A number of Evanstonians, who recently banded together to create a new community LGBTQ pride organization, unveiled plans for a Pride Month celebration at the end of June.
The function of Evanston Pride, Inc., according to its organizational website, “is to organize and support the full spectrum of local LGBTQIA+ community members through specialized programming and training efforts. The organization will help amplify LGBTQIA+ voices, and educate the broader Evanston community on LGBTQIA+ issues and needs.”
“We’re going to have programming that is safe, inclusive and inspiring,” said Rada Yovovich, one of the organization’s founders.
Among those events, which take place June 26, will be a car parade, picnic and candle-lighting ceremony. Evanstonians will be encouraged to decorate their homes for the passing car parade, effectively turning their homes or shops into “parade floats,” according to organizers.
The celebration is themed around “Proud to Be,’’ a theme that “celebrates the deep intersectionality of the LGBTQIA+ community with other marginalized communities, all of whom struggle for justice together,” said organization officials.
Indeed, the founders of Evanston Pride are very conscious of a trap LGBTQ organizations can easily fall into: not recognizing the overall diversity of their own community. That diversity crosses barriers of gender identity, ability, ethnic origin, financial status and various other categories.
Ms. Yovavich said she and other organizers were “bolstered” by the turnout at an introductory online meeting with community members in March.
She explained, “It was really gratifying that folks who did show up were a mix of different identities. We had a mix of different races, genders and ages. I was really pleased that it wasn’t just of cis white men saying ‘Yay, you’re doing a pride thing.’ It was exactly the kind of diversity of folks that we want to support speak up – and they were affirming.”
She added, “This is a thing that this community is really hungry for.”
For the moment, key goals for Evanston Pride include reaching out to the community to see who wants to participate and see what kind of programming and events they’re eager for.
In what Ms. Yovovich described as a “data-heavy process,” Evanston Pride distributed surveys to the community, the results of which they’ve been aggregating the last few months. Those surveys will remain available on the group’s website.
“We would still love for people to reach out to us if they want to join up with us in any way,” said Ms. Yovovich. “ … The name of the game for us is picking high-value efforts that we can handle with the size of our team.”
Evanston Pride will be reaching out to various City organizations for potential partnerships; Ms. Yovovich cited Evanston Public Library as one such organization whose engagement with the community would complement her own organization’s.
She added, “We have a whole list or organizations, including different religious organizations … because those are also communities that are really good at providing resources and gathering places for their communities, and they have LGBTQI folks in their communities.”
Evanston Pride is also seeking connections with Black- and BIPOC-centered organizations, Ms. Yovovich noted.
In the meantime, Evanston Pride is preparing for the Pride celebration. Community members can order Pride signs communicating how household members identify (“lesbian,” “gay,” “gender non-binary,” etc.). Signs are set aside for individuals wishing to purchase signs but are without the financial means to do so.
“I really encourage people to get involved and get pumped,” said Ms. Yovovich, who added that, though Chicago has a wealth of resources that LGBTQ Evanstonians partake of, having local resources available makes all the difference
“Residents of Evanston don’t live in Chicago, so it makes a lot of sense to create community and gather with folks who live specifically in Evanston,” said Ms. Yovovich. “ … We also do a lot of our living here, and so it’s important that those spaces feel safe and inclusive. It changes what it feels like Evanston when you show that Evanston is showing up for [the LGBTQ] community.”
Information on Evanston Pride and the June 26 Pride celebration is available at evanstonpride.org.