Evanston Pride adopts park, provides place of solidarity for LGBTQIA+ community


Lily Carey/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston Pride board president Jackson Adams cuts the ribbon, marking the official adoption of St. Paul’s Park by the LGBTQIA+ advocacy nonprofit.

Lily Carey, Newsletter Editor

Decked out in rain ponchos and rainbow gear, a crowd of onlookers cheered as members of Evanston Pride snipped a glittery ribbon Thursday night, marking the official adoption of the city’s first Pride Park.

Evanston Pride, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the city’s LGBTQIA+ community, recently adopted St. Paul Park.

As LGBT History Month kicks off, Evanston Pride board president Jackson Adams said providing a welcoming space like Pride Park — a “passion project” of his over the past several months — is especially important. 

“It’s a beacon of light, it’s a representation,” Adams said. “It’s like, we’re out here, and people that identify as being queer, it shows them that Evanston is an open and welcoming community.”

Sporting an Evanston Pride shirt with the organization’s 2022 theme slogan — Unity, Equality, Visibility — Adams danced in the rain at Thursday’s event, greeting passersby and inviting them into the park. 

As the ribbon fell to the ground amidst cheerful applause, one onlooker was smiling even wider than the rest. Agito Abbott, an Evanston resident and Evanston Pride board member, was proud to see his designs printed on three large posters hanging along a fence at the back of the park.

Abbott started working on the designs months ago to reflect the Unity, Equality, Visibility theme, bearing slogans such as ‘Proud to Say Gay’ and ‘We Fight for our Trans and Non-Binary Community’. 

Decorated with roses and pride flag patterns, the posters aim specifically to show solidarity with transgender and non-binary individuals, who Abbott said are often targeted by violence and excluded from the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I wanted to make it very clear that Evanston Pride is for all of us and is not just for the people that are seen as the most acceptable to society,” they said. “We’re here and we’re queer, and we’re not going to go anywhere.”

He added that the roses on the poster are a reference to the quote, “Give us our roses while we’re still here.” Commonly used while observing Trans Day of Remembrance, Abbott said the quote refers to the practice of leaving roses on a grave, symbolizing acts of violence committed against transgender people.

Last year’s theme focused on celebration and being your authentic self, but after events that have impacted the LGBTQ+ community in the past year, Adams said Evanston Pride really wanted to “dig deep.”

“There’s so much legislation going on, especially with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law in Florida, and other legislation that are attacking the trans and the non-binary community,” he said. “So we really wanted to make sure that we were including our whole community in this year’s theme.”

From its founding, Evanston Pride has been focused on inclusivity, according to board member Patty Finley. 

As the city’s first group dedicated to LGBTQIA+ advocacy, forming its own organization has allowed it to have a lasting impact on the rest of the city, she said.

“We’ve seen a lot of positive energy coming towards us, a lot of positive commentary,” Finley said. “The fact that Evanston never had anything like this before — many people were telling us, ‘Thank you for having us, thank you for being here and being inclusive and equitable for everybody.’”

As the group’s influence grows, Adams said leadership aims to host several more events in 2022, including a National Coming Out Day Storytelling Event on Monday. 

While board members came to clean up Pride Park a few times in September, Adams said the organization is hoping to work with landscapers to fully transform the park, creating a “beautiful safe space” for Evanston’s LGBTQ+ community along the city’s main thoroughfare.

He added that Pride Park is not just a place of celebration: Evanston Pride wants the park to be a place of reflection and remembrance.

“We want to be the voice for Evanston and for the queer community,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re helping folks with whatever their struggles are, lifting them up and celebrating them.”

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Twitter: @lilylcarey

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