Mayor Lori Lightfoot was among the speakers at a June 7 Legacy Project event marking Chicago's 2021 Pride Month observance.
Other speakers at the event, which was moved indoors to Center on Halsted due to inclement weather, included U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky; House Majority Leader Greg Harris; state Rep. Lamont Robinson; Alds. Tom Tunney (44th Ward) and James Cappleman; Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison; Center on Halsted CEO Modesto 'Tico' Valle; and activists Precious Brady-Davis and Mary Morten.
Legacy Project Executive Director and founder Victor Salvo introduced the event by explaining the reasons that led to his organization's founding, emphasizing that the LGBTQ community has a responsibility to learn and preserve its own history.
"We can't ask our friends and allies to do all the work," Salvo said.
Legacy Project, according to its mission statement, "illuminates and affirms the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people to honor their experiences and accomplishments; to collect and preserve their contributions to world history and culture; to educate and inspire the public and young people; and to assure an inclusive and equitable future."
In her remarks, Lightfoot spoke about how the Northalsted corridor and the surrounding neighborhood have for decades been "a beacon of enlightenment" for both city residents and visitors.
"The meaning of this community to the larger LGBTQ diaspora cannot be understated," the mayor said. "It makes a huge difference to see us, to see what we are doing, here in Chicago, in spaces where we gather to make people know that we are unapologetically a community that is important to the history, the present and the future of this city."
Both Schakowsky and Harris, among others, discussed the current political environment, wherein advancements in progressive politics can almost instantaneously be undercut by retrograde anti-LGBTQ legislation. Schakowsky noted, for example, that the House has twice passed the Equality Act, only to stall when the bill is sent on to the other side of the U.S. capitol.
"Now we have to try to get [the Equality Act] passed in the United States Senate," she said.
Harris warned, "The world can change back pretty fast."
Tunney and Valle centered many of their remarks around the AIDS crisis of the '80s, an event that Tunney referred to as "a second Stonewall." Valle said that, in the midst of that crisis, "Our response as a community taught the world how to take care of its own."
Cappleman detailed the long struggle for marriage equality, emphasizing how thrilled and relieved he was to marry his husband. Brandishing his wedding ring, he said, "It's so nice to have this ring, because I grew up as a little boy knowing that I was never going to get married."
Robinson updated the audience on the progress on a South Side LGBTQ community center that he has been shepherding to fruition. He and Brady-Davis both emphasized that LGBTQ individuals live and work citywide.
"The LGBTQ county is not just located in Boystownit is located all over Chicagoland," said Brady-Davis. She called the June 7 event at the Center "a full circle moment," since she began her career there.
Morten emphasized that the struggle for LGBTQ rights must not just focus on equality but equity. Emphasizing the latter category means ensuring that all community members get the figurative and literal tools they need to succeed as members of the community.
"It's amazing to think how far we have come in the last 20 or so years," Morten said.
That was a sentiment shared by Morrison, who described his own experience coming out.
"It seems that things have changed so much since the days of Sheriff Ogilvie," he said.