Within the past few years, Downers Grove native Becky Campbell has seen a noticeable shift in attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community.
“The importance of this lies in the fact that it’s been hard to see any real outward acceptance of the community in Downers Grove historically,” Campbell said. “But I think we’ve finally come to a point where the community has a greater acceptance.”
A board member of the EQuality Downers Grove community organization, which aims to create an accepting and equitable environment for LGBTQ+ people through education, support, social action and advocacy, Campbell hopes to build on that momentum.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural Pride Month celebration, the EQDG is excited to bring back a full slate of activities in June.
“Last year it went really well,” Campbell said. “But this year we were able to get our nonprofit status, so we set out to try and do at least some of the same things as last year and a few more this year we’re super excited about.”
The organization is partnering with the Downers Grove Public Library to host the Community Pride Picnic at 1 p.m. June 4 at Fishel Park. The event will feature storytelling by Tony Ozzauto’s Outwords Journey. Attendees can bring blankets and enjoy an afternoon in the park.
EQDG also will partner with the Downers Grove Public Library to host the LGBTQIA+ Community Acceptance and Inclusion Panel Discussion at 7 p.m. June 6 at the Downers Grove Library, 1050 Curtiss St. Attendees can join other community members and leaders for a panel discussion on ideas for creating a more inclusive community. To register, visit https://downersgrove.libnet.info/event/6541521.
Panel members will include Erin Ludwick, Downers Grove North High School’s associate principal of student services; Ashley O’Connor, an EQDG board member and Downers Grove South High School Class of 2022 graduate; Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt, a Downers Grove village commissioner and Youth Outlook volunteer; Karen Taylor, an associate principal for staff and students at Downers Grove South; and Andi Voinovich, a Youth Outlook program leader.
The nonprofit Youth Outlook organization provides support for LGBTQ+ youth, families and the community through drop-in centers, family support and education. The Downers Grove drop-in center opened in fall 2021.
This year’s Pride in the Parking Lot event will be from noon to 5 p.m. June 12 at First United Methodist Church, 1032 Maple Ave, Downers Grove. The family-friendly event will feature resources from affirming organizations as well as activities such as tie-dying, rock painting, Say Gay postcard writing, a photo booth and more.
EQDG and Youth Outlook members also will have a table set up at the annual Rotary GroveFest 2022 for people to stop by and learn about their initiatives and what they are doing for the LGBTQ+ community in Downers Grove.
Additionally, local artists are again volunteering their time to paint multiple windows downtown that will remain in place throughout June. The community is invited to post photos to social media and tag them with #EQDGPride22.
Sadowski-Fugitt is excited to see the return of Pride Month festivities.
“It was one of the things most important to me when I ran as a candidate,” she said. “I think either being part of a volunteer organization or leadership in the community is engendering a sense of belonging. It’s critical we do that for communities that have been marginalized.”
She hopes the more events are held “the more we can start to make the youth who are struggling feel like they belong and are welcome.”
“Even in the most wonderful of areas, there is still a degree of bullying under the surface. I hope having these events and having people speak their truths and how it makes them feel will, one: empower the young people of the community to feel like they’re not alone; and two: those listening to the noise will recognize the need to be vocal and supportive to those community members who are struggling to feel like they belong,” Sadowski-Fugitt said. “I hope these events are not just a checkbox but a way to really gather people together and make them feel they belong and are loved.”
Campbell doesn’t know if the renewed focus on justice and equality over the past few years was prompted by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the growing momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement or just those wanting unity after several years of political divisiveness.
“But all of a sudden it seemed like there was an undercurrent of more acceptance,” she said. “I grew up in Downers Grove and this sort of support had never been accessible and I think it’s great.”
Campbell hopes to see support for Pride Month grow.
“We would love to do something every year definitely, but I think in the bigger picture what we feel is equally if not more important is to help bring an atmosphere of education and support to the community,” she said.