It was a rainy Friday afternoon right before the Pride at the Park began. Then the skies cleared up to reveal a rainbow at the NMI Museum of History and Culture in Garapan.
Hundreds came to celebrate love at Pride at the Park, one of the many scheduled activities organized by Pride Marianas Youth with its partners, for Pride Month. The event featured songs and dances, magic, family-friendly activities, educational resources, raffles and giveaways, as well as a specially-curated exhibit housed by the museum, which included the Stories of Pride from the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, the pride flag colors, art exhibits from allies, and posters highlighting Pride Marianas events throughout the years.
“We’re basically trying to repaint the sky as a more colorful, wonderful community,” said Dan Brown of Pride Marianas Youth. “Have love and acceptance and respect for all,”
Pride Marianas Youth, which is a coalition of family and friends and community members in the Marianas who want to support to the youth who may be struggling with their identity, or having feelings of insecurities, among others, is looking to create more allies with the community. Their mission is to show love and support for all LGBTQ+ youth, and to increase awareness of the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community on the island.
“There’s just so many different identities now, and so many different people just trying to be their authentic selves. So it’s really about just being open and loving and respectful to all, and understanding that we’re just trying to be ourselves, live life, and enjoy just like everybody else in the community, and to see the CNMI embracing the community and supporting us like this is just a wonderful feeling,” said Brown.
Among those who showed up last Friday to show their support was Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan). “Pride means supporting all people who identify in any which way, because we are all human beings. All of us just want to belong and want to live our best life. …We all have family who might identify. …We are people who love our families, we are a family community, we should support the people who we love… We have to support them and love them [for] who they are.”
Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang also expressed support, calling for acceptance and equality for all. “We’ve got a group of incredible young advocates here with us who are doing great things that include clearing the path toward universal acceptance of all who make this a better world, one that is free of biases, segregation and labeling. We do not need any of that.”
Apatang pointed out that there are federal and state laws now that give equal protection for every person, no matter their preference. The mayor stressed the need for everyone to “continue the march forward,” as he expressed hope for violence, discrimination, labeling, and hate crimes against gender equality to soon be a thing of the past.
“Equality is for everyone from all walks of life, all races, all genders. No one deserves to feel alone. Being different is not easy, but being different is not wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong. If we can come together and understand, love, and accept someone who’s different, if we can be aware and be very sensitive of the language we use, we can create a world that knows no hate and a lot of kindness and compassion,” Apatang added. “I want to see our island filled with more colors of the rainbow. Treat others with kindness, and approach them with the most harmonious language of acceptance.”