Raising the Rainbow Flag in solidarity with Philly’s LGBTQ+ community
On the second day of Pride Month, the black, brown, and rainbow flag was raised at City Hall.
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Philadelphia held its annual Pride Flag raising outside City Hall on June 2, hosted by the Office of LGBT Affairs and its Executive Director, Celena Morrison.
“Every June we take time to celebrate our LGBTQ community and our right to live out loud, to love who we love, to live authentically, and to be our truest selves,” Morrison started in her remarks.
“Yes, Pride is about celebrating but let's not forget, Pride was a riot. A riot that started at Stonewall over 50 years ago. It lasted for days and echoed through generations. Pride should always be known as a protest, born of a community fed up with the intolerance of a society and police brutality. We must honor that legacy, especially this month and this year,” she continued.
C.C. Tellez, Associate Director of LGBTQ+ Programing at Students Run Philly Style, spoke out against the policies that bar transgender people from participating in sports.
Students Run Philly Style is a running program that pairs students with mentors and gives them the goal of running a marathon or a half marathon.
“I have been an athlete all my life. As a young immigrant who struggled to fit into a new culture, sports became a lifeline to me,” Tellez said.
She added that there are studies that show that participating in sports result in lowered depression, better mental health outcomes, and an increase in life satisfaction.
“Sports empowered me to do more and to be more with confidence. Sports is an influential force in our society and it holds immense power,” she continued, adding that this is why policies excluding transgender athletes trouble her.
She also spoke about how inclusion efforts by the Philadelphia Distance Run, namely nonbinary registration, have influenced other major marathons to do the same. The run also offered equal prize money, which the others have yet to copy.
Tyrell Brown, Executive Director of GALAEI, spoke after Tellez. They went off-script from their notes, saying that they were inspired to speak for year-round unity and against the attacks aimed at the community.
They spoke about the reason they got involved in community activism. While working as a preschool teacher, one of their students came out and told them that he [the student] was not a girl.
“It shook me to my core because I knew that I, myself, was also nonbinary. And that child’s liberty to speak up to me, a grown up, in a classroom of 24 people. To say that they deserve to be seen and affirmed by me, that shook me to my core. And it inspired me to get involved. It inspired me to want to stand up, not just for other people but for myself,” Brown said.
“We are organizers in this city that are organizing for our own safety, for our own level of security in a city that often pushes us to the margins, in a country that pushes us to the margins. We don’t have a choice to rest, no pajamas,” they continued.
After the speeches, Vinchelle, a local drag queen, performed a lip sync to Beyonce’s “Break My Soul.” Morrison then raised the ‘More Colors, More Pride’ flag to “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross.
The emphasis on protest in the speeches was undercut somewhat by the response to a small protest by other members of the LGBTQ+ community. Kendall Stephens and Valentina Rosario spoke out against Morrison’s leadership and the office itself.
Stephens is an activist and member of the board of directors for the William Way LGBT Center. Rosario is also an activist, as well as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant.
After the official program had ended, Stephens unplugged the speaker playing music and began talking. Partway through her speech someone else plugged it back in and continued to play music to drown Stephens out.
Although part of Stephens’ protest was of a personal nature towards Morrison, both she and Rosario talked about a need for the leadership of the Office of LGBT Affairs to be picked by the community and for it to focus on collaborating with other offices to get policies enacted that will address issues faced by the community.
Some of the issues they brought up include lack of housing and substance use.
The list of demands that they posted on a nearby statue empathized their desire to see the office do more in terms of policy as many of things would probably need to be done at the state level.
“We know that things that happen on the state level trickle down to us. There are some things that we can do that still aren’t being done,” said Stephens.
“We have some bills that were passed by other executive directors of the LGBT affairs office, such as Amber Hikes, who helped with the hate crime ordinance that helped me in my case, when I was a victim and survivor of a hate crime. We have someone who incorporated the Black and Brown stripes into the Pride flag, which helped diversify the experiences of everyone who is LGBTQ+ identified. In this office you’re not seeing that same fervor to commit themselves to civic action in the same way. That is a problem,” she added.
Morrison did not engage the protestors and has not responded to AL DÍA’s request for comment.