With a tribute to the past, and a pledge to the future, Multnomah County Commissioners proclaimed June 2019 as Pride Month today.
In a spirited presentation that began with a video and ended with almost everyone in the boardroom dancing, the Board and invited guests vowed to continue supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
“The annual Pride proclamation is always an important moment for us to pause, honor, and celebrate the tireless advocacy of the LGBTQ+ community. But this year it is even more meaningful,’’ said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, who brought forward the proclamation along with Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.
Fifty years ago this month, members of the LGBTQ community, led by trans women of color, stood up for themselves at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village after years of oppression by the New York Police Department.
After two days of fierce fighting, this uprising began to form in its wake a network of advocacy groups that would eventually join up with others in the fight for equal rights and become the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
“The difference and impact those actions of 50 years ago has made is astounding and inspiring - and gives us strength for the work that there is still left to do,’’ Vega Pederson said.
Thursday’s event also recognized that 2019 marks the 25th year since the founding of Pride Northwest, Inc., which has produced the Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade since 1994.
The presentation featured a new Multnomah County video on the history of the movement in Portland "Portland Pride: Past, Present and Future."
The event was emceed by Brenda Garcia with Multnomah County Environmental Health and included a performance by Joaquin Lopez and presentation of the Kathleen Saadat Award, which was presented by its namesake, Kathleen Saadat.
Saadat was one of the founding organizers of the first gay rights march in Portland in 1974 and has been a leading civil rights advocate in Portland. The County’s PRISM employee resource group worked with Chair Deborah Kafoury to establish the award in 2018.
Saadat listed the people who contributed so much to advance the human rights of LGBTQ+ community, but few people may know about. “Their actions and courage helped us move to this day.’’
They include: Keeston Lowry, Jerry Weller, Jack Danger, Cathy Semiens, Donna Redwing, Sierra Briano, Thalia Zepatos, Kristian Knapp, Marcy Westerling, Marical Cutler, Jamie Patridge, Rupert Kinnard, Elisabeth Waters, Amani Jabarri, Nedra Bagley, Darryl Tukufu, Cliff Jones, Scott Nakagawa, and Gladys and Bill McCoy.
She then announced the 2019 award winner: Lelia Halie, co-director of Ori Art Gallery, a black trans-owned art gallery who Saadat said “has redefined art by amplifying trans and queer artists of color. Halie, who uses the pronouns they/them, has worked in Portland more than a decade as the co-director of the Sankofa Collective (formerly Portland PFLAG Black Chapter) and has been involved in organizing the Queen Youth Summit, equity training and Black Lives Matter PDX.
Halie was unable to attend, but Saadat shared a quote from one of Halie’s many fans: “The love and passion they put into their community is astounding. They are my hero.’’
Commissioner Jayapal said the Board’s proclamation affirms the County’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights.
Chair Kafoury quoted Saadat in her remarks:
“In the video we just watched, Kathleen said something that rings especially true about our Pride gatherings. ‘There needs to be a political edge to it.’”
“I couldn’t agree more,’’ Chair Kafoury said. “Because this community still doesn’t have the rights, the safety and the belonging that you need — and that you deserve.”