By Samuel Rowland
A rainbow sea filled the parking lot of Yorktown’s Town Hall on a cloudy Saturday last week as the town celebrated its first-ever public LGBTQ Pride event and march.
Participants filed in to the beats of a drum circle led by the Westchester Spirited Drummers, wearing pride flags for various genders and sexualities as capes, donning colored wigs and hair sprays, holding homemade signs and wearing t-shirts expressing support and love.
“This progress…has not been achieved by accident,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-White Plains), the keynote speaker and the first openly gay Black member of Congress. “It’s because people like us came together and have fought for this.”
After the speeches ended, loud and colorful marchers chanted, sang and danced their way to Jack Devito Memorial Field. Despite a lingering drizzle driving some of the attendees away, the marchers filled the parade route with their bodies and voices, especially while singing along with classic Pride hits, such as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Other notable speakers at the event included Yorktown Councilman Ed Lachterman and Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R-Mahopac). Byrne, who learned about the event only an hour before it started, spoke extemporaneously, and touted some of the LGBTQ rights bills that had passed during his tenure, claiming that “New York is ahead of the curve.”
Lachterman spoke about his brother, a former president of SUNY Stony Brook University’s Gay Student Union.
“For Michael, the pride parade was about awareness and an understanding that gays and lesbians were normal people,” Lachterman said. “His desire was for the parade not to accentuate the differences in people, but to celebrate the commonalities.”
Kristen Browde, co-chair of the National Trans Bar Association, addressed the Republican politicians bluntly at the event, surprising even the organizers who had invited her.
“Today is the first day of early voting. And that may be why you see them here celebrating with us,” Browde said. “You can vote for people who actually are for equality and justice. And I hope we will be celebrating at a time when there are real warriors across the board.”
“The idea of us gathering for the first Pride March in Yorktown brings so much joy to my heart,” said Anthony Calbi, the organizer of the official post-march party at Yorktown Grille. “It seemed like a pipedream many years ago but it is reality today. This is history and I couldn’t be more excited!”
Calbi, who has been an outed gay man with the support of his friends and family since 2012, has hosted “Love Wins” parties for Pride Month since 2017 at Yorktown Grille. After hosting the increasingly popular parties for LGBTQ locals and their allies the next two years before taking a pandemic-induced break in 2020, he was tapped by Yorktown for Justice last month to host its official after-party and to give a speech of his own.
Yorktown for Justice was established last year, formed as a response to the nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Marisa Ragonese, director of the Westchester County Youth Council, helped organize a Black Lives Matter march for Yorktown after seeing marches in Somers last summer.
When Ragonese and Rachel Freddy and the other organizers saw the turnout they had generated, they quickly decided they needed to keep the momentum going, organizing fundraisers, donation drives and community art events throughout the past year.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Yorktown Councilman Ed Lachterman’s brother as Slater’s brother. We regret the error.
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