When Hagerstown Hopes was finalizing plans for Hagerstown Pride (held on Saturday, July 14th) members were optimistic that it would be a success. What they didn’t count on was how much of a success it would be. Thao Ta of local news outlet WDVM reported that this year’s Pride, themed “This is Me” was expected to draw up to 3,000 people. After interviewing the organizers of this year’s Pride, Thao and I discussed what Hopes will be bringing to the community. She was gracious, kind, and even posed for a selfie with me (after teaching me how to use my new phone).
I mention Thao because the kind of interaction we shared was experienced by nearly everyone in attendance. With approximately 60 vendors serving the LGBTQ community, dozens of performers, headliner Kennedy Davenport of “Rupaul’s Drag Race” fame, and even an appearance from the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Hagerstown Pride brought together people from across the region for a common purpose: to celebrate our community and all the diversity it encompasses.
Throughout the day I saw people making connections – catching up with old friends, making new ones, and sharing information and resources that are available to our community. There’s something about Pride that seems to encourage people to be friendly and, when people are friendly, they tend to be happy. What I saw and experienced was a community coming together, enjoying each other’s company and a safe place to be themselves. Even the city of Hagerstown said that Pride is a model for how community events should be organized, not just because of attention to detail, but because everyone volunteering for the event was obviously having a great time doing so.
Hagerstown Pride was a family-friendly event, complete with a kids’ area. Nicole James, Miss Gay Maryland America, led storytime and read books to children. She even posed with Mary and Jodi Plitman, who chose Hagerstown Pride as the backdrop for their maternity photo shoot. In fact, everyone commented on how many children and families were present at this year’s Pride, which is a heartwarming affirmation that things are getting better for youth in our community, and that our community itself is getting stronger.
I think it’s important to acknowledge the value of working together. Recently a local magazine published an article about Hagerstown and the heroin and opioid crisis sweeping the nation. The article questioned if Hagerstown, once a thriving city that has now fallen by the wayside, would be able to sustain itself. While Hagerstown certainly has its problems, it’s refreshing and heartwarming to see that it’s also filled with people who care, like the thousands who attended Pride and the dozens of people who have volunteered their time to serve their community. This shows me that there is still hope because, when I look back at the region’s attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, I can see a clear societal shift towards acceptance and inclusion. We’re doing the work together, and we’re seeing progress.
Pride was a reflection of that hard work. Thanks go out to the board and committees of Hagerstown Hopes for sponsoring and organizing Hagerstown Pride. Jeff Rohrer, president of Hopes, and Brian Alexander, chair of events, oversaw the planning for Pride but were quick to say that they couldn’t take credit for the event’s success. Instead, they each listed name after name of Hopes members, vendors, and volunteers who helped make Pride as special as it was.
There’s still work to do, though, and I’m happy to say that I’m working with Hopes to bring LGBTQ services and programs to Hagerstown and the surrounding areas. Please like and follow Hagerstown Hopes on Facebook to keep up with news – there are good things coming very soon. We’re working together, and things are getting better.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.