A colorful crowd gathered Saturday afternoon at the Hopkinton High School outdoor track and took a short walk as part of a much longer journey — one for LGBTQIA+ recognition and acceptance.
The inaugural LGBTQIA+ Pride Parade drew town leaders, representatives from local organizations and those who just wanted to show support for the movement. The groups walked around the track while about 150 people watched from the stands.
The event was organized by the Hopkinton Freedom Team, with help from the Hopkinton Youth Commission.
Lead organizer Freya Proudman, a 2018 HHS graduate who is attending college in London, said in a recorded message that her father (who served as master of ceremonies for Saturday’s event) started taking her to Pride Parade events in 2014, and it was “so important to my own personal journey.”
“To all our LGBTQ+ people here today, I want you to know that whatever stage in your journey you are on, we see you, we hear you, you are valid, and you are loved,” said Proudman, who identifies as queer. “Everyone here today is here because they want you to know you are not alone. And whenever you’re ready to share your whole beautiful, authentic self with us, the Town of Hopkinton is here with open arms, ready to welcome you.”
Among the speakers was first-year Rep. Jake Auchincloss. The Democrat from Newton discussed the origins of the multicolor pride flag, which debuted in 1978 in San Francisco, and talked about the need to continue to fight for equal rights.
“As we look back at how far we’ve come, let’s not be complacent, and let’s remember how far we have to go,” said Auchincloss, noting that Massachusetts “has always led the way on progress.”
HHS student Madison Loos, president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and a member of the Freedom Team, credited the individuals who took part in the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969, an event that is recognized as a transformational moment in the LGBT rights movement. She also expressed pride in how the community has made her feel comfortable.
“I feel so blessed to live in a place where I can walk this track and stand on this stage a proud LGBTQ+ teenager and speak my truth the way I know so many can’t,” she said.
State Sen. Karen Spilka took pride in being “a very early and vocal supporter of LGBTQIA rights” and in how the state has led the way on so many LGBTQIA+ issues.
“Over my career as a state legislator, our community and our state has made historic progress in giving people the freedom to be who they are,” she said. “It’s basically as simple as that — which sometimes, as we know, is not so simple. Our diverse characters are worth celebrating and embracing as we share so much in common.”
Added Spilka: “You have helped change the way and opened hearts and minds. You and the organizers and the attendees of the Pride events across the nation have been catalysts to move us forward. And more rights and freedoms, as we know, cannot come fast enough, especially for our trans brothers and sisters across Massachusetts and the United States.”
Spilka and state Rep. Carolyn Dykema thanked the many Hopkinton dignitaries in attendance, including Town Manager Norman Khumalo, Select Board members Irfan Nasrullah, Amy Ritterbusch, Muriel Kramer and Mary Jo LaFreniere, Police Chief Joseph Bennett, Fire Chief Steve Slaman, town clerk Connor Degan and Hopkinton Public Schools superintendent Carol Cavanaugh.
“There’s been a lot said about the power of this moment,” Dykema said. “And when I stand here today, looking at truly a grass-roots movement from this community to support equal rights, justice, tolerance and love for everyone, it’s incredibly powerful. And it reminds me of the proud tradition we have in Massachusetts. Because in Hopkinton we know it all starts here. But we also know and we also take great pride in our legacy as a commonwealth and the leadership that we have shown in so many issues, but in particular civil rights and support for the LGBTQIA community.”
Concluded Dykema: “Love is love, and love always wins.”