Morgan Grimm Jones recounts the events at County Hall for staff for the raising of the Pride Flag on 19 August 2022.
Inside, after signing in, we were encouraged upstairs where the Unison team had a marvellous spread of goodies, including cupcakes, rainbow pens and pencils and rubber bracelets. We mingled with tea, coffee and nibbles, there was such a large turn-out that the ‘Ballroom’ we were in was quite full, and it was wonderful to see people introducing themselves from all over Hertfordshire, from all our different services.
When the time to raise the Flag came we were ushered back outside, and without the aid of technology (never works when we need it to) we heard from the Chair of the Council Annie Brewster, who had donned a most fabulous shocking pink hat for the occasion.
She spoke about pride in Hertfordshire, how this has been our 3rd Flag Raising at County Hall. The big ‘C’ (Covid) was mentioned, how it has affected us, how the LGBT+ community have had more struggles than most during these last few years of isolation and uncertainty, but we carry on.
Staff who have contributed their stories as to why they’re Proud were thanked, with special mentions to Katy Anker and Hoddesdon Library’s own Ian Chivers, who has recently been featured on Facebook; “Always remember who you are and where you come from. Like and respect yourself, because if you don’t have respect for yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to.” Councillor Brewster agreed with Ian’s words and built on them, we need to love ourselves.
“Belonging is crucial to life satisfaction and we want to encourage that feeling in Hertfordshire” Cllr Brewster continued, “You don’t have to show pride to have pride.”
Hertfordshire Pride continued Saturday 20th with a Pride Festival at Cassiobury Park in Watford and to celebrate the theme of #LoveWins (which Cllr Annie Brewster emphasised with her ‘outrageous’ hat) County Hall will be lit in pink over the weekend.
As the Flag was raised there were cheers and tears. Hertfordshire has come so far in terms of LGBT+ equality and for some longer serving members of staff being able to openly celebrate their Pride with colleagues outside the County Hall is still momentous and emotional.
The presentation from Hertfordshire Archive and Library Service highlighted how far we’ve come, with the horrific legal start to LGBT+ woes in 1533, up until more recent times, with Section 28 and the long-awaited arrival of gay marriage. I think it left a few of us thinking about how slow the law has been to give the LGBT+ community the equality it deserves.
Our Head of Diversity and Inclusion Temi Fawehinmi spoke next. Her speech ‘Do we need more rights or another remedy?” was intriguing. As she spoke about her childhood and Nigerian heritage Temi points out that people dislike difference. Be it Nigerian tribes disliking each other or someone disliking someone for their gender or sexuality. She quotes Dr Martin Luther King, how people are sweltering in the heat of injustice, how they were in his time nearly 60 years ago and how they still are today.
She asked us to imagine being an oasis of freedom and equality in Hertfordshire, Temi says we do not need more rights, we need a new remedy. Love. Love changes more than laws ever could. We need to Look for Opportunities to Value and esteem Everyone. To love everyone.
Our morning was then brightened with a great introduction to ‘Who Not What’, a youth group who represent the voice of LGBT+ young people in Hertfordshire. We heard readings from their book ‘How to Be Me’, a selection of poems from LGBT+ young people written with the aims to improve awareness of diversity and the needs if LGBT+ young people.
To close the morning, technology once again foiled the plans of the organisers and we missed out on video-chat with someone from the Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, which sounded incredibly interesting. We heard briefly about the podcast https://www.thelogbooks.org/about which features logbooks from volunteers since the Switchboard opened in 1974, where they have been hearing about, and helping, queer people.
The morning ended, with all of us more informed than we had started off, about LGBT+ history and the community. It was excellent as a newer member of staff to be introduced to County Hall and Hertfordshire County Council with such a great workforce community, to see our different services from the Fire Department to the Services for Young People as well as seeing the Library service represent!