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Rada Yovovich, right, and her father Bob Yovovich attend the Evanston Pride LGBTQIA+ Community Picnic on July 30 in Ridgeville Park. She is a co-founder of Evanston Pride.. Credit: Matt Simonette

Members of Evanston’s LGBTQ+ community, plus their families, friends and other allies, gathered at Ridgeville Park on July 30 for Evanston Pride’s 2022 community picnic.

“We try to make as many events as youth- and family-oriented as possible,” said Evanston Pride’s co-founder Rada Yovovich.

Tiny Bubbles ukulele band performs at Evanston Pride LGBTQIA+ Community Picnic. Credit: Matt Simonette

The organization, started in 2019 and officially established as a not-for-profit in early 2021, forges connections among and programming for Evanston’s large LGBTQ+ community.

“We’ve done a bunch of polling in the community – we do a community survey every year – and it became very clear that two of the groups coming to us for resources were LGBT parents and parents of LGBT youth,” Yovovich said. “It became very clear that the family piece was, not that surprisingly, an important piece [of Evanston Pride’s programming].”

She added, “In a world that is legislating against LGBT youth, it’s important to make spaces that are safe.”

Alexis Hex, center, offers knitting instruction at at the picnic. Credit: Matt Simonette

The picnic, the organization’s second, featured entertainment, activities and more than 20 vendors from local businesses and advocacy organizations. 

Among the programs at Ridgeville Park, 908 Seward St., was a performance by Tiny Bubbles, a ukulele band that is an offshoot of Chicago-based Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles.

Tiny Bubbles offered up ukulele covers of Feelin’ Groovy, The Golden Girls theme, and Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, among others. Elsewhere, drag performer Alexis Hex, a prolific knitter, offered a workshop on knitting rainbow scarves.

Jamie Black, left, and Seth Freeman at the picnic. Credit: Matt Simonette

Yovovich said that scheduling Evanston Pride’s Pride month picnic in July was a decision born of both necessity – LGBTQ+ folks can end up being tremendously over-scheduled in June – and inspiration: “We really like to say that Pride doesn’t exist only in June. We try to do events … across the year. It’s a beautiful day to have a picnic.”

Performer Jamie Black, who is also manager for Evanston’s July Fourth celebration, said he attended the picnic because of the importance of “coming together as a community and having other parts of the community see that coming together. They will want to be a part of the [gathering] … and this will get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

From left, J. Silas Leslie, Iggy Ladden and Parker Haines of Chicago Therapy Collective. Credit: Matt Simonette

Representatives from local advocacy groups attended to promote awareness for their work. Iggy Ladden, founder and director of Chicago Therapy Collective, spoke about her late colleague, Elise Malary, an Evanston transgender rights activist who drowned in Lake Michigan last spring, and her organization’s overall mission as well. Malary had been on the Collective’s board.   

Clockwise from left: Greg Newton, Hugo Escobar, Auggie Rodriguez, Mikey Oboza and Jasmine Marshall of Bisexual Queer Alliance of Chicago. Credit: Matt Simonette

“Our collective is a multidisciplinary collective,” Ladden said. “It’s not just a collective of therapists – we actually are primarily educators, activists and artists who are mobilizing to impact mental health outside the office. We focus on the trans community and LGBT BIPOC folks, [asking] how we can make their experiences in schools, workplaces and communities more safe and effective.”

Mikey Oboza, the founder of Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago, said his organization attended to support Evanston’s bisexual community, many of whom are not able to be out to family and friends.

“Some of them came to our booth,” Oboza said. “Some of them were not out, but it was nice to have visibility for those of us who are able to come out. We have the responsibility to show visibility, so others can come out.”

Marybeth Napier (left) and Laura Tanner of Indivisible Evanston. Credit: Matt Simonette

Not all organizations’ missions were centered exclusively on LGBTQ+-rights issues. Marybeth Napier of Indivisible Evanston described her organization’s commitment to campaigning for progressive political candidates and causes. “One of the nice things is the fact that we’re in this blue bubble, thank God. But with all this technology now, we can reach out to voters all over. Right now [for example], we’re writing postcards to voters in Pennsylvania.”

‘All kinds are welcome’

Yovovich said that the diversity of the attendees reflected the diversity of LGBTQ+ residents of the city itself.

“It’s not that surprising, in the context of Evanston broadly, there are some ways that it is profoundly progressive and surprising in the breadth and diversity of different identities,” she reflected. “The fact that we have Black trans community members, for example, that live here and are able to be visible and willing to be out is remarkable for a suburb like Evanston. At the same time, we do run into some interesting, tight conservatism in some ways. You know, all kinds are welcome and we are willing to bring dialogue bridging across that spectrum.”

Yovovich additionally noted that Evanston Pride is looking for board members and encouraged all interested community members to go to evanstonpride.org for more information. 

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  1. Thank you Matt for my interview regarding BQAC. During my interview, I apologize for being dehydrated when asked about my title. Even though, I’m founder of my original vision turned Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago (BQAC.) Nevertheless, I asked Ed Negrón to be cofounder to my original vision. He said yes over 11 years ago. I apologize for not being aware enough politically correct saying cofounder.