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North Shore To Hold Inaugural Pride Celebration in Salem

by Dan Meyer
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Jun 20, 2012

Famous more for its fried clams and beautiful coast line than its LGBT visibility, the North Shore is finally opening up and holding its first-ever Pride celebration at the end of June in Salem. On June 30, more than 40 different organizations will march in a parade to advocate for LGBT equality, celebrate sexual identity and develop stronger relationships within the North Shore gay community.

"North Shore Pride is something I've been thinking about for decades," said the group's founder and honorary President, Hope Watt-Bucci, who grew up on the North Shore during the '60s and '70s. "It was a really difficult time for me, personally, not feeling safe enough or comfortable enough" while growing up.

"Unity in our community" is the tagline that North Shore Pride, Inc. created for the event. The organization is responsible for the planning and executing of Pride, and will work to educate residents through advocacy for LGBT persons living in the area, according to Watt-Bucci.

While Salem is quickly becoming a hub for the LGBT community on the North Shore, plenty of other neighboring towns remain ignorant and oblivious to the plight. That's exactly the reason Ms. Watt-Bucci decided to start a Pride celebration in the area.

After becoming an adult, Watt-Bucci, who identifies herself as a lesbian, decided to start working with advocacy groups to educate the public about the GLBT community.

More recently, she decided she needed to do something more, given the many bullying and assault incidents that have occurred over recent years -- events like the suicide of 37-year-old Justin Goodwin.

Many argue that Goodwin chose to end his life two years after a violent incident outside a bar in Gloucester, MA (part of the North Shore) left him with a broken jaw, cheekbone and eye-socket, according to the "Daily Item," published in Lynn. Two men involved with the event have already pleaded guilty to assaulting Goodwin and served time in prison.

Watt-Bucci also hopes to prevent incidents like the one where "a couple of men who were physically assaulted for holding hands in Newburyport."

Even the founder herself has found herself the victim of verbal abuse. "To give an example, coming out of my garage, young girls playing on the street, and they yelled 'faggot' to me. You know, I grew up in this neighborhood and they were too young to know the difference, but it had to come from somewhere."

Festivities start on June 30 at 10 a.m. with an interfaith church service on the Common.

The parade starts at noon in front of the US Post Office on Margin Street. Immediately, revelers will turn right onto New Derby Street and continue forward to Hawthorne Boulevard then proceed up to Salem Common in Washington Square.

"We want to make sure that we get the message that we are reaching out to those people in Rowley and North Reading and places where there’s not a lot of programming for LGBT persons," said North Shore Pride President Hope Watt-Bucci.

Following the parade, guests can continue celebrating in the Common at the Pride Festival. Several entertainers will perform on the stage from 1-5 p.m. and approximately 40 vendors will set up around the common selling and offering merchandise and food.

The Hawthorne Hotel, located right next to the Salem Commons, is the location for the official North Shore Pride after-party, which begins at 5:30 pm. A cash bar for attendees 21 and older will be available, but all ages are welcome. Entry to the party is free, a welcome respite from the $20 cover that clubs charge during Boston Pride week events.

And while cities have always done an amazing job of putting on Pride events, it's difficult to find similar events targeted at suburban areas.

"I think it's great," said Sara Bennett, a resident of Beverly and graduate of Beverly High School in 2006. "I knew a few gay people in high school and the idea that they get to celebrate near their hometown rather than the big crowds of the city is really exciting for everyone." While straight, Ms. Bennett identifies herself as an ally for the LGBT community.

In December, Watt-Bucci asked the mayor of Salem, Kimberly Driscoll, to allow North Shore Pride to happen. Now, with the event only two weekends away, hundreds of people have signed up to march. Included organizations are Fenway Health and the Human Rights Campaign along with local advocates like high school marching bands and a motorcycle group. In addition, the mayor along with other North Shore city and town leaders will participate in the parade.

The grand marshal of the parade will be local reporter, Randy Price, who is most famous for his anchorman work on WHDH. He currently works as a reporter for WCVB. Openly gay sports writer Stephen Buckley from the Boston Herald will be in attendance.

Another group that may celebrate Pride is Dr. Brian Chuang and Dr. Bruce Stewart, who just happen to be getting married in Beverly on the same day.

"It's very important to bring the GLBT visibility to North Shore," said Chuang regarding Pride. "It's just that we happen to be getting married on the same day! We still might make parade-watching part of the wedding festivities. Hopefully we can fit it all in."

One of the more interesting aspects of North Shore Pride is the idea of a host city. This year, Salem is the location for the event, but Watt-Bucci and the rest of the organization plan to host it elsewhere next year.

"We want to make sure that we get the message that we are reaching out to those people in Rowley and North Reading and places where there's not a lot of programming for LGBT persons," said Watt-Bucci. "This is truly your pride, it just happens to take place in Salem" she said to everyone in the North Shore LGBT community.

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Dan Meyer is a young professional whose stories have appeared in publications such as The Advocate online and UCLA’s LGBT magazine entitled "OutWrite." He is also a part-time ESL teacher in Boston.


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