LGBTQ+ community seen and heard in Amsterdam

Jennifer Vallejo, Centro Civico Community Mobilization Program director installs a Pride Flag at the front of Centro Civico in Amsterdam Friday, June 10, 2022.

Jennifer Vallejo, Centro Civico Community Mobilization Program director installs a Pride Flag at the front of Centro Civico in Amsterdam Friday, June 10, 2022.

AMSTERDAM — The LGBTQ+ community was seen and heard Friday in Amsterdam at a Pride flag raising at Centro Civico that Mayor Michael Cinquanti committed to hosting at City Hall next year.

“We’re here today to spread love. We want to make you feel safe, make you feel like you are included, make you feel like you matter,” said Jennifer Vallejo, the community mobilization program coordinator at Centro Civico, a Division of Ibero.

Rainbow symbols were on vast display throughout the crowd of around 50 locals attending the first official flag raising within the city at Centro Civico on East Main Street.

Nathaniel Gray, executive director of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, remarked on the “awesome” power of the pride flag that instantly lets members of the LGBTQ+ community know when they are in a safe space.

Growing up in a small town similar to Amsterdam, Gray recalled being intentionally made to feel that he didn’t belong and quickly found that he was not alone when he asked the assembled crowd if they’ve ever felt the same way.

“You do belong here,” Gray assured them.

“Today it’s about you,” agreed Tandra LeGrone, CEO of In Our Own Voices. “And I’m here to tell you that you matter and you represent a community that is resilient, that is beautiful.”

Cheers and applause rang out when the pride flag was lifted into place outside of Centro Civico for Pride Month.

“We are here to serve and connect all individuals in our community in order for them to achieve equity and to become fully valued community members,” Vallejo said.

Although the crowd was overjoyed at the display of community support, Gray pondered aloud how much more impactful it would be if the flag were displayed on city property.

“How would that feel if you drove into your town and you saw it and you knew that everyone who doesn’t want you to feel like you belong here, you knew they saw it too, because they need to learn that we belong here,” Gray said.

Centro Civico in coordination with In Our Own Voices sought permission to fly the Pride flag at City Hall, but the request was denied by Mayor Michael Cinquanti. LaGrone acknowledged disappointment over the event’s location, especially after attending a Pride event at the state capital attended by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado.

“If it’s good enough for the New York state capital to raise that flag, it should be good enough for Amsterdam,” LaGrone said.

Cinquanti faced backlash over the refusal when the city does not have an official policy regarding which flags should be flown at City Hall. He reasoned that only government flags should be flown, saying the American, New York state and Amsterdam flags on display represent all city residents.

Yet, the Ukrainian flag was raised outside of City Hall after the country was invaded by Russia as a sign of solidarity for the nation and natives within the local community in February.

Seeking to make amends and demonstrate support for the LGBTQ+ community, Cinquanti participated in the flag raising at Centro Civico and agreed to host the event at City Hall next year at the urging of the crowd.

“It will help,” the group called out.

“I stand with you,” Cinquanti said, inviting members of the LGBTQ+ community within the city to reach out to his office to talk about any issues making them feel unwelcome or unsafe.

Vallejo is confident the event will take place at City Hall next year with the added support of 1st Ward Alderwoman Kelly Quist-Demars and 4th Ward Alderman Stephen Gomula.

The members of the Common Council were not involved in the decision to deny the request to fly the flag at City Hall. Quist-Demars and Gomula plan to work together to ensure the LGBTQ+ community feels supported by advancing legislation to recognize June as Pride Month in Amsterdam.

“I give the community all the credit for living out loud, being who they are and making space for all people,” Quist-Demars said.

Gomula also plans to pursue an update to city policies to enshrine the authority to fly the pride flag at City Hall.

“This is a marginalized group that we need to support,” said Gomula, the parent of a transgender teen. “We’re not doing enough. Just raising a flag shows that we support you, we’re here for you, come on out, you’re one of us.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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