Supporters pack courthouse as Douglas County Commission proclaims LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Gun Violence Awareness Day

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Deja Brooks reads a statement during the Douglas County Commission's meeting on June 5, 2019, at the county courthouse. The commission issued a proclamation naming June 2019 LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

Brandon Eisman described himself as a cisgender male, a father and an active member of the community — but at the Douglas County Commission’s meeting Wednesday, he spoke as Deja Brooks, his drag persona.

At the meeting, the commission proclaimed June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month for the first time.

Brooks told more than 100 community members who packed the Douglas County Courthouse that when people think of pride, they often think of parades, rainbows and drag queens performing to Cher.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Attendees pack the Douglas County Courthouse on June 5, 2019, during the Douglas County Commission meeting. Most of the crowd was there in support of the proclamations of June 209 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month and naming June 7, 2019 National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“But pride gatherings are more than bright colors and good times,” Brooks said. “They are rooted in a difficult and tiring history, and minority groups who have struggled for decades to overcome prejudice and be accepted for who they are.”

Brooks spoke about what came to be known as the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City, which in large part sparked the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement.

“We are here to celebrate the achievements and outstanding service that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allies make to our city, state and nation,” Brooks said — and that wouldn’t be possible without those who had paved the way.

Brooks encouraged those in attendance to think about what pride means to them and how they can celebrate it.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Deja Brooks becomes emotional while reading a statement during the Douglas County Commission’s proclamation of June 2019 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month on June 5, 2019.

“Take the time to honor equality and love with your family, friends, neighbors, community members and leaders,” Brooks said. “I also want you to consider how you can promote diversity and educate those around you throughout the coming years about the history of gay rights, including attending rallies, writing letters, calling state politicians and voting.”

Brooks also listed some upcoming pride events. Among them is I Heart Local Music’s Pride Parade, starting at 4 p.m. Saturday on the sidewalk in front of Ladybird Diner, 721 Massachusetts St. It will march south to a free, all-ages celebration at The Granada Theater, 1020 Massachusetts St.

Deja’s Reading Rainbow, part of Brooks’ regular events for kids, will celebrate Pride Month from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23 at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., with a “storytime that embraces our local LGBTQ+ community and celebrates families of all kinds,” Brooks said.

“As you leave tonight, remember that our community is a family of many minds — trans, cisgender, gender-queer, straight, nonbinary and undecided individuals that are all united by our differences and strengthened by our love,” Brooks said.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Deja Brooks, center, holds an official proclamation of June 2019 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month while posing for a photo with, left to right, Interim County Administrator Sarah Plinsky and Douglas County Commissioners Nancy Thellman, Patrick Kelly and Michelle Derusseau on June 5, 2019.

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National Gun Violence Awareness Day

Another large group of orange-clad supporters in the audience stood by as Spencer Yost-Wolff, a recent graduate of Free State High School, spoke in support of the commission’s second proclamation: June 7, 2019, as National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Yost-Wolff said that about 100 Americans become victims of gun violence every day, and he discussed school shooting drills.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Spencer Yost-Wolff, a recent graduate of Free State High School, speaks about gun violence during the Douglas County Commission meeting on June 5, 2019. The commission proclaimed June 7 National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“It’s sort of shifted to almost an everyday state of living for the people of our community, and especially our students,” Yost-Wolff said. “And that seems rather ridiculous to me, that it should become a regular, everyday occurrence,”

He said that was why he’s working with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The local chapter is asking people to wear orange on Friday and Saturday to show support for those whose lives have been touched by gun violence.

The group also invites the public to its event starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at South Park, 12th and Massachusetts streets. They’ll be tying orange ribbons to symbolize the 100 daily victims of gun violence, and “to try to show some good-faith organizing for the people in our community whose lives have been touched or lost from this incredibly problematic epidemic.”

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Supporters of the Wear Orange movement to raise awareness about gun violence pose for a photo at the Douglas County Commission’s meeting on June 5, 2019. The commission proclaimed June 7, 2019 National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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