Pride Committee member Jose Maldonado-Velez and Ward 6 Councilor Juan Anderson-Burgos raise the Pride flag.
Reminder Publishing photos by Trent Levakis

HOLYOKE — Kicking off the weeks ahead of Pride Month celebrations was a flag raising at City Hall on June 3 where city officials and community members gathered to recognize the LGBTQ+ community.

In attendance was Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia, members of the Holyoke City Council and state Rep. Patricia Duffy (D-Holyoke).

Ward 6 City Councilor Juan Anderson-Burgos spoke to the crowd about the importance of the month and what it means to lead with love as opposed to hate.

“These are the things that should not matter. We should be able to afford these things without pushback. Without people hating us because of who we are. Who we want to be, how we want to live and who we want to love,” Anderson-Burgos said. “Take a good look around. There are so many beautiful colors out there, so many beautiful people with so many beautiful stories … this community, this is love.”

Garcia said despite decades of progress for LGBTQ+ rights in the country, sexual and gender minorities still see themselves increasingly under threat.

“We have to remain vigilant. We’re not out of the woods yet. The age of enlightenment that I thought had arrived is being roughed up by petty legislators and reactionary people,” Garcia said. “It is with pride as well as resolve that we again raise this flag and stand in solidarity with all of our neighbors: gay, straight, lesbian, bi, trans and queer. We’re all proud Holyokers and we’re certainly very proud Americans.”

Former Holyoke City Councilor and current member of the Holyoke Pride Committee Jose Maldonado Velez reflected on what is has taken throughout history in order to secure the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I want you to really acknowledge and be cognizant that moments like this are not possible everywhere around the world, but we send a message,” Maldonado Velez said. “We send a message that we’re here, we send a message that we see each other and that we are able to support each other all the way to the very end and build our community stronger than ever.”

Holyoke PrideFest will be on Saturday, June 22. For more information on that and other events schedule during pride month, visit www.holyokepride.org.