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Equality Illinois hosts statewide Pride Month virtual event
by Carrie Maxwell

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Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Equality Illinois held a "Can't Stop Our Pride: One Day, One Illinois" afternoon-long virtual Pride month event June 20.

Equality Illinois Institute Board Chair Butch Trusty and Miss Trans Illinois USA 2020 Christina King kicked off the pre-recorded event. Trusty also gave a state of the state address.

An interfaith service followed with a drum performance by Mona Ritemon; messages of hope and love from Greater Peoria Affirming Faith Community leaders; a performance by singer/songwriter Jace William; a Nichiren Buddhism reflection and chant from Kelly Suzanne Saulsberry; Affirming Worship members singing "I Need You to Survive"; and a prayer by Meadville Lombard Theological School President Dr. Elias Ortega.

Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson led a conversation with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

Johnson asked Baldwin and Buttigieg about their first Pride celebration, adding he spent his in Los Angeles in 2004. Baldwin spoke about the Pride rally she went to with others in 1989 in Madison, Wisconsin, while Buttigieg said it was on the day he married husband Chasten in 2018 in South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg also spoke about the need to protect Black trans women and the importance of solidarity and Baldwin concurred. She added that Black and Brown trans predecessors led the way beginning with the Stonewall Riots and how some fundamental things have not changed for LGBTQ people in many parts of the country.

"Moving from invisibility to visibility and silence to voice is vital," said Baldwin.

Johnson remarked that Pride started with a police protest and tied that to what is happening today with the #BlackLivesMatter protests across the world.

Baldwin and Buttigieg also chronicled their political careers and how they navigated being out politicians campaigning in conservative enclaves over the years.

Johnson also spoke with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot about her first Pride experience in the early 1990s in New York City with her then-girlfriend, with her stating how overwhelming it was for them. ( Lightfoot added that she celebrated Pride in Paris, among other cities. ) She said the LGBTQ community has a lot to be thankful for but there is still bigotry, even within the City Council. Lightfoot said it is very important for the LGBTQ community to stick together and stand up for each other, adding that her LGBTQ heroes are the late Barbara Jordan and late Michael Bauer.

Lightfoot also touched on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and #BlackLivesMatter protests and how these two events have shaped her as a mayor.

Community conversations and performances by LGBTQ and allied leaders in Bloomington-Normal, Carbondale, Champaign-Urbana, Chicago, Peoria, the Quad Cities and Springfield took place throughout the event.

Participants included former Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon performing a song while playing her banjo in Carbondale; a music video featuring Southern Illinois Pride King 2019 Faim Lee Jewls; musician Emilele performing multiple songs while playing the ukulele in Peoria; and Equality Illinois Public Policy Director Mike Ziri and Equality Illinois Development Director Emily Boyce moderating conversations with leaders in various cities.

Sprinkled throughout the event were recorded messages from former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

There were also appearances by U.S. Reps. Robin Kelly ( 2nd District ), Jesus "Chuy" Garcia ( 4th District ), Mike Quigley ( 5th District ), Sean Casten ( 6th District ), Raja Krishnamoorthi ( 8th District ), Jan Schakowsky ( 9th District ), Brad Schneider ( 10th District ), Bill Foster ( 11th District ), Lauren Underwood ( 14th District ) and Cheri Bustos ( 17th District ), Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Commissioner Kevin B. Morrison ( 15th District ), Illinois House Majority Leader and state Rep. Greg Harris ( 13th District ), state Reps. Lamont J. Robinson ( 5th District ), Yoni Pizer ( 12th District ), Kelly Cassidy ( 14th District ) and Sam Yingling ( 62nd District ) as well as AIDS Foundation Chicago President and CEO John Peller.

Family story hour featured Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Center Board Chair Tara Bell reading Dr. Seuss' Fox in Socks in a clown costume, Southern Illinois Pride Queen Blanche DuBois reading Three Little Pigs and Illinois First Lady MK Pritzker reading Peter H. Reynolds' Be You!

Chicago's The Dearborn Tavern bartender Ryan Thomas provided a mixology lesson from his home while WCPT Out Chicago co-host and Cooking Stuff host Scott Duff showed off his cooking skills with a Bon Appetit meatloaf recipe while also encouraging people to vote and complete their census forms.

Slo 'Mo DJ sets, produced by co-founder Kristen Kaza, closed the event.

Event proceeds totaling more than $26,000 from ticket sales, sponsorships and donations will go toward Equality Illinois' continued work on behalf of LGBTQ people's full equality across the state.

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