On Monday, June 10, 2019, local citizens joined members of Cumberland Pride at the flag poles at the corner of Church and South Albion streets to raise the Pride flag over the Town of Amherst
The crowd of all ages - from babies to seniors - showed their support for the LGBTQ+ community by the purses, flags and umbrellas they carried as well as by their applause.
Michelle Richard of Cumberland Pride recalled the catalyst for the Pride movement - a raid 50 years ago by New York police on a Greenwich Village establishment that was rumoured to be a gay bar. She noted a riot followed and said it marked the beginning of the fight for equality for the LGBTQ+ community. “Fifty years seems to be a long time ago and we’ve made great strides toward equality with the legalization of same-sex marriage across all Canadian provinces and all 50 U.S. states, the presence of Gender Sexuality Alliances in schools to the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada," she said, before adding more work still needs to be done. Richard praised the Town of Amherst for the support it has show ever since the first Pride flag was raised in the community more than a decade ago. “We’ve grown and shown others how proud Amherst is of its LGBTQ+ community and I’m proud to be part of the committee that continues to move this work forward. I do dream of the day when individuals will no longer be judged, persecuted or hated simply because they do not conform to outdated societal norms of what it’s like to be male or female or because of who they love.”
Amherst Mayor David Kogon and SOAR Community Health Board chair Bill Schurman also addressed the crowd. They noted the valuable contribution members of the LGBTQ+ community have made to the Town of Amherst, the shift towards acceptance and equality among all peoples, but cautioned the work was not done. Both said they were proud to have the Pride flag fly over the town and the mayor read a proclamation declaring June 10 to 16 as Pride Week in the Town of Amherst
The crowd listened attentively to Mark McLearn as the 20-year-old NSCC student and Pugwash resident recalled attending his first Pride event three years ago in Amherst, where he witnessed a Pride flag raising. "I was speechless," he said of that event. "I found myself at ease, very comfortable. I was in a space where I could present as my best authentic self. I was loving it. The event provided me with a space to connect, to talk to people I could relate to and look up to. It provided me with hope." The community as a whole, he added, has moved forward as shown by the fact it holds and celebrates Pride events. "I can't wait to see what we can accomplish in the future, but for now I hope every individual leaves here today not only feeling included , accepted and validated, but also feels celebrated as I did three years ago."
Following the speeches, McLearn and Richard raised the Pride flag to the applause of the audience.
Pride Week continues in Amherst with a movie at the YMCA on June 11, a coffee house and open mic at Art of Eating Deli on June 12, a drag show and dance at Teazers Pub and Eatery on June 14, the annual Pride parade on June 15 and on June 16 with a swim and Rainbow story time at the Cumberland YMCA and a multi-faith Pride service in Victoria Square.