Around 100 people gathered on Tracy Plaza for the Pride Flag Raising as part of the first ever Pride Festival in Downtown Jamestown Saturday. The LGBTQIA+ community has historically celebrated Pride in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that took place in June 1969. Mayor Eddie Sundquist presented a proclamation declaring the month of June as “Pride Month” in Jamestown.
Jamestown Pride Coordinator Sheridan Smith said one of the questions he’s received most over the last few weeks is “Why do we need Pride?” He said while the Queer community has made amazing strides, there is still work to do, especially with other oppressed identities in the fight for equality and equity, “The other thing is when we’re fighting, we need to celebrate. We need something to bring joy. We need something to bring happiness. We need to have that celebration in our action, in our activism. We need the community around us. We need a place where we can be who we are unapologetically in a celebratory way. And the other reason is just because it’s fun.”
Local LGBTQ activist and transgender woman Helen Walther said Pride is the defense against the shame people try to lay on the community. She said people should stand up and feel belonging in seeing the Pride flag next to the American flag, “So I always advocate that for every Pride celebration there needs to be as many American flags as there are rainbow flags. Because we need to claim our citizenship as well as our pride in who we are. So, be proud, have fun, be safe.”
Mayor Sundquist took a moment of silence to honor the memory of the 49 people killed and 53 wounded in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida five years ago. The shooting was the single deadliest mass shooting event against the LGBTQ community in United States history.
Sundquist said the Jamestown Pride festival was one of the only major in-person Pride events in Western New York. He said while Pride is being able to celebrate one’s self openly and authentically, there is so much more to do to be a truly equal society, “Across this country, we see a wave of anti-trans legislation targeting our brothers, our sisters, our fathers, our mothers, our children. We must speak out against these falsehoods pushed in legislation that is rooted in hatred, fear, and misunderstanding. My friends, hatred is a virus.”
The Pride Festival featured a free evening performance by Drag Queen star and Jamestown Native Pandora Boxx that was attended by almost 1,000 people as well as resource and information tables at the Jamestown Public Market and Wintergarden Plaza during the day.