WORCESTER, Mass. - As Pride Worcester prepares for a two-week celebration of the local LGBTQ community in September, organizers have already been taking steps to make their voices heard in city government and beyond.

What You Need To Know

  • Pride Worcester begins on Aug. 31 with a ceremonial flag raising

  • The festivities will then run from Sept. 1 through Sept. 15

  • Last month, Pride Worcester hosted a political candidate forum for city council and school board candidates

  • In the face of national uncertainty on LGBTQ rights, Pride Worcester wants to ensure the city is a safe space for all

Lamar Brown-Noguera, a contributor to AIDS Project Worcester and a sexual health advocate and educator, moderated a political forum for Pride Worcester last month.

During a sit-down interview with Spectrum News 1, Brown-Noguera explained their passion for ensuring Worcester is a safe space for all. Often referring to themselves as an "adopted Worcester resident," Brown-Noguera recalled seeing the Pride flag on display off of Interstate 290 upon their arrival, seeing a city that could be a beacon of hope for many.

“I’m very protective of what Worcester should mean and should stand for,” Brown-Noguera said. “I think it is definitely our responsibility to call on local politicians, local government to be able to create that safe space in Worcester.”

At a time when many feel LGBTQ rights are at risk under a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, Pride Worcester organizers like Brown-Noguera and Katherine Aguiler want to ensure Worcester’s leaders don’t turn a blind eye to issues like LGBTQ youth being bullied in schools.

“It’s really difficult as adults in the community to just go about and act like it’s not happening,” Aguiler said. “Being able to have these conversations and holding these people accountable, you know? We’re tired of the same old thoughts and prayers, we’re tired of the same old ‘Oh, we’ll get to it soon, let’s push it to another meeting.'”

Aguiler, who emigrated to the U.S. and has lived in Worcester most of her life, served as a coordinator for the Pride Worcester Political Forum.

For the city council and school board candidates who attended, it was an opportunity to face questions from the local LGBTQ community head-on. As moderator, Brown-Noguera passed along any questions people had for the candidates.

“Power is derived from respect, and respect is derived from accountability,” Brown-Noguera said. “So that’s just it, we’re holding you accountable. You’re a representative for all people living within this city and it’s part of our role, whether we’re de-facto leaders or chosen leaders, to create these conversations.”

Beginning with a ceremonial Pride flag raising on Aug. 31, organizers want this year’s Pride Worcester celebration to be a show of solidarity, and an opportunity to prove their voices won’t be silenced.

“We’re one Worcester, we’re one queer community, we identify differently and we respect all boundaries within our community, but at the end of the day, what we are up against is a single force that’s coming towards us and that’s why we have to unite and push back against that,” Brown-Noguera said.

For a full list of events during Pride Worcester, visit the official website. In addition to the flag raising, other events include a kick-off block party, a queer youth prom and a festival on Sept. 9.