Students in Wayne will hold LGBTQ Pride Festival on Father’s Day

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Pride Flag waving on a pole in front of a clear blue sky
Pride Flag

Festival will celebrate families and call out intolerance

The student-run organization Wayne for Change said it will hold a Pride Festival outside Wayne Town Hall on Father’s Day, June 19, from noon to 4 pm. Organizers say the event as a response to the anti-LGBTQ sentiment present at Wayne of Board Education meetings.

The choice of Father’s Day was deliberate says organizers. “All families look different, and some want to celebrate Pride together,” explains Akira Kluck (they/them), 20, a Wayne Valley graduate, a junior at Rutgers University, and an organizer of this year’s event. “My father will be joining me.”

Recording artist and SNL performer Robert Bannon, who dedicated his lead single “I Think That He Knew” to his father, will perform alongside his dad. Bannon will be joined by the band Clown, Baby and other local entertainment.

“So many Wayne families have parents, children, family members, neighbors, and friends who are LGBTQ,” said Lavleen Madahar, a Wayne Valley senior.” Madahar will attend Brown University in the fall.

Wayne for Change encourages attendees to bring food donations for the Wayne Interfaith Network’s food pantry, as well as book donations for Books Behind Bars NJ, a nonprofit that provides free books to people incarcerated in New Jersey prisons.

“Pride was born out of protest, but it was also born out of community. Pride without helping society feels like an empty party,” said Kluck. “We want to give back, and we are doing that through two excellent organizations. Locally, we are supporting the Wayne Interfaith Network, which provides so much aid to our community. We are also supporting Books Behind Bars NJ. There is a long and active history of queer people being criminalized, and we would like to support the most at-risk members of society.” 

Organizers are responding to the anti-LGBTQ sentiment by some people at recent Wayne of Board Education meetings. During the June 2 meeting, Trustees Harry Prassakos and Iveta Wentink, who had previously trafficked in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, voted for a resolution to reject the New Jersey-mandated LGBTQ-inclusive health and fitness curriculum — despite being told during the meeting that the Wayne school district would break the law and risk losing public school funding.

“Stigmatizing Wayne students for being LGBTQ harms our community,” said Madahar. “We must all consider the effect of those actions on students’ well-being, on our school district’s credibility, and on our town’s reputation.” 

“LGBTQ history is a cycle of really fast progress, followed by dangerous backsliding,” said Kluck. “There’s an attempt to backslide again, but we are blessed by hindsight. We will not go back.”

“This event is a very clear statement that there are LGBTQ people in Wayne. We’re here, we’re queer, and will not be shamed back into a closet we never signed up for,” they added.