CHICAGO — Hundreds of people, including local and state political leaders, gathered for Chicago’s annual Pride Month kickoff brunch in West Town Sunday.

“As we kick off pride month, this is not just simply a celebration, this is about the liberation of humanity that love gets to be the conquering force,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said.

Johnson and other City officials spoke on the importance of celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community at the event, while also recognizing the challenges in the fight for equality.

“Pride is a celebration of those living and thriving as their true authentic selves,” said Juliana Stratton, Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. “There are legislators across our nation who are working to dim the light, the joyful light of our gay, bi and trans siblings … that they bring to our communities in the form of dangerous and extremely harmful legislation.”

A part of the brunch Sunday was highlighting leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community. Julio Rodriguez, founder of ALMA — a group that fights for the rights of the Latino LGBTQIA+ community, was one of those honored at the event for their contributions.

“You have to do the work on the ground, in the middle and at the top,” Rodriguez said. “And we are very lucky in this state that we have leaders at the top who are hearing what are needs are.”

Johnson wrapped up the brunch, which organizers said was the largest Pride Month kickoff event they’ve ever had, with a message that reiterated a major sticking point of his administration during its infancy.

Progress is best accomplished when everyone works together.

“When you are a part of a community that has been bound by oppression,” Johnson said. “You learn very quickly that our best road to liberation is a road that we travel together.”