The City presented its first Pride Fest celebration the evening of July 25 in Fountain Square, in conjunction with the regular Thursday Night Live concert series.

Several hundred attended the event, which also had participation from local vendors.

Rabbi Rachel Weiss of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation introduced Mayor Steve Hagerty, discussing how the idea of “pride” fits into the larger context of LGBT history.

“We remember the courage of those who shattered closet walls, who broke down doors, who dared to speak their truths – usually at the cost of their own safety,” said Rabbi Weiss.

“We honor those forced from the margins, and those who rightfully claim the power of those spaces [as well as] the anger and the desperation that has enabled the LGBTQ not just to survive, but to thrive. Pride is about celebration of the moment now and the remembrance of the history of fear, violence and violation that some of us survived, and some of us did not.”

In her remarks, Rabbi Weiss noted that some Evanston schools have already included curriculum materials on LGBT history, and that there are openly LGBT members of the clergy in six different houses of worship in the City.

“But ‘pride’ means that, while we celebrate our civil liberties that we’ve won thus far, our fight continues,” she added. “LGBTQ pride means standing up for equity in all forms, especially against systemic racism, poverty, xenophobia and anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant policies. … Pride means we must still be in the fight for liberation for all. We are not fully proud or fully free until everyone is.”

Prior to his reading of the Evanston Pride Proclamation, Mayor Hagerty said, “I love this City, and I know so many people out here today love this City.
Not because we are a perfect City – we are not. But we are an open-minded, inclusive, welcoming City … and what’s beautiful about Evanston is the diversity of Evanston.”

In his remarks, Mayor Hagerty pledged that next year Evanston Pride Fest would fall sometime in June, generally regarded as Pride month.

Rabbi Weiss was among those who noted that LGBT persons did not seem have a hand in planning the event, which had additionally seemed to be done in haste.

“We need a commitment from the city to do better, otherwise this becomes a token attempt to make Evanstonians feel good without serving the community who needs it,” said Rabbi Weiss.