The Chelsea LGBTQ Coalition made a rather significant decision to move its fifth-annual Pride flag-raising ceremony from City Hall to Chelsea Square this year.
Based on the large gathering at the event held last Friday, the utilization of an excellent sound system, and most importantly, the dynamic speeches (led by Chelsea Police Sgt. Star Chung), the Coalition can look back on the event as a very successful one at its new home.
Matt Frank Presents Welcoming Remarks
“My name is Matt Frank and I’m here with the Chelsea LGBTQ Committee and we are here to raise the flag today,” said Frank, a former Chelsea city councillor. “We have a couple of speakers and we’re going to have a couple of different viewpoints. This is going to be one of the first times that people are meeting after the whole pandemic situation, so I ask that everybody just has a little bit of respect for each other and if they need space, have space, and if you want to wear a mask, we have free masks and special rainbow masks that you can wear. We just want to have a good time.”
City Manager Brings Chelsea’s Official Greetings
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino said, “I guess the first thing I’d say is it’s so nice to be out in public celebrating with the community. It’s been a long 15 months for sure for all of us.”
Ambrosino said he felt privileged to be part of a community that is “so welcoming and embracing of all people – and that absolutely describes Chelsea and its welcoming of people regardless of race or religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.”
Ambrosino said at this point in the nation’s history with inequity so pervasive, “I really think it’s important for the community to come out at events like this and proudly and strongly and powerfully and publicly send a message that we stand against intolerance and bigotry of any form against any people, and certainly against a group like the LGBTQ community that has historically been the subject of such hurtful discrimination and marginalization.”
He concluded his remarks by introducing the elected officials in attendance including Sen. Sal DiDomenico, State Rep. Jessica Giannino, City Council President Roy Avellaneda, City Councillors Leo Robinson, Calvin Brown, Todd Taylor, Judith Garcia, and Naomi Zabot, and School Committee members Yessenia Alfaro and Roberto Jimenez Rivera.
John Valinch Speaks on the History of the Movement
John Valinch, co-founder of the Chelsea LGBTQ Coalition with Matt Frank, provided some historical perspective on the LGBT liberation movement.
“As someone who’s studied political science, I’ve always believed that it’s critical to know how we got here and what this tells us about where we go from here,” began Valinch. “Tonight we’ll discuss what’s commonly known as the genesis of the LGBT liberation movement – that’s Stonewall which happened in 1969.”
Valinch told the assemblage that Stonewall was a small bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village and a haven for the LGBT community at that time.
“So when the bar was raided [on June 28, 1969], when the cops did raid Stonewall, they ignited a fire that has continued to burn into the community to this very day,” said Valinch. “Three days of rioting followed that night. Some call it an uprising. Some would call it a revolution though I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Stonewall represents for us a beautiful moment in our shared history where queers said in unity: No more. No more to the closet. No more to violence against us. And no more to being second-class status.’’
Valinch said following the three days of rioting, “multiple, radical, queer organizations formed in LA, San Francisco, New York, and Boston – and we began to see an organized resistance in our community.”
“So the legacy of Stonewall is really about making it crystal clear that the LGBT community is not a punching bag, is not a scapegoat, is not a mistake, is not an aberration – we refuse to be anything short of what we are, and that, my friends is divine,” affirmed Valinch. “We deserve human rights. We deserve political rights. We deserve civil rights. And we deserve all that is ours.”
Valinch expressed the hope that people would leave the flag-raising ceremony “recommitted to each other.”
“Tonight I ask that you take that energy [from the LGBT liberation movement] and use it for change,” concluded Valinch. “We need you all to step up, fight back, and help us build a future where all are afforded dignity, affirmation, security, and love. We tell our history so that our joy may burn brighter and our hope for a new world may be continually lit. My friends, the future is in our hands.”
Star Chung Delivers the Keynote Address
Upon taking the podium, Chung asked the crowd to participate in a “wave” that one usually sees at sporting events.
“The power of connection, you all,” said Chung, noting that she is a performing poet but had never given a keynote speech.
Chung began her remarks by thanking her colleagues in the Chelsea Police Department “for authorizing and supporting my idea for the very first Pride patch as you can see affixed on my uniform.”
“And last, but not least, a thank you to the Chelsea LGBTQ Coalition for asking me to be their featured speaker at today’s flag-raising,” continued Chung. “I’m humbled for the opportunity of this platform.”
Chung said she is her 11th year with the Chelsea Police Department as the very first Asian police officer since the department was established in 1834.
“I was very recently promoted as sergeant in January as the first Asian sergeant,” said Chung.
Chung said she was born in Vietnam and emigrated to the United States, “specifically Pennsylvania” with her parents when she was two years old “under the Amortization Homecoming Act due to my grandfather being an American soldier in the Vietnam War.”
She came to Chelsea when she was eight years old with her mother and siblings “and we’ve been here ever since.” She attended Chelsea schools and graduated cum laude from Salem State University.
Chung noted that it was “only 17 years ago when same-sex marriage was passed on a cold November day in Massachusetts.”
“A shout-out to Massachusetts for being the first state to legalize same-sex marriage,” she said. “It’s support that love is love. And love will always be the answer when all you have are questions.
“Be kind to yourself. Be proud. Be loud. Do not silence yourself for anyone. And if you’re ever in a dark place or feeling lost, call someone. Do go through it alone,” said Chung.
On being the keynote speaker at such an important event Chung said it was “truly an honor and privilege to be here with you here today and embrace this moment of raising the Pride for the month of June together with the City of Chelsea.”
“I’m a firm proponent of community policing and in the words of the father of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel – back in the 1800s he stated, ‘The police are the public and the public are the police,’ and that principle still rings true for the Chelsea Police Department and I to this day. As police officers, we are part of the community that we serve. The community’s interests and well-being are always prioritized and comes first. I love this city and its residents. And through events like these, especially with the current climate of the nation, I hope to bridge any gaps so that we can cross through any issues together.
“When we put this uniform on, we become the guardians of safety and community,” said Chung. “So if you see me or any of my officers in public, please feel free to stop us for any reason, even if it’s just to chat. We come in all walks of life, the residents we serve day to day. Thank you for this platform and opportunity. Let’s have a great day. Happy Pride!”
Gratitude to City Officials and the Chelsea Police
On behalf of the Chelsea LGBTQ Coalition, Matt Frank offered his gratitude to City Manager Thomas Ambrosino, the Department of Public Works, and the Chelsea Police Department for their support and assistance to the Coalition.
While acknowledging the Chelsea police officers in attendance and the outstanding security for the flag-raising program, Frank said, “Anything we’ve needed, they’ve said, ‘we’re right there with you,’ so we appreciate everything you guys have done for us.”