As founder and president of the nonprofit group Out in Fox Valley, Michael Stroud was happy to see St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek on June 1 raise the first Pride flag in the city’s history.
“We need events like this that make us feel safe and respected,” said Stroud, who moved to St. Charles about two years ago.
Stroud said he hopes more can be accomplished.
“St. Charles has proven itself to be a very friendly place to live for LGBTQ people,” he said during a ceremony after the flag raising. “And it takes people to just realize the power of their own voice.”
Mike Linder, a lifelong St. Charles resident who is vice president and treasurer of Out in Fox Valley, also was proud of the moment.
“This was really historic for us in St. Charles,” said Linder, who is running for the Kane County Board. “I’ve lived here all my life and this is the first time we’ve raised the Pride flag. We’re very proud of it.”
Out in Fox Valley organized the ceremony that followed the flag raising. June is Pride Month.
Pride Month is celebrated each year in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan.
The group’s purpose is to encourage further acceptance of LGBTQ+ people and strengthen the LGBTQ+ and ally community by bringing groups and individuals with common interests together. St. Charles Pride and Batavia Pride are subgroups of Out in Fox Valley.
The ceremony also honored the life of Michael Fairbanks, who died in February 2013. Fairbanks, a LGBTQ+ advocate, was a 2012 graduate of St. Charles East High School.
“Michael opened hearts, he changed attitudes and he improved many lives with his advocacy,” his mother, Denise Fairbanks, said during the ceremony. “We lost our sweet, funny, smart, fearless son nine years ago. Michael would be so proud to see his city embrace the LGBTQ community.”
Stroud worked with Vitek and the City Council last year to pass the city’s first Pride proclamation. The proclamation states in part that “St. Charles celebrates the history and diversity of our city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and promotes an atmosphere in which all residents can live free from discrimination.”
Stroud is working on organizing a Fox Valley Pride Parade to be held in late summer or early fall.
Vitek said raising the Pride flag was something that was important to her.
“This is probably the first time we’ve raised any other flag besides the St. Charles flag and the American flag,” she said. “This is something I really wanted to do. I think it’s the beginning of being more supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion in our community.”
Vitek said she would like the city to have a diversity, equity and inclusion commission in place by next year to work on issues. Volunteers from the community along with students would sit on the commission, she said.
A commission could put on a flag raising event such as the one that took place June 1, she said.