In June each year, we celebrate LGBTQ+ community pride.
We celebrate those who came before us. We celebrate the progress we’ve made. We celebrate our individuality, and we celebrate as a community.
So in many ways, Pride is a celebration of our diversity — the strength of our diversity, and the power of our unity.
The 2019 class of the Ohio Democratic Party’s Main Street Initiative is one of its most diverse yet, with three members of the LGBTQ+ community looking to make history this fall.
Jeremy Blake for mayor of Newark, Marlena Brookfield for Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education and Connor Thompson for Mifflin Village Council are exciting, young LGBTQ+ candidates who want to put people first and do all they can to help their communities.
They are all part of the Ohio Democratic Party Main Street Initiative, which is dedicated to winning local races across the state. These races around Ohio for city council, school board and mayor in 2019 will set the table for long-term success and victory in 2020.
The program has record-breaking participation this year, and for Pride Month we’re highlighting these talented LGBTQ+ candidates:
Jeremy Blake’s family has been in Newark for generations, and he’s been involved in community service since high school serving with neighborhood associations and community organizations, he said in a recent interview.
Blake first ran for City Council when he was 21 years old and lost by 50 votes, but the following year he was elected to the Newark school board, where he served for more than five years.
After finishing college, Blake ran again for City Council and won. He is now in his second term.
“It’s always been important to me to give back to the community. It’s just really instilled in me that we need to give back to people and help people where we can.”
Blake said that the issues he’s discussing with voters are very personal — folks with friends and family dealing with drug addiction, folks working multiple jobs and struggling to make ends meet, and a visible increase in homelessness in Newark.
“People are looking for solutions, looking for a plan how to help folks,” he said.
Blake said that staffing levels for police and firefighters have been stagnant since the ’90s, so in addition to increasing staffing he’d also like to work for better community relations as well.
Street paving is also a major concern for many residents, he said, and Blake has a plan to have a public schedule for paving to address those concerns.
What does Pride mean to Blake?
“Pride is a celebration of our community, of the LGBTQ+ community coming out and being who we are in a very public way and celebrating that,” he said. “I think that gives hope to many teenagers and younger adults that we’re out there: we’re celebrating, we’re giving hope, we’re being who we are, we’re accepting of others. The world is changing, and there needs to be a piece of it for everybody.”
People deserve the freedom to be who they are without fear of stigma or discrimination, he said.
“We just need to be who we are and love one another,” Blake said.
Marlena Brookfield is a full-time volunteer and public education activist running for the Cincinnati Public Schools’ Board of Education. She said in a recent interview she is committed to improving the educational outcomes for all students in the district.
Brookfield is a graduate of Western Hills High School and parent of a student at Dater High School. A native of Cincinnati, Brookfield said her first-hand insight into Cincinnati Public Schools makes her an ideal advocate for all our children.
Brookfield said she was inspired to run after the 2016 election and said she decided to run for school board because of the critical importance of a good education.
“We make choices about who to vote for, or even to vote, based on what we know, and a lot of that comes from our formal education,” she said.
Brookfield said she is a product of Cincinnati Public Schools and her daughter is a current student. Public schools are supposed to be the great equalizer, she said, but there are forces that are trying to disrupt and dismantle public education as we know it.
“We need to make sure all our young people are prepared for the future — not just a career, or college, or enlistment, but because they’re going to go out and vote and help us out of these messes. I want to make sure they have a strong foundation.”
Brookfield said combating inequity in schools in one of her primary goals.
“It’s important to me to hear what voters want. It’s important that they know they’re being heard,” she said.
As someone who identifies as bisexual, Brookfield said, she is also interested in making sure that LGBTQ+ students are protected.
What does Pride mean to her?
“It means a lot to me to feel like who I love, or who I am as a person, that that matters. Pride is where we feel this sense of community that we’re all safe, and loved and we’re here for each other.”
At 18 years old and running unopposed for Mifflin Village Council, Connor Thompson is looking to become both the youngest and first openly LGBTQ+ council member of Mifflin in village history.
He said in a recent interview that he’s running in part because a lot of people look at young people as apathetic or indifferent.
“I want to change that. I want to show people that young people can get involved and young people can make a huge difference if we sit down and we get a seat at the table,” Thompson said.
Mifflin needs unity, Thompson said, and he’s hoping to be a fresh face in Village Hall who can bring people together.
Safety is a huge issue in the village, he said, with dangerous potholes and sewer issues. That’s the №1 issue he’s hearing from voters, he said.
“I want to help make the village a much cleaner and eco-friendly place because we have so much potential, but it’s being limited,” he said.
Finally, Thompson said he would like to build a park to act as a hub for the community for families to come together and have a sense of community.
“We need to have a safe place for our kiddos to be outside and not have to play in the streets or in alleyways anymore,” he said.
What does Pride mean to Thompson?
“Pride means being proud of who you are and what you’re doing, and having pride in your past and making changes to better yourself in the future,” he said. “Celebrating Pride is probably my favorite celebration because it celebrates people coming together and loving one another. We really do need a lot more love and kindness in our country. If we want stronger families and to become a better, stronger nation, we have to start by loving one another.”