Galesburg LGBTQ+ community holds second annual pride picnic

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GALESBURG, Ill. (KWQC) - Members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community showed up for the second annual Galesburg Pride on Sunday.

The Community event was created by the founders of the Safe Space group at First Lutheran Church in Galesburg after they realized their own community needed an event to celebrate pride.

"We realized there were a lot of people here who were identifying on the LGBTQ+ spectrum or just needed some community,” Christina King, the co-founder of Safe Space, said. "We kind of as a group said why is it that Galesburg...why do we need to go to the Quad Cities or Peoria for pride.

The year’s pride picnic doubled the turnout from the first year. Allies from the community showed up for the event.

"Someone told me that pride is the opposite of shame. And for folks who have been in a position where they've been shamed...you know job is at risk and things like that. Just for coming out. Pride's not a bad thing...it's good to get together and celebrate just who you are,” Pam Marolla, the pastor at Galesburg First Lutheran Church where Safe Space is held, said.

This year’s pride month marks 50 years since the Stonewall riots, which occurred after police raided a gay bar in New York City and arrested several LGBTQ+ members. The riots sparked the nationwide LGBTQ+ movement and King said it’s still just as important.

"The suicide rate amongst the LGBT community is just astronomical. And then depending on what niche you're looking at inside that community. The trans suicide rate is even double that. I think it's now more than ever important for us to stand up and say we're here. We're not going to be erased. We're not going to be forgotten. And we're not going away," King said.

The bond of the LGBTQ+ community is strong even in the center of Illinois.

"It's really connected. We're sort of spread out between the cornfields, but it's really connected between each area. We know we're not in the big Chicago or the big metropolitan area, but we're all connected in our own way. We're forming our own metropolis of sorts in Central Illinois," Artemisia VanHo, a drag queen who read stories during Sunday’s drag queen story hour, said.

As Pride hits a 50-year milestone, it’s a time for the LGBTQ+ community to look at the past and ahead to the future.

"Remembering what happened in the past. Where we were and where we are today. And where we're going to be in the future,” King said.

The Galesburg Safe Space group meets every Friday at 7:00 at the First Lutheran Church in Galesburg.

The Quad Cities area is getting its own safe space group for the LGBTQ+ community. Clock Inc. will open on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in Rock Island. It’s located at 321 24th Street.