NEW BRITAIN – A large crowd of residents and community leaders gathered at Central Park Monday morning to watch a Pride flag being officially raised by the city for the first time.
New Britain Pride Chairman and event organizer, John Board, along with LGBTQ supporters including Mayor Erin Stewart, state Rep. William Petit Jr., and Alderman Robert Smedley addressed the crowd.
“I had a vision to make New Britain and the surrounding communities a better and more acceptable place to work, live, and grow,” Board said.
Board described the symbolism behind the flag’s six colorful stripes: red is for life, orange is for healing, yellow is for sunlight, green is for nature, blue is for harmony and purple is for spirit, Board said.
On being called to speak, Stewart shared some discouraging news.
“There are still a lot of people in this community that don’t support what we are doing here today,” said Stewart, describing voicemails and emails she received this morning requesting she cancel the ceremony.
Stewart shared her response to one of the negative emails.
“I said the city of New Britain prides itself on supporting all people, every person,” she said. I don’t care what you are, who you like, what affiliation you are associated with; that doesn’t matter. That’s not who we are. Love wins. That’s the motto that this community has adopted…we want that same mindset drilled into the minds of our entire community,”
“It’s really sad that we still live in a day and age in 2019 where people still have that mindset,” Stewart added. “You’re happy, I’m happy. You do what you want. If you want to be gay, be gay. That’s what this month is all about.”
“What a great day to be gay,” announced Republican Alderman Robert Smedley.
June is recognized as pride month to commemorate the Stonewall riots that occurred in June of 1969, Smedley said.
“I am very fortunate to have been born during the transition period of acceptance in our world and I thank and respect those who were part of any struggle that has afforded me the right and comfort to be who I am in my own skin,” said Smedley.
State Rep. William Petit Jr. focused his remarks on inclusiveness.
“We need to become a more inclusive society, whether it’s white or black, whether it’s gay or straight, whether it’s the police or the public,” he said.
Congresswoman Jahana Hayes issued a proclamation in support of the flag raising event that was read aloud by Stewart.
Following the speeches, the Pride flag rose to the top of the flag pole and within seconds, the sound of applause and cheering echoed through the streets.
The flag will stay up until June 17, the end of Pride week in the city.
Michelle France can be reached at 860-801-5087 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.