PLAINFIELD, NJ - Plainfield celebrated with a Pride flag raising ceremony and block party on the plaza at City Hall on Thursday. The event began with an introduction by Wesley McWhite III, the Chairman of the Plainfield Pride Committee, and Freeholder Rebecca Williams acted as the Master of Ceremony.
The invocation was given by Rev. Dr. Antonio Torrence of Trinity Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY, and a North Plainfield resident.
Mayor Adrian O. Mapp greeted those in attendance, as did Council President Joylette Mills-Ransome. Plainfield's own Assemblywoman Linda Carter read a resolution that honors the 2019 Plainfield Pride committee, the Hyacinth Aids Foundation and Iris House, among others.
Union County Freeholder Sergio Granados said, "Our county's a county of progressiveness, our county is a county that continues to make sure we hear the voices of everyone who lives in our county, but more importantly, our county is a county of equality," adding that the Union County Freeholders created the state's first office in 2018 for LGBTQ services, and it is just one of four offices in the country.
Executive Director Kathy Ahearn-O'Brien of the Hyacinth Aids Foundation said she is asked why Pride flags and parades are still needed. She said violence and hate crimes are still an issue, and when a city takes the time, it is a message to the community that hate will not be tolerated.
Other speakers included Danni Newbury, Coordinator of the Union County Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Officer Tamiko Brooks, the LGBTQ liaison from the Union County Sheriff's Office, and Saquan Stevenson, a Plainfield resident, from the Hyacinth Aids Foundation.
Bruce Zehnle, a Plainfield resident and community activist, closed out the ceremony before the flag was hoisted. Freeholder Williams introduced him, saying he had asked her when she was on the council why Plainfield didn't raise a Pride flag. She said she then asked herself the same question.
Zehnle addressed the crowd, saying, "In 1970 I moved to Plainfield, and during those almost fifty years, the one constant that I have found here is Plainfield's inclusiveness and welcome mat to all people. The gay community has always been active in Plainfield, and it has been here long before I arrived. The gay community has been involved in city government, the symphony, many other benefits, many other socials, and many other fundraisers. The gay community has been here helping Plainfield to grow, and to be the city that it is. It is with great pride that I raise the gay flag for the LGBTQ community."
Zehnle also said he gave a shout out to Plainfield on his recent appearance on The Price is Right.
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