Around 40 members of the LGBTQ community and its allies gathered inside Hazel Park City Hall on Tuesday, May 22, to hear city council read into record a proclamation honoring Pride Month for 2018.
Mayor Pro Tem Amy Aubry read that Hazel Park, “supports the rights of every citizen to be free from discrimination,” and that, “We as a society at large are embracing new definitions of sexuality and gender, and also acknowledges the need for education and awareness to end discrimination and prejudice … The mayor and city council recognize and declare June 2018 as Pride Month in the city of Hazel Park, Michigan, and encourage our residents to reflect on the ongoing struggle for equality members of the LGBTQ community face and celebrate the contributions that enhance our city.”
During the campaign season, Aubry and councilmember Alissa Sullivan spoke with residents to tell them they believed better representation was needed of the diverse community in Hazel Park at all levels. Aubry said this included the recruiting of more women, younger people and the LGBTQ community to various boards and commissions.
The city has an openly gay man, Mike McFall, on the Hazel Parks Art Council. He is also a member of the Downtown Development Authority.
McFall, who rallied the community via social media to come out and support the reading of the proclamation, said, “This means a lot. This tells me this city is a welcoming place,” where he and his husband, Jake Cooper, moved to last summer. McFall pointed to April and Jayne Deboer-Rowse, the Hazel Park moms whose legal fight to jointly adopt their children led to marriage rights for all same-sex couples.
“The city has a large gay population. There is a lot of overflow from Ferndale and Royal Oak,” he said. “People have viewed Hazel Park a certain way for a long time and that way has changed. The city is welcoming and open for business.”
There is also a transgender woman, Char Davenport, on the city’s planning commission.
“… The entire time I’ve lived here in Hazel Park has been nothing short of welcoming. I take my hat off to each and every one of you for the work you do to make this city such a wonderful place to live in,” she said, adding that, “A proclamation like this should not be taken lightly. It clearly delivers a message to members of the community who happen to be LGBT and QIA that they are not invisible, that they don’t have to hide, that we see you, and that this is a huge thing — especially in the transgender community. And for our children, it tells them that you can succeed, you can be wonderful and a valuable part of the community.”
The proclamation is a first for Hazel Park, and Aubry, who is new to elected office and is only seven months into her position, was asked whether or not a non-discrimination ordinance can be expected on the books soon.
“There’s a lot to learn and I came in with a lot of ideas but I recognize our staff is still limited so I have to pace myself,” she said. “I would love to add a non-discrimination ordinance to the books. It’s been discussed and I think we’ll see that happen in some form eventually.”
Sullivan echoed Aubry’s sentiments.
“I think that for a very long time our city has been concerned with budgets and infrastructure, to the point of not being able to look around and see a need for other things that cities around us have and are embracing. We’ve been a city that has struggled, desperately, and, like Detroit, are experiencing a bit of a renaissance,” Sullivan said. “We’re at a point in our evolution that not only accepts change, but encourages it – and I’m so proud to be a part of this positive and progressive growth.”
She continued, “Our community has some great opportunities headed our way, thanks to the very hard work of the city management and staff, as well as myself and other currently elected officials, but also due to the hard work of city employees, citizens and elected officials before us. Hazel park has embraced its new residents and encouraged them to find their place, which many have by bringing new businesses, joining boards and commissions and volunteering with many of our local service organizations. The greatness in this is the melding of the old with the new. We don’t want to change Hazel Park, but we do want to continue to help it grow. We can do that best by recognizing and celebrating our future and all of the residents who make that possible.”
During Tuesday night’s special announcement, Hazel Park resident since 2000 and volunteer at Affirmations, Jeffrey Olivier, presented council with a rainbow flag, which will be on display at City Hall throughout the month of June.
“I have never felt unequal here in Hazel Park,” he said. “I’ve actually felt loved and met many people who I’ve considered my second family here in Hazel Park. There are some young people that may be watching tonight and I want them to know that as an openly gay man in Hazel Park and also as an LGBTQ person, you are safe here. You don’t have to be afraid to be who you are.”
“It was incredible to see and hear,” said Molly Tamsen, a Hazel Park resident for two and a half years. She lives in the city with her fiance, Theresa, and their 4-year-old daughter.
Tamsen continued, “I’ve never seen a crowd like this at a council meeting. This is awesome. I feel accepted here and I view this as a sign of safety.”
Stay connected with the city of Hazel Park city council online at facebook.com/CityofHP/.