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Editorial & Opinion

Ken Barber: Proud of Pride

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“We recognize that there is no turning back. With great power comes great responsibility, and Rhode Island Pride is ready to take our place at the table among community leaders. We relish the opportunity to serve the community in such a capacity. We can be counted on now, and in the future.


It took a few weeks for Rhode Island Pride to transform from a leader in the LGBTQIA+ community into a leader of COVID-19 response: to build a team, call on volunteers, and shift our focus from PrideFest and the Illuminated Night Parade to providing food security to our neighbors, all during an unprecedented public health crisis.

The brainchild of Mr. Gay Rhode Island Bret Jacob to help LGBTQIA+ community members laid off from the hospitality industry specifically, but due to overwhelming need, the request list was opened to all Rhode Islanders regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Two months later, our little grassroots effort has grown, feeding over 10,000 Rhode Islanders in need. Our process isn’t unprecedented: volunteers shop for food and supplies, inventory them, and deliver them to recipient doorsteps. What is unprecedented is that of all organizations, Rhode Island Pride took on this task; we identified a gap in what state and traditional community service organizations were able to provide, and determined that we could assemble the resources to fill it.

This is a historic moment for the LGBTQIA+ equality movement. Less than fifty years ago, being homosexual was classified as a ‘mental disorder.’ Our community was forced to the margins of society, gathering only under the cover of night in windowless rooms for safety. Less than forty years ago, when our community was ravaged by HIV- our country’s last major public health crisis- it was perceived as a niche issue, dismissed by White House officials and the general public at the onset. Against odds, the Pride community has risen above oppression to levels of achievement beyond our forbearer’s wildest dreams.

RI Pride’s founding charges are advocacy and education on issues surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community. They do not include feeding the hungry or supporting social services. They do not include shining a beacon of light in the dark, or providing inspiration during one of the worst crises our state and nation have faced in a generation, and yet, these are the roles it assumes.

The reason for this is the tenacity of the LGBTQIA+ community here in Rhode Island. This is a community that still falls victim to institutional prejudice, that still today experiences discrimination in housing, is routinely denied insurance coverage, and still cannot legally donate blood; despite all of this, our bonds are strong, our commitment to a better tomorrow is unwavering, and we will continue to serve neighbors in need until we no longer can. Even in the context of fear and intolerance, we are a capable, powerful, and united community.


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We recognize that there is no turning back. With great power comes great responsibility, and Rhode Island Pride is ready to take our place at the table among community leaders. We relish the opportunity to serve the community in such a capacity. We can be counted on now, and in the future.

For this commitment, however, we ask something in return: when the opportunity comes to stand with us, to change old laws and mindsets, to join hands and voices in the pursuit of equality, and ask that we can count on you to be there. Until that point, please support our current philanthropic efforts by donating at www.tinyurl.com/PrideSupplyDrive.

See you on the front lines.