Evanston Pride, Inc. to build community, education for city’s LGBTQ+ residents


Illustration by Nathanial Ortiz

Evanston Pride, Inc., a local non-profit in its beginning stages, is working to connect and support the city’s LGBTQ+ residents. Throughout February, Evanston Pride facilitated conversations with residents as it prepares to host community-building events and provide educational resources.

Jacob Fulton, Design Editor

When Sandie Elliott was a teenager in Evanston, she had to turn to students at Northwestern University to learn more about her queer identity.

A lifelong Evanston resident, Elliott said in high school she searched for a community within the city, both to connect with others and to learn about herself. But she came up nearly empty-handed — the only organization she could find was a student group based out of NU.

“We found a meeting at Northwestern and they would let us come and talk along with the other students that were there,” Elliott said. “Other than that, there isn’t anything at all.”

Now, after years without centralized resources, Evanston’s LGBTQ+ community will have a new source for connection in Evanston Pride, Inc., a local non-profit in its beginning stages. In February, the group collected responses through a community survey to determine programming and resource needs .

Though the group only recently became an official non-profit organization, its genesis came in 2019, when Jackson Adams, the organization’s president, realized Evanston didn’t have any sort of pride celebration. So he decided to start one.

That June, the city held Color the Mile with Pride & Pride Night Out Sip & Shop — an event hosted with the Main-Dempster Mile to build community and celebrate the city’s LGBTQ+ residents. From there, Adams said, the natural next step was a pride parade, scheduled for June 2020.

However, COVID-19 forced the cancelation of the 2020 parade Despite the setback, Adams said it was also important to form an organization to cement the work the parade’s organizers started. So he decided to start Evanston Pride.

“For me, it opened up dialogue — I’ve met people that I maybe wouldn’t have known prior to this,” Adams said. “And it’s, in a way, breaking down the stigma. Even though we live in a very progressive community, there’s still work to be done.”

Education on LGBTQ+ communities has only recently been implemented in Evanston public schools, and has faced some pushback from residents. Evanston/Skokie School District 65 had its first LGBTQ+ Equity Week in October 2019, during which students engaged in conversations surrounding queer identity. But some parents opted their children out of participating.

Evanston Pride board secretary Rada Yovovich said it’s essential to do more than just accept the existence of the city’s LGBTQ+ population. The organization hopes to celebrate the diversity that exists within Evanston.

“Being here in your authentic identity, that’s what makes this community stronger,” Yovovich said. “A lot of that is about justice, and it’s about recognizing the systems and the assumptions and the biases that demonstrate the opposite of that every day.”

An important part of building this community, Yovovich said, is creating a culture that allows for healing, growth and understanding. She said she hopes Evanston Pride can provide that space for the city’s residents.

Patty Finley, the board’s vice president, said the organization provides a chance to uplift the city’s Latinx LGBTQ+ community — a community she struggled to find when she moved to Evanston. Even if LGBTQ+ residents don’t choose to engage with Evanston Pride, the group’s existence can still bring them together, she said.

“We don’t all have to be wearing our pride flag on our shirts, but to know that there’s someone out there that can help you, and just bring our community together to celebrate each other, that’s amazing,” Finley said. “Now more than any other time, building trust within our community is fantastic.”

For Elliott, who now serves as a board member on Evanston Pride, after years without community support, the existence of the organization is a much-needed change of pace.

Now, she said, other community members won’t have to go far to find the resources they need, a far cry from her experience as a teenager.

“Finally, there’s something in this town, even within my own neighborhood,” Elliott said. “Finally, it’s like being home. It’s so comforting — and we need to pull these people together.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacobnfulton

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