East Hampton Village held the first-ever Hamptons Pride Parade on Saturday, June 4, and it was exuberant, simple, colorful, loving, happy, moving and inclusive — a true community turnout. There were no balloons, no alcohol, just hundreds and hundreds of smiling, joyful faces waving rainbow flags and cheering support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Mayor Jerry Larsen asked Hamptons Pride, a new local nonprofit group, to organize the pride parade. East Hampton Village Police and lifeguards helped direct the historic event. Larsen walked with fellow elected officials including Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and Town Trustee Susan McGraw-Keber.
It was a momentous day, not just because it was historic, but because it felt like the community rallied around it and supported it. And enjoyed it. You know, the way parades are supposed to go.
People of all ages and persuasions and ethnic backgrounds, LGBTQ+ and straight allies, friends, families, local businesses and organizations, schools, religious groups, and community leaders — over 40 participating groups in all — showed up.
Whether walking in the parade, driving a colorfully decorated vehicle or cheering from the sidelines, all seemed to exude a feeling of, well, love.
Teen Arts Council Celebrates Hamptons Pride
Love was certainly the operative word for Guild Hall’s Teen Arts Council, a group of 22 local high school students who created a banner of love for the parade under the direction of MAGO, a self-identified LatinX queer street artist, curator and longtime Hamptons resident who was asked to direct the art project because of his experience working with youth groups, as well as with the Human Rights Campaign.
The teens took white t-shirts and bandanas and stenciled and spray-painted each with a different letter or symbol on it — an L an O a V an E and a + sign, and an = sign.
“If you looked at it from the front (when the Teen Arts Council walked), it spelled out Love + Love = Love + Love = Love + Love, (etc),” says Anthony Madonna, the Patti Kenner Senior Associate for Learning and Public Engagement at Guild Hall who works directly with the Teen Arts Council.
“What’s cool is that when it stands on its own each shirt, it’s its own expression, but when you see it come together, you get to see all the colors and faces of our community,” says MAGO, who taught the students “about the use of art in activism, specifically in gay activism,” focusing on the work of his inspiration, Keith Haring.
“It’s very timely to create a show of support for our east end community, to make a beautiful, colorful parade,” says MAGO. “It’s important to feel safe in our place of work, community and in our families — the more that we build visibility here, the more love and respect we can have and learn from each other.”
Hamptons Pride President Tom House
As the parade wound its way from Main Street to Herrick Park’s baseball field, the Teen Arts Council gathered with the crowd in the field where D.J. Karin Ward was playing, knowing one of its members, Kym Bermeo, had prepared a speech for the occasion.
After Hamptons Pride founder and parade organizer Tom House, a resident of East Hampton and an English teacher at Bridgehampton High School, thanked several supporters and Mayor Larsen and East Hampton for being “the first village in the history of the East End to close their main streets for a pride parade,” he also spoke candidly about some of the silence he experienced after extending invitations to a number of local schools to participate.
“Some of the schools I went to, the kids were petrified (saying), ‘We can’t be in a parade, I’m not out to my parents — or what if the kids humiliate me and bully me when I come back to school?’” said House. After thanking the East Hampton Police and chief Mike Tracey “who made it safe for us to walk down the street,” House made a call to action.
“Find one kid — it doesn’t have to be LGBTQ+ or allies, it can be any child who is different, who has had a hard time — and help them, allow them to walk proudly down Main Street, down Newtown Lane … into this park and to be proud with no fear of being hurt or humiliated or embarrassed or hit physically,” emphasized House.
House then introduced Mayor Larsen who exclaimed, “This is incredible, unbelievable,” adding that the parade was “bigger and better than I had ever imagined.”
“How do you like the first annual pride parade in East Hampton Village?” asked the Mayor to cheers and applause. When Larsen reiterated the word “annual” the field turned into a veritable field of dreams as he confirmed that (next year’s) parade “will be held on the first Saturday of June 2023.” More applause, more cheering.
Hamptons Pride Grand Marshals
Grand Marshals, Canio’s Books owner Kathryn Szoka and Stony Brook Southampton Hospital CEO Bob Chaloner, both made impactful comments.
“It was a short ride but an awfully long time to get here,” remarked, Szoka, reflecting that the parade “started last year with four people and turned into a thousand.”
Chaloner echoed the importance of supporting LGBTQ+ youth, sharing that he was once “one of those small kids in a small town in upstate New York terrified of the world knowing that I was gay.” He closed with, “I hope we can all learn to appreciate each other’s differences and let every young person truly be themselves and grow up to be the miracles that they should be.”
Pride: Love + Love = Love
Then it was Teen Arts Council member Kim Bermeo’s turn. As she faced the colorful crowd surrounded by supportive family and friends, the high school senior spoke eloquently and emotionally, summing up what the day meant for so many.
“This is a time to celebrate our progress,” said Bermeo. “Your acceptance and continued support will surely enable a space for young people and others to fully embrace their identity and unapologetically be themselves. Your presence alone is a step to creating a community of love … because we are love. And Love + Love will forever, always equal Love.”
Visit hamptonspride.org to help support the mission set forth by Hamptons Pride.