I attended the Pride flag raising last week on the lawn of the Westfield Municipal Building. While this is a largely symbolic event, it hit home for me just how important it is to so many in our community, especially the youth.
Speaker Matt Bernstein said he could not have imagined a rainbow flag raising when he was in high school. Matt, now 23, said high school did not feel like a place where he belonged. “It was so scary, and I hope that it is less scary now,” he said.
Judging by the dozens of youth who celebrated the Pride flag and proudly marched down East Broad Street with their families to the rainbow crosswalk at Quimby and Elm Streets, I too, hope it’s becoming less scary to be who you really are in Westfield.
As the newly appointed councilwoman in Ward 1, I was so proud to stand with Mayor Shelley Brindle and Councilmembers Mark LoGrippo, David Contract, Dawn Mackey and Scott Katz as leaders representing an inclusive and welcoming community.
Like me, I’m sure everyone reading this has friends or family who are LGBTQ. They’ve probably told you how they lived in fear of being outed and how liberating it was to finally be able to express their true identity. Some even faced verbal and physical harassment and, in extreme cases, violence. Thankfully, attitudes have changed since Mr. Bernstein was in high school, and even more so since I was in high school many years ago.
By recognizing and celebrating Pride in Westfield, we are letting our children know they don’t have to be afraid in their own community and can be who they are without fear, anxiety or worry. As Mr. Bernstein told the crowd, “you deserve to see yourself in your community.” I couldn’t agree more.
Councilwoman Emily Root
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