A lively family-friendly celebration in honor of Pride Month was held in Healdsburg on June 1.

The inaugural event marked a momentous moment for the area’s LGBTQIA+ community and for the city’s long journey toward healing from deep wounds of inequality, working to bolster the city's sense of inclusivity. 

The Plaza event was preceded by a flag raising ceremony at city hall where the progress pride flag was raised for the first time by Healdsburg Vice Mayor Ozzy Jimenez.

A resolution recently approved by the Healdsburg City Council stipulates that all city government buildings will fly the progress pride flag for the month of June in a show of pride and allyship with the community.

The progress pride flag was designed in 2018 by Daniel Quasar and features a five-color chevron design with the traditional rainbow pride flag colors.

The five colors honor the transgender community and LGBTQIA+ people of color.

A crowd of families and residents, many of whom carried pride flags and donned heart-shaped pride pins and rainbow masks, gathered around the flagpole at city hall at 6 p.m. to witness the historical moment.

Healdsburg council members were also in attendance and Healdsburg Mayor Evelyn Mitchell kicked off the event with a few words.

“I think this day provides us the foundation for talking about inclusion and the progress pride flag is intended to be more inclusive, so as we go along on our pathway here the council will continue to do that and work on that and so we’re really proud to be here today to do this flag raising,” Mitchell said.

Jimenez, who was the one to introduce the flag policy idea to the council, said he is proud to be working with a diverse council that was able to unanimously approve the flag resolution.

“I am so proud to stand along my fellow council members that voted for this flag policy all unanimously and like Mayor Mitchell said, we all work collectively for the better good of Healdsburg and we’re probably the most diverse city council in Sonoma County’s history and that is why we chose to raise the progress pride flag today,” Jimenez said.

The flag raising ceremony was a deeply personal and special occasion for Jimenez, who said he never saw any positive affirmations for being LGBTQIA+ while growing up in Sonoma County.

Jimenez dedicated the occasion to his late LGBTQIA+ sister, nonprofit Positive Images, the people of Healdsburg and his partner Christian Sullberg. 

“I never once imagined that I would get the opportunity to serve you all in this capacity and as a young brown, Latino undocumented boy I never thought I’d be standing here today,” Jimenez said. “So, courage. It took courage 52 years ago when a Black trans woman of color, Marsha P. Johnson, first threw a brick at the Stonewall Inn in New York. Trans women of color have consistently been at the forefront in our fight for equality. Our LGBTQIA+ community has been through so much adversity, from fear of rejection from our families, underrepresentation, discrimination and in some cases event death.”    

Jimenez said representation matters. He said there’s beauty in seeing Healdsburg join other states and cities across the nation in celebration of pride.

“To the youth in the community of Healdsburg, I hope this moment inspires and gives you courage to be your authentic self. We see you, we support you and the city of Healdsburg is committed to you,” Jimenez said.

Once the progress pride flag was raised, Jimenez and people from Positive Images — an LGBTQIA+ nonprofit that’s been serving Sonoma County for 30 years — led a march to the Plaza from city hall down Healdsburg Avenue.

City council members joined in and families walked with their kids and pets while some rode bikes.

The Plaza event was organized by Positive Images and LGBTQ Connection and both organizations set up booths to provide information and free pride flags.

Jimenez and Sullberg also provided free ice cream vouchers for their business Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar and cupcakes with rainbow icing that were quickly gobbled up by kids and families.

The celebration featured two musical acts and three speakers, Healdsburg Councilmember Skylaer Palacios, and LGBTQIA+ youth activists Ben Barajas and Noe Naranjo.

Chelsea Rose Kurnick, chair of the Positive Images board, introduced the speakers with a few words regarding the significance of the Healdsburg pride event.

“It is a seriously historic moment in Healdsburg. We saw Vice Mayor Ozzy Jimenez raise the progress pride flag for the first time in Healdsburg history,” Kurnick said. “I hope that today feels like a celebration and I also hope that everyone here understands and also takes time to reflect on the fact that this is still a fight. There are ani-transgender bills right now all over the nation, there are injustices that happen in Healdsburg and throughout the county every day, so I hope that we can celebrate and feel radiant in our queer and trans identities in support of the people that we love who hold those identities and that we’re here recognizing that pride is a protest and there is still a fight to be won.”

Palacios, who was asked to speak about being an ally, started her remarks with a moment of silence for all the LGBTQIA+ people who have experienced oppression.

Palacios said to her, being an ally means fully supporting your fellow human in whatever options they choose in how they identify, making people feel comfortable and knowing the history of different people who have struggled throughout time and if you don’t know the history, being committed to learning how people have been oppressed.

“As an ally and a woman of color that means so many different things to me. I have witnessed allyship, I have witnessed the lack of allyship and have a certain understanding of how it affects our society,” Palacios said. “When I was at Healdsburg High School, I had an opportunity to be a part of the gay straight alliance. It was the first time we had ever created a gay straight alliance at Healdsburg High School, and I had a friend who was questioning and he wasn’t out, but a lot of our friends knew that he was going through something and we all joined and just wanted to support him and know that he is supported by us in however he chooses to express himself.”

Palacios continued and recalled a moment when she was putting up flyers at the school with the alliance only to discover the next day that someone had taken down the flyers and written a homophobic slur on the back of the paper.

“In that moment I felt discomfort, I was angry and I was just shocked at how someone could be so unwilling to accept other people. I knew that whatever I felt in that moment was nothing compared to what my friend would feel and knowing that someone and others out there are offended by just their presence in the world,” Palacios said.

“The strength that it takes someone to be fully an individual is just so empowering and I had the opportunity to also witness that during my work as a foster care counselor. In foster care there is a higher percentage of LGBTQIA+ and trans youth and a higher percentage of youth of color and during my time I got to witness their struggle of course, but also their resilience and trying to be themselves, fighting for independence for their freedom and to be themselves fully and identify how they choose,” she continued.

“I want to encourage everyone to do your best to be an ally for those that you love and support and establish the progress of our society by being an ally and by supporting justice for all of those around us in our community and outside of our community,” Palacios concluded.

The next speaker, Ben Barajas, briefly spoke about the importance of Tuesday’s pride event and his experience of feeling alienated in the Healdsburg community.

“This is one of the first times honestly that I’ve felt like there was a gathering of people like me … I hope that this will continue to remind our community members — especially those who do not fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella — that we are here. We’ve always been here; we will always be here. Queer people exist everywhere, and we have the right to live just as much as anyone else. We have the right to dress the way that we want, to use the pronouns that we want, to love who we want and to live where we want without harassment and we have the right to do so loudly,” Barajas said. 

The final speaker, Noe Naranjo, touched on their experience growing up in Healdsburg.

He thanked the people who set the groundwork for gay liberation and rights, and the trans men and women and gender-expansive people and icons who flourished with their identities: Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Lou Sullivan, Venus Xtravaganza, Octavia St. Laurent, Reed Erickson, Beverly Glenn Copeland, Kyle Allums, Erica Andrews, Victoria Arellano, Wendy Carlos, Joanne Conte, LynnConway, Candy Darling and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

“I am so grateful for their passionate leadership and vulnerability when it came to dismantling the homophobic norms in society … I am honored to participate in such a moment led by them. This moment is wonderful,” Naranjo said. “Accessing my memories of growing up in Healdsburg feels like being choked. Sometimes I feel afraid to reach back and acknowledge the loneliness and ostracization I felt growing up here. I did not have any role models to hold in the dark. I did not have any advice or support to confront my gay feelings until I was 16, and even yet I never had a thought of living past that age. There was absolutely nothing within my environment besides a stigma and fear of the gay lifestyle. I once had a former classmate who bullied me and instilled fear in me and yet nothing was done.”

Naranjo ended on a hopeful note and said that all marginalized communities that experience an intersectionality of discrimination have the power to love and inspire one another and to bind as a force against bigotry and discrimination.

“Together we can all yield wonderful sprouts of care, nutrition, joyful militancy, love and health for generations to come,” Naranjo said.

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