CHICOPEE — On June 5, Chicopee invited the public to attend the annual Pride Flag raising to commemorate Pride Month.

Mayor John Vieau opened the ceremony with talking about the importance of raising the pride flag in Chicopee.

He said, “One thing about the city of Chicopee is we raise flags for many reasons but today’s a very special one. Raising the inclusion flag that everyone here is welcomed, no matter what your race, your sexual orientation, your color, your creed, Chicopee accepts everyone for who they are. Their individuality and what they stand for and especially today as we kick off Pride Month here in the city of Chicopee.”

Vieau presented Chicopee Pride members Ray Hoess-Brooks with a proclamation to raise the flag and declare the month of June as Pride Month.

Vieau added, “I stand here today as mayor of the city of Chicopee and on behalf of the City Council and the residents of this vibrant diverse city, we do hereby proclaim June 2024 as Pride Month in the city of Chicopee and we encourage all citizens to recognize the contributions made by the members of LGBTQ+ community and to actively promote the principles of equality and liberty.”

Chicopee Pride members Ray Hoess-Brooks and Emarie Leatherwood were at the event to share their excitement for the occasion.

Leatherwood said, “Today I am honored and humbled to be here before you. This experience is a blessing. For every LGBTQIA+ member of our community, the pride flag is internationally recognized as a symbol of the visibility, the hope, the love and the equality that we all deserve.”

Leatherwood also talked about researching the pride flag was important after helping organize the flag raising and Chicopee Pride event.

The original Pride flag was created and designed by United States Army Veteran Gilbert Baker who fought hard for his rights and the rights of every other member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Leatherwood added, “I am just very proud the flag has involved and continues to grow as symbol of hope for our community. The pride flag for me is a beacon. It is like a lighthouse to the ships at sea. Let this flag stand here in Chicopee that no closet is full.”

Hoess-Brooks thanked everyone who showed up and added “You don’t know how it feels to be a gay child born in 1970 to be standing here with our city government. That’s indescribable. As we stand on the backs of our ancestors hundreds of years fighting to get to this point, visibility today, there’s no time to rest on our morals, we need visibility today.”

This ceremony marks the beginning of a month filled with events and celebrations.

The fourth annual Pride Festival at Szot Park will take place on Saturday, June 15 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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