Montclair is gearing up for its first-ever Pride Festival and the Township of Montclair and local officials were on hand Friday for the raising of the Pride Progress Flag in the center of town at Church Street by Bloomfield Avenue. Other towns in New Jersey, such as Maplewood and Asbury Park, have had Pride Month celebrations for years. Now Montclair joins the party but also sends an important message about inclusivity.
Montclair Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis, Montclair’s first openly gay council member and the founder of Out Montclair, gave these opening remarks:
“Remember the purpose in Pride. Now as like so much of human history, the LGBTQIA+ community is in a fight to exist, be taught about, to be allowed to love and commit, and just to simply be. We dance and celebrate joyfully as we should after winning the battles we’ve had to fight just to simply exist today. And with the war far from over and with increasing intensity, it’s never been more important to affirm each other, especially our youth. We are every age and race and color and creed and nationality and religion and level of ability. And we love you, our allies. And we stand with every other marginalized person in this world in solidarity. The rainbow is our symbol because all of us existing together in love is pure beauty. We are, all together, what creates light.”
Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller, sporting rainbow glasses, read the Town’s proclamation of June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Montclair and spoke about the opportunity not only to celebrate diversity but to stay committed to the fight.
“Until every individual feels welcome in every community, not just ours, our job is not yet done,” said Spiller.
“We at Montclair Public Schools stand in solidarity,” said Montclair Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds. “Our hiring practices will be inclusive. We stand together and no matter who you are, we are here for you. No one has the right to be discriminated against or treated differently.”
Reginald Bledsoe, the first executive director of Essex County’s newly created Office of LGBTQ Affairs, spoke about the work that still needs to happen.
“Pride is a very unique time of year. As we celebrate and come together about our diversity, we must keep in mind that there are still struggles we are experiencing in this country. There are places in this state where hate is brewing. We must continue to post flag raising and events and keep letting everyone know that our diversity is our strength,” said Bledsoe.
Yacobellis was thanked by his fellow council members for making it all happen.
“Peter took the town to a completely different level when he instituted a lot of these events and got our accreditation and our ratings up,” said First Ward Councilor Bill Hurlock, referring to Montclair’s perfect score on the Municipal Equality Index.
The community-wide Pride Month Festival has grown into 25+ events culminating with a huge Pride Festival on Saturday, June 11. Many local businesses are all involved in making Pride Month events a success, including Paper Plane Coffee and Java Love who created a special blend with proceeds going to support local LGBTQ+ groups.