne High School in 2011. "Her name was Hope Martin. She was told that she didn't matter, and she should kill herself for the way she is. Unfortunately, five and a half years ago, she did."
The Hawthorne Pride Day event ended in a "symbolic raising" of the Pride flag, as attendees planted their own mini rainbow flags into the ground in front of Borough Hall. When posed the question of why this event was organized so late in the month, one of the organizers stated that some LGBTQI members held onto the hopes that Mayor Goldberg would fly the Pride flag on the town's pole before month's end.
The universal message of the speakers during Pride Day was that while there have been strides made toward the ending of prejudice against the LGBTQI community, there is still work to be done.
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