On Monday, Oct. 23, the City of Ferndale became one of the first government municipalities in the country to officially and permanently install the LGBT Pride flag in City Council chambers.
The historic move, led by Mayor Dave Coulter and City Council, was meant to send a strong message about Ferndale’s inclusiveness and “good neighbor” policy.
“Our motto in Ferndale is ‘Good Neighbors,’ and we interpret that to include the diversity of our residents and guests and the benefits of inclusive decision-making,” said Mayor Dave Coulter. “My fellow Council members and I strive to act in ways reflective of Ferndale’s shared values.”
The event was marked with a short celebration honoring several key Ferndale LGBT community leaders, past, and present. The mayor welcomed Jan Stephenson, the first Affirmations Executive Director; Susan Erspamer, current Affirmations Executive Director; Michael Lary, coordinator of Pride Fest (which later became Motor City Pride); Julia Music, creator of Ferndale’s current Ferndale Pride event; Ann Heler, founder of FANS (Friends and Neighbors) of Ferndale and current Board President of both FernCare and the Ferndale Housing Commission; City Councilman Greg Pawlica, who—along with Music, Craig Covey, and Monica Mills—helped to create Ferndale Pride; and Stephanie White, Executive Director of Michigan Equality.
“Progress comes sometimes in small steps, and other times in leaps and bounds,” White said. “Some might say a flag is a small step, and maybe it is, but to have an official governing body display this flag and recognize its meaning is incredibly powerful, and says so much about Ferndale’s values.”
Coulter said that much of Ferndale’s success is owed to the City’s LGBT leaders, past, present, and future.
“A critical part of Ferndale’s revitalization, and its continued success going forward, is owed to these pioneers and the lessons they taught in embracing of the equality of all races, ages, identities, nationalities and orientations in our city,” Coulter said.
Following brief remarks, Coulter invited Ferndale High School student Madeline LeBlanc to carry in and officially place the City’s new flag. The LGBT Pride “rainbow” flag will now hang in Ferndale City Hall Council Chambers alongside flags of the United States, the State of Michigan, Oakland County, the City of Ferndale and POW-MIAs.
“I hope our residents will see this as an opportunity to once again embrace the differences in all our ‘good neighbors’,” Coulter said. “In doing so, I believe we will see that the flag represents more than LGBT rights. The rainbow of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple—representing life, healing, sunlight, nature, art, and spirit—stand as vibrant symbols of hope for the entire community. As mayor, I can think of no better symbol of the power of unity and what our town stands for than the values symbolized in this flag.”