CHICAGO — Cook County raised a large rainbow flag in Daley Plaza to commemorate Pride Month.
For the first time, the flag will fly alongside the American and city flag for the entire month of June. The moment was monumental for LGBTQ leaders and allies, who the flag raising serves as a symbol that their community is now being seen and heard.
“I can say I have a lot of allies behind me in that building in the state of Illinois,” said Stephanie Skora, executive director of Brave Space Alliance. “As a member of the [LGBTQ] community, I know it’s not always easy to find somewhere you feel at home, where you feel safe, and you know your elected officials have your back.”
Kevin Morrison, the first openly LGBTQ Cook County commissioner, marked the historic moment with others at a press conference Tuesday.
“Later this month, the county board will be voting to approve my ordinance to make the county documents and forms gender-inclusive,” Morrison said.
Another major announcement from Tuesday revealed that the Aids Garden Chicago groundbreaking would be held Wednesday. The two-and-a-half-acre garden will be on Lake Michigan at Lake Short Drive and Belmont Avenue at the original location of the historic Belmont Rocks.
“We were thrilled to be able to kick it off for Pride Month,” said Willa Lang, executive director of the Chicago Parks Foundation. “And to really be a message of hope that things are getting back on track. We are here to really pull people together.”
Crews completed the first phase in late 2019. Once completed, the garden will include areas made for reflection, education, honor and pride.
“Really, the idea originated with Alderman Tom Tunney,” Lang said. “So Alderman Tom Tunney, who has lived through the AIDS epidemic. Who has many friends, colleagues, thousands and thousands of people in Chicago lost their lives. It was shocking what was happening. There was no sense of control.”
Visitors can expect to see a digital quilt of personally shared experiences posted on the AIDS Garden Chicago website.
“There are people today still living with HIV/AIDS,” Lang said. “The idea started with bringing people together to make sure their stories are told and that their lives being celebrated. But also, to show we support the people living with HIV/AIDS.”
The Chicago Pride Parade announced last week that it will return this fall. The parade, traditionally held on the last weekend in June, was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The parade will now be held on Sunday, Oct. 3.
The hugely popular festival began in 1970. October is LGBTQ History Month.