WESTFIELD — The Pride Month flag raising returns this year, on June 1, and it’s just the start.
What was originally called the Westfield Pride Alliance organized in 2020 for the first City Hall flag raising of an LGBTQIA rainbow flag. After missing a year in 2022 when legal advice related to a Supreme Court decision prompted the city to ban non-governmental or non-military flags from its flagpoles, the flag raising is back for a third time this year.
It now has a shorter name — just “Westfield Pride” — but the 30-person committee has a longer program of events planned, including an art show, educational forum and even a breakfast for seniors.
“We were only a one-shot deal,” said Kathi Bradford, logistics coordinator for Westfield Pride. “All we did was raise the flag the first of June to kick off International Pride Month. Once we were denied that opportunity last year, we said Westfield needs to know a little bit more about what’s going on in the world, so we got together and created a Pride Month of activities.”
The committee also hopes to develop a nonprofit organization so it can raise funds for other events throughout the year.
“We have been working long and hard to create a feeling of excitement, enthusiasm and pride,” said Bradford. “We’ve met weekly since March to develop our ideas and programs. We’ve created a website and social media. We’re involved with advertising our programs and have sponsorships in the city. There’s lots of things we’re really excited about.”
Pride Month will start with a flag raising 6-6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 1, in front of City Hall, 59 Court St., Westfield. The flag to be raised will be a new pride flag designed by intersex equality rights campaigner Valentino Vecchietti, adding a purple circle over a yellow triangle to the familiar rainbow banner. The flag also has stripes to recognize transgender people and racial minorities.
Bradford said, “Every person or family that chooses to display a pride flag has the opportunity to share something about their beliefs, identity and struggle with the flag they choose. As a committee, we chose the most recent flag to be most inclusive of the diversity of our community.”
Following the flag raising, Hutghi’s at the Nook will host Pride Night Out at 8 Franklin St., Westfield.
Westfield Pride will partner with ArtWorks Westfield to host Art with Pride on the Green, an arts fair 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 3, at the Park Square Green in downtown Westfield.
Westfield on Weekends President Bob Plasse will host a discussion of the LGBTQIA+ experience in Westfield on his radio show, “WOW! … It’s Tuesday,” 6-8 a.m. on June 8, on WSKB 89.5 FM, also broadcast on cable access television in Westfield, Southwick and Agawam.
“As a gay man, whose early life was filled with fear and even shame, I am proud to now have a gay spouse, friends, colleagues and allies, who recognize the importance of allowing people to be who they are and who in even small ways work to make the world a safer place for those whose experience may be different than one’s own,” commented Plasse.
He said he is struck by the breadth of experience of the members of Westfield Pride, both straight and gay. He also appreciates their generosity of spirit and their willingness to educate and celebrate the authentic lives of the LGBTQIA+ community around the world.
“It is essential that folks, especially young people who identify as LGBTQIA+, have the freedom and safety to live authentic lives of love and positive action,” Plasse said. “For the good of community, we must create opportunities to celebrate everyone’s right to flourish in society, their similarities and differences. I hope that Pride events lead to more ongoing honest discussions about whoever we are, our differences and common humanity.”
WOW’s Creative Arts Center will host PrideSpeaks, a panel discussion 6-10 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, with representatives from Westfield High School, Westfield State University, the Amherst Chapter of PFLAG — an organization of parents, family members and friends of LGBTQIA+ people — and Fenway Health’s division of SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment) sharing their stories while offering education, resources and an opportunity to strengthen awareness and support in Westfield. The conversation will particularly address age-based needs of LGBTQIA+ people in high school, college, parents and aging elders.
This is a collaborative effort with Westfield on Weekends’ Community Talkabout series. Advance registration is required at 413-579-5967. The Creative Arts Center is at 105 Elm St., Westfield.
Rail trail opening
Westfield Pride will participate in the official opening of the new section of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 17. Attendees should gather in the Stop & Shop parking lot on Main Street; merchandise will be available following the opening at the other end of the new section, at the esplanade by the Westfield River.
The Westfield Senior Center will host a free LGBTQIA+ breakfast and social gathering, 9-11 a.m. Saturday, June 24. Advance reservations are required at 413-562-6435.
Westfield Pride plans a solemn vigil at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 28, to mark the 54th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of protests by members of the gay community in response to a police raid on June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan in New York City, considered a watershed moment in the gay rights movement. The location of the vigil will be announced later.
Honoring Judge Greaney
“Westfield Pride is offering a respectful, responsible, educational and enjoyable experience, which is missing in our current communal tapestry,” said James Homan, a volunteer and committee member with Westfield Pride. He continued, “As one of the many unrecognized yet incredible gemstones within the treasure chest of Westfield, [the Pride group] hopes to celebrate Westfield resident [and] retired State Justice John M. Greaney’s significant contribution to American history by simply being recognized as one of Westfield’s many although not necessarily diverse assets. He wrote the assenting decision in 2004 when same-sex marriage was made legal in Massachusetts, the first state in which this was recognized. We’re hoping to expand on this little-known piece of history and create a month of which he and all others can be proud.”
Bradford added, “I want people to walk away with an appreciation and understanding that we are a part of the tapestry of this community and that we offer similarities and differences that make our community a better place to live.”