Pride Flag Raising at Market Square
June 5, 2020

Today the Pride flag was raised in Market Square honoring June as LGBTQ Pride Month. This is the second year that the village has partnered with the Ossining LGBTQ Alliance to commemorate Pride Month with a flag-raising. This June marks 51 years since the Stonewall Riots that sparked the gay rights movement.

To include as many voices as possible while complying with social distancing guidelines, the village invited elected leaders to contribute brief written quotes. To amplify queer voices, four members of the LGBTQ community were invited to speak at the flag-raising. The program was led by Ossining LGBTQ Alliance founder Christina Picciano. Click here for video of the speakers .

The Pride flag contains the colors of the rainbow, used as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) pride and LGBTQ social movements. When a Pride flag is hung, it signifies to all LGBTQ+ residents that they are welcome in our community.

The Pride flag will fly through the month of June. It is at half-staff, consistent with the American flag in honor of the lives lost to COVID-19. The full remarks offered by today’s speakers are provided immediately following quotes from elected officials. Video of the spoken remarks has been shared on the village’s Facebook and YouTube outlets. Mayor Victoria Gearity and minimal staff were present to raise the flag and document the occasion with video and photos.
Mayor Victoria Gearity:
“As the world is coming to fully understand our interconnectedness at life’s most basic level—the air we breathe—we are recognizing our shared responsibility to dismantle the institutions that dehumanize and oppress society. I am grateful to serve a community that welcomes, celebrates and honors the voices of us all.”

Trustee Robert Fritsche:
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~Socrates

Trustee Rika Levin:
“’There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it’s now okay to express ourselves publicly. We make that day by doing things publicly until it’s simply the way things are.’ ~Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin made history by becoming the first openly gay Senator in the United States. It is time for change and openly and publicly accepting all people this flag symbolizes that forward movement.

Trustee Omar Lopez:
“I am proud to stand beside my LGBT+ siblings. Today, we celebrate the progress the movement has fought so hard for and are clear-eyed about the work that remains. I love you."

Trustee Manuel Quezada:
“’Progress is impossible without change and those who can not change their minds cannot change anything.’ ~George Bernard Shaw 

The LGBTQ community has been faced with challenges and discrimination that no human should be faced with. They together have a strong bond to succeed and rise above hate. To change is to make progress and I stand beside our LGBTQ community to promote this progress within our community at large.”

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef:
"It is so important that we recognize the differences that each of us bring to our families, our communities, and our work life. It is especially important at this time that we celebrate and honor those differences—as respect for one another is being challenged. I want to add my voice in support of the LGBTQ community as the Pride Flag is raised today in the Village of Ossining."

Legislator Catherine Borgia:
“While we are all social distancing, it is still our job to stand with our family, friends, and neighbors in the LGBTQ community. Though we have a long way to go in the struggle for equality and dignity being fought by queer and trans people worldwide, raising the Pride flag at Market Square is an important statement of solidarity. We in Ossining build up and support everyone, no matter how you identify or who you love."

Dana Levenberg, Supervisor, Town of Ossining:
“We are so proud of our inclusive community here in Ossining. What better to do than raise the Pride flag to give a big shout out to those in our community who identify as LGBTQ and remind everyone that their voices are heard, are welcomed and are beautiful. Our Town of Ossining Board recognizes that all people make important contributions to our community, no matter where they are born, how they look, how they identify, or who they choose to love. Happy Pride month from a very proud group in Ossining!”

Liz Feldman, Councilwoman, Town of Ossining:
“As Pride month begins I am glad Ossining will, once again be flying the Pride flag over our community. It is so important in these turbulent times to make sure that everyone feels, safe, heard and valued in our community.”

Jackie Shaw, Councilwoman, Town of Ossining:
“Love is what binds us together it doesn’t matter who you love, just that you do.”
Opening Remarks from Ossining LGBTQ Founder Christina Picciano:
Welcome to the 2nd annual Village of Ossining Pride Flag raising. I’m the founder of the Ossining LGBTQ Alliance and I’m honored to be speaking today. Our event this year looks a little different than last and that is to ensure the safety of our community. I want to thank Mayor Gearity, Jaimie Hoffman and John Heitmann for organizing this on such short notice. And thank you to the Ossining Village board for always supporting the initiatives of The Ossining LGBTQ Alliance. I’d also like to thank our local elected Democrats for supporting this event and our community year round.

Our speakers today are Kiara Taylor international advocate for the LGBTQ and trans gender, non conforming and non binary communities, former mayor Bill Hanauer, Poet and Writer Cole Rivers and myself.
Remarks from International LGBTQ & TGNCNB Advocate Kiara Taylor:
Proud member of the LGBTQ and TGNCNB communities representing all nations. I’m here today celebrating together with the Ossining community our home; the elevation of our beautiful flag with so much pride during the June “Pride” Month 2020”.

As an advocate and activist I do encourage all the members and allies of our LGBTQ community from all nations, all ethnicities, and all beliefs to stay together by being inclusive, to always provide the safe space that makes an amazing contribution to the peace and liberty of Our Nation and the Village of Ossining. Happy “PRIDE MONTH OF JUNE 2020”.
Remarks from Former Mayor William Hanauer:
I came out in 1964, five years before Stonewall. It was a time of rigid discrimination and violence against gay Americans. Police were particularly vicious.

Many gay people preferred to remain invisible, but, when they came out or were outted, they were disinherited by their families (read: thrown out), abandoned by former friends, co-workers, and classmates, lost their jobs, homes, and families. We could not assemble peacefully. We could rarely eat dinner peaceably without police raiding restaurants known to welcome us. Arrests were very frequent.

It was intolerable!

Life for LGBTQ Americans, since 1969, has changed dramatically in an arc similar to that unfolding today.

In the early hours of June 28 th , 1969, police violently raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, known to be a hangout for gay men and transvestites it was a frequent occurrence. But this time, something was different! Led by drag queens, the customers fought back. They were ultimately arrested, but not before inspiring a series of spontaneous, mostly peaceful but sometimes violent demonstrations by members of the  gay community , nationwide. 

This event began the Gay Revolution. And, on June 28, 1970, the first Pride March, kicked off. I have marched in almost all of them – only missing those when out of town. The annualization of Pride Month followed.

The gay community often measures time by Stonewall: before and after. But, even after, anti-gay bias, bigotry and viciousness did not end.

On June 7, 1980, James Byrd Jr ., an  African-American  gay man was tied to a truck by three  white supremacists , dragged behind it, and decapitated  Jasper, Texas . Both men were convicted of first-degree murder and executed.

On October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, was tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die by two young bigots on a frigid October night near Laramie, Wyoming. The men were arrested and tried. The attack was widely reported as being caused by Shepard’s being  gay . Defense attorneys employed a  gay panic defense . More demonstrations and riots ensued across the country.

The perpetrators were convicted of murder and received life sentences.

The wheels of government grind exquisitely slowly.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009, as a  rider  to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 -- a law often in the news today – expanding the  1969 United States Federal Hate-crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived  gender sexual orientation gender identity , or  disability .

On July 24, 2011 after many years of political action by the LGBTQ Community, Civil Rights organizations, unions, and some liberal Clergy, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the NYS Marriage Equality Act.

I am proud to have lobbied for it as Chairman of Unions for the Performing Arts, representing 21 unions, from the 1980s until 1998, as an individual from then until 2005, and as Trustee, and finally, as Mayor from 2005, until it passed.

I am also very happy to have benefitted from its new freedoms on June 3, 2012.

On June 26, 2015, the SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES decided that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriage.

George Floyd’s murder by police on May 5 th of this year is the latest entry on the long list of violence against minorities – particularly African Americans – by police. Such violence has been part of the underbelly of America since the 17 th Century. It is intolerable!

Civil rights progress has not been uniform. It is true that discrimination and violence against Blacks, has been much more deadly, more deeply engrained, and long-lived than those against Gays and The Black Rights Movement has been active far longer than the Gay Rights Movement but has not yet achieved many of the clear and palpable victories of the Gay Rights movement.

And it is also true that the Gay Rights movement has benefitted from the gains of the Civil Rights movement, as well as from the greater prosperity of White Gay Men.

Never-the-less, under the Trump administration and its right-wing adherents, Gay rights are, along with minority rights, are, once again, under attack.

Catering to or, worse, encouraging the underlying negative attitudes, hatreds, and fears of many on the right by this regressive federal and many state governments must end so that all may prosper.

Today’s peaceful and, yes, even some violent demonstrations must lead to legal, judicial, and societal changes. They must lead to the enshrinement and expansion of the rights of all Americans.

We voters have the responsibility to replace the President and his enablers in the Senate, with Progressives, who will fight along-side us and for all.

I sincerely hope that all of the country’s minorities and advocates – of which I consider myself a life-long proponent – and all Americans have met a Stonewall moment.

Happy Pride!
Remarks from Poet & Writer Cole Rivers:
Thank you dear friends for being here at such a monumental time in our history. Due to the current state of this country, various communities of our nation are taking action towards the injustice of Black lives in America amid a global pandemic. As the death toll and unemployment rate rises, hope and human dignity seem to be more of an ideal than a reality.

In honor of the flag we raise here today, we must pose a question: Where do we go from here? In order to move forward as a people we must take the responsibility to recognize where we are now.

The civil rights for all people of this country continues to be a constant struggle that we have been battling with for far too long. The inequality and brutality of black people and the LGBTQIA community face in this country needs to radically change. The current protests and riots that are taking place are the angered cries and voices of the unheard. The increasing murders of black bodies that of men, women, transgender, and children is inhumane. These killings are a constant reminder of the ignorance and demoralization we as black, queer and trans people face in our daily lives.

The adversities of persecutions of protesters, the illness of COVID-19, the violence inflicted upon human life, these are not separate entities, in fact they are a piece of the whole.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (MLK)

There are some, if not many who believe we are past prejudice and racism in this country claiming that we are free. However Black People in America have been in fact, enslaved in this country longer than we have been “free”. Although great strides have been made, many of our communities live in poverty, we are incarcerated 5 more times the rate of any other race, our unemployment rate is twice as high as the white population in addition to black people dying three times the rate of other races due to COVID-19.

To wake up each day with these conditions and joyfully live with countless obstacles of oppression, is exhausting. We as black people reap a quarter of the rewards and privileges of this nation and receive double if not triple the amount of hardship.

However this is by no means a cause for sympathy, it's a call to action. It's a cause to powerfully love ourselves in our fight towards justice. Martin Luther King Jr. states:
“There is nothing wrong with power when used correctly. Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

We must wake up as Black people regardless of our indifference and affirm that we are beautiful.
Remarks from Ossining LGBTQ Alliance Founder Christina Picciano:
Last year, June 2019 was a celebration. We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the catalyst for the LGBTQ movement. We shared our stories, reflected on our history and honored those who fought and died for our movement. And yes, we partied. This year in the wake up COVID 19, the night clubs are closed. Our gathering spaces are empty. This year we act. This year we rise up. This year, we vote.

The LGBTQ community is no stranger to police brutality, a health crisis ignored by the federal government, employment discrimination, violence and hate crimes. It’s why more than ever the LGBTQ community must stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matters. The time for intersectional support is past due. As we enter pride month it’s imperative to honor the black and brown trans and queer folks of the Stonewall Uprising, by standing with black lives matters protests.

I am proud and grateful for the work of our elders that paved the road to where we are today. Our journey is incredible. I can’t believe I am standing here today as an openly queer and married woman raising the pride flag here in Downtown Ossining . But we still have work to do. We need to address racism and misogyny WITHIN the LGBTQ community and do better. Amplify black and brown voices. We need to address the disproportionate number of trans woman of color murdered every year. We must protect and empower our youth.

And to our allies: We need you more than ever. Please show up. March with us. Stand up for us. Employ us. Promote us. Donate to our causes. Help us heal when we are tired. And most importantly listen, listen, listen.
Parents: embrace, accept, lend your ear and show your love to your children who are struggling with their sexuality and gender identity.

I am so grateful to live in such a diverse community. But every hometown has those who are afraid to live their truth. To the youth, and to those hiding: I see you, I hear you. You are welcome and you matter. To quote Laverne Cox: You are worthy not because of what anyone else says or what you can do, but simply because of who you are.

Be safe. Happy Pride.