South Orange, Maplewood and residents from all over New Jersey gathered in Maplewood’s Memorial Park today to say no to hate and yes to love.
With the horrific news of a mass shooting, the worst in U.S. history, at an Orlando LGBTQ nightclub, locals felt the importance of the annual North Jersey Pride Festival more than ever.
“We as a community here in New Jersey, we will never be silent when it comes to love. We will never be silent when it comes to our pride,” U.S. Senator Cory Booker fairly shouted to an electrified crowd under the hot sun.
“If you try to intimidate us, we will stand stronger,” Booker continued. “If you try to shut us up we will be louder. If you bring your hate, we will respond with love. Now more than ever, when people want to hit our core values, those ideals, those lights in our nation, when people try to shut us up, to take us down, when they try to beat our courage with their insinuations of fear, when they try to take down our love with their blackened hate, now more than ever we must continue indefatigably, unyieldingly, relentlessly press forward with our light, with our love, with our kindness, with the truth of who we are.”
(See video of Booker above.)
Festival-goer Mead Winters told NJ 101.5, “All we can do is come to their support and make sure they feel that we are with them on this.”
The event was quietly remarkable for its calmness and normalcy. Families gathered, children frolicked, the faith community showed up in force. Despite the recent violence and worry that it may have been generated by intolerance, festival-goers celebrated, ate, danced, mingled — and showed the love.
Click on photos to enlarge: