LITCHFIELD COUNTY — June is Gay Pride Month, chosen to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. Numerous pride events are held to recognize the impact LGBTQ and the rainbow flag will be flying proudly.
Little did activist and designer Gilbert Baker know when he was asked to design a flag for a gay pride event in 1978 that it would become the worldwide symbol used to define the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) community. In recent years much has been accomplished to guarantee equal rights to the gay people, particularly here in Connecticut. In 2005, The Connecticut House and Senate passed a bill to create a system of civil unions, similar to the Vermont and California legislation. It was the second state, after Massachusetts, to legalize gay marriages on 2008.
Other states have followed suit since then and most recently The House passed a LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that would modify existing civil rights legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit.
All of this is encouraging and indicates some progress, but it is still an uphill battle for the LGBTQ community. Here in Litchfield County there are still many who are discriminated against in the workplace, in their own homes, and in schools.
With that in mind, the Connecticut Community Foundation has created The Pride Fund CCF to celebrate and improve the lives of LGBTQ people in the 21 towns served by the Connecticut Community Foundation. The establishment of this fund is due in part to the work and passion of Kevin Jennings, who is president of the Tenement Museum in New York City and has a home in Southbury. He has long been active in LGBTQ causes as the founder of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) and the creator of the nation’s first high school Gay-Straight Alliance thirty years ago in Concord, Massachusetts. Jennings also served as an Assistant Secretary in the Obama Department of Education. He began working with the CCF to set up a fund specifically to celebrate and improve the lives of LGBTQ people in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills.
“It’s easy to imagine that everything is ‘all better’ in 2019,” says Jennings, “ but the fact remains that LGBTQ youth are still four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-LGBTQ youth in Connecticut. The Pride Fund is designed to provide resources to support these young people and make sure they grow into happy, healthy adults.”
To celebrate the inauguration of the fund the first Pride in the Hills Festival will be held on Saturday, June 15, at Spring Hill Vineyards in Washington Depot, owned by Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, who are also sponsors of the event.
The evening is co-chaired by Jennings and Chris Hermann, owner of Mannic Media, a production company specializing in fashion, beauty, lifestyle, corporate, and education media, who has been instrumental in bringing attention to Pride in the Hills.
“I went to the first meeting at Kevin’s house at about the same time that Sal Lopes, owner of Salvatore Anthony Hair Design, initiated the first ever Gay Pride Day in New Preston. I thought it made sense for everyone to work together toward a major event and that’s how it all started,” explains Hermann.
The committee has done an admirable job of bringing together an impressive group of honorary hosts: Anderson Cooper, Larry Kramer and David Webster, Stephen Sondheim, Mia Farrow, Marsha Mason, Jack O’Brien, Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine, and Lindsay Law.
Entertainment will include a performance by Pilobolus, Love and Laughter by KBJB Live Events and the New York Queens, and outdoor dancing to music supplied by DJ Zeke Thomas. Fontaine James is the creative consultant orchestrating the entertainment.
“Fontaine has done an amazing job of putting together a unique evening and we are so grateful to the Ingrassias and all of our sponsors,” says Hermann. “To date they include Daniel Sanchez and James Michael Murphy, owners of Onyx 11 Jewelers; Ken Stiles and Rick Angiollo, owners of By Request; Conversations on the Green; Bruce Glickman and Wilson Henley of George Home; Cheryl and Jack Kinney of Kinney Woodworking; Paul Arnhold and Wes Gordon; The New Preston Merchants Collective; Litchfield Distillery; J. McLaughlin; Dobson Pools; Woodco LLC; Washington Art Association; Hilary Adorno, New Preston Pilates; and County Wine & Spirits.”
Additionally, patron sponsors include Jane Whitney Gruson, Christopher Hermann and Joseph Lorino, Kevin Jennings and Jeff Davis, Lyle Saunders, Andrew Ward, Ethan Geto, Paul Marcarelli and Ryan Brown, and Maria and Glenn Taylor. CCF is pleased and excited about the response to the event and the money raised will go to The Pride Fund, managed by a committee that will recommend organizations and programs to support LGBTQ people throughout Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills.
For further information or to purchase tickets visit www.prideinthehills.org.