Community & Arts

Ashley Delgado gives keynote as Central Falls raises Pride Flag

“…what I appreciate most about the new pride flag is how it centers, trans people, people of color, and trans people of color within the representations of life, healing, sunlight, nature, serenity, harmony, and spirit,” said keynote speaker Ashley Delgado. “By using the new Pride flag, we are respecting, honoring and amplifying more accomplishments, struggles, and dreams that otherwise tend to go unnoticed or purposely ignored within the LGBTQ+ community.”
Photo for Ashley Delgado gives keynote as Central Falls raises Pride Flag

Published on June 7, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

State and city officials gathered in Central Falls to raise a flag in celebration of Pride month outside Central Falls City Hall last Wednesday. As near as UpriseRI can determine, Central Falls was the first municipality to do so this year. Attending the ceremony was Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera, Central Falls City Council President Jessica Vega, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Central Falls municipal Court Judge Joseph Molina Flynn and Ashley Delgado, a long time LGBTQ activist, a family therapy clinician, former Ms Lesbian Rhode island and New England Pride‘s Person of the Year in 2018.

Delgado, a Central Falls resident, gave the keynote speech, explaining why she chose the particular Pride flag now flying in front of Central Falls City Hall.

Here’s the text of Ashley’s speech:

Hello and happy Pride month to everyone joining us today. I hope that you’re all feeling safe, healthy, loved, and supported. I’m lucky to have two brothers who have been my biggest supporters, especially with my advocacy in the queer community. Shout out to my youngest brother, Nathan, who actually helped me edit this speech and who had just graduated from Bates College in 2021. And my younger brother, James, who was the first in our family to get his master’s degree as he graduated from Northeastern University just a few years ago. We’re all very proud of the products of Central Falls.

It’s always exciting returning to my hometown to witness the progress of this beautiful city. Having grown up in Central Falls, I experienced a deep sense of belonging and pride, which does grow stronger with time. This love for Central Falls is nurtured by people who genuinely appreciate each other’s cultures and traditions. We’re a city of endless heart and humility and we recognize the importance of representation and have purposeful intentions to celebrate the community we have built together and the values that we share. When I graduated last month, I carried these values across the stage while receiving my symbolic diploma from Dr. Kelly Armstrong, president of Salve Regina. What I appreciated most about my education at Salve is that I was encouraged to lead with my values. Salve’s mission asks students to commit to being lifetime learners and to work toward a more harmonious, just and merciful world. Salve has recently announced plans to create a physical space for LGBTQ plus students, which is a great example of their mission in action.

Speaking of a mission in action, as a family therapy clinician and someone who cares deeply about youth mental health, I want to acknowledge how difficult it has been during this pandemic for many queer youth. Your life was disrupted in ways that most adults can not understand and, for some kids, leading to an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. This pandemic has altered your access to your friends, your chosen family, activities, interests, and ultimately supporting a healthy childhood and positive identity development. The reality is that many of you had to hide your identities or suppress parts of yourselves for your own safety. Undoubtedly, having any part of your identity devalued invalidated, or just plain not celebrated can contribute to issues with your mental health. This, on top of everything else, may have caused academic, emotional and familial problems, not to mention that it probably stressed you out in new and terrifying ways.

A gentle reminder that changes and transitions can be difficult and that we face a lot of them this year with uncertainty. I believe that in spite of every obstacle, you, the students, did the best you could, even when you felt like you weren’t. Even when you were struggling to focus or remain motivated. I know being resilient can be exhausting, and I hope that you seek seek support if, and when you need it.

Here’s some free resources from the Trevor Project, which is an organization dedicated to youth wellness. There’s the Trevor line, which is a 24 seven crisis suicide prevention phone number, which is +1 866-488-7386. And then also the Trevor chat and Trevor text. Trevor chat is an instant messenger. Trevor text is 678-678. Both of these are 24 seven confidential access to counselors. You could also connect with YPI (Youth Pride, Inc), and for families and parents PFLAG.

Lastly, I want to talk about the flag that we’ll be raising today. I would argue that besides love, including self-love the most beautiful thing about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community is our diversity. There is no one flag that can fully do this justice, but this new pride flag is my current favorite. There are actually a lot of flags outside of the traditional and most recognized pride flags that represent various parts and people within our community.

But what I appreciate most about the new pride flag is how it centers, trans people, people of color, and trans people of color within the representations of life, healing, sunlight, nature, serenity, harmony, and spirit. By using the new Pride flag, we are respecting, honoring and amplifying more accomplishments, struggles, and dreams that otherwise tend to go unnoticed or purposely ignored within the LGBTQ+ community. We are continuing a conversation that traditional versions of the flag alone have struggled to support. Some people get upset with new iterations of the flag. And generally those are people who already see themselves represented. By taking responsibility for the ways in which we contribute to discrimination and harm, we can truly work to best serve and accept all within our community and commit to address these issues with action. This flag is a symbol and visual representation of a community better represented with so much pride and ready for action. Thank you.

Here are the rest of the speeches and the flag raising video:

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