From an elementary school to the Civic Center to Chevron Richmond, flag-raising ceremonies across the community are celebrating Pride and diversity in the month of June.
Earlier this month, city leaders celebrated the “Diversity Celebration Month Flag Raising Ceremony” during which they simultaneously commemorated Juneteenth (June 19), Immigrant Heritage Month and LGBTQIA+ Awareness Month. Following remarks by local leaders in a ceremony held online, city staff raised the flags at the Richmond Civic Center’s flagpole.
Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson III called the trio of June celebrations “freedom rituals.”
“These three celebrations are all about rituals of freedom, where individuals come out and display different community and cultural aspects and talk about how it is that their group obtained their freedom or are close to attaining freedom in these United States,” said Johnson, who during Tuesday’s ceremony represented Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. that is observed annually on June 19.
Alluding to historic moments in these respective movements, the vice mayor added, “the freedoms that they’re seeking, can all be found in these rituals that we’re raising flags for you here today.”
Also offering remarks were Yenny Garcia of the The Latina Center, who represented Immigrant Heritage Month at the ceremony, which commemorates the contributions immigrants have made in the U.S. Representing LGBTQIA+ Awareness Month were Carolyn Wysinger, San Francisco Pride Board President and Richmond Rainbow Pride Board Member, and fellow Richmond Rainbow Pride Board Member Cesar Zepeda.
Garcia said immigrants have been frontline workers during the pandemic who have risked their lives while remaining the nation’s “economic engine.”
“We honor the experience and contributions of the many immigrants who have shaped the city for many generations and have facilitated the successful integration of immigrants into the civic, economic and cultural life of the community in Richmond,” said Garcia, who addressed participants first in Spanish, then in English.
Garcia added, “This June we celebrate our heritage, our family, our food and the love that unites us all. But please remember that we can only achieve greatness if we do it together.”
Wysinger expressed excitement that the Richmond City Council has continued the tradition of raising the Pride flag and acknowledged its “intersections between Pride Month and Juneteenth.” She commended Richmond for building “those bonds of community across, quite frankly, two communities that didn’t understand each other’s celebrations.”
Noting that the “City of Richmond has been one of the first cities to raise the pride flag in our county,” Zepeda remarked that “it is an honor again, to be able to fly our rainbow flag alongside many other flags that represent the diversity of our city.” He underscored that “the colors of our rainbow flag represent everyone, not just those that are LGBTQIA+” and said that “raising the pride flag…gives people a little bit of hope to be able to live one more day in case they are not in a safe place at home.”
To see a recording of the ceremony, click here.
Chevron celebrates annual Pride flag-raising
At Chevron Richmond, diversity is celebrated and supported throughout the year, in part through company-funded employee networks that represent and promote the wide variety of backgrounds of the people who work there. That includes an annual Black History Awareness celebration in February, along with an annual celebration of Pride that includes a flag-raising ceremony.
“Raising the flag to mark Pride month is an opportunity to raise awareness of our PRIDE (Promote Respect, Inclusion and Dignity for Everyone Employee Network) community here at Chevron and to celebrate the Chevron Way values of diversity and inclusion,” said Jessica Baker, a Chevron Richmond Chemist and PRIDE Employee Network Leader.
Mira Vista first WCCUSD K-8 school to raise Pride flag
Last weekend, community members gathered at Mira Vista School in East Richmond Heights to celebrate what a parent organizer called the first LGBTQIA rainbow flag raising at a K-8 school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
The Progressive Rainbow Flag — which includes black/brown and transgender representative colors — was raised on the school flagpole during a celebration last weekend.
The event was organized by parents Amber Avalos and K.J. Dahlaw, who three years ago established the LGBTQIA advocacy group to raise LGBTQIA visibility on campus and support LGBTQIA families and students.