Businesses in downtown Perkasie recently decorated their stores and shops with rainbow flags in preparation for the exciting events taking place during Pride Month. Who doesn’t like rainbows? Turned upside down they look like big smiles.
For the second year in a row, the Perkasie Pride Committee, the Perkasie Improvement Project, along with the cooperation and assistance of Perkasie Borough, have coordinated an assortment of events including tomorrow’s June 25th Family Pride Festival that promises live music, shopping, good food and terrific company. The celebration will culminate with an evening of Drag Bingo being hosted at the Perkasie Mennonite church.
In one year’s time, the Perkasie Pride event has grown tremendously in both size and participants. Tickets for Drag Bingo sold out. For a while, those festive rainbow flags were seemingly waving to people in anticipation of Saturday’s festivities… until they were stolen.
Priscilla Gray-Stoll, co-owner of Chimayo Gallery and Gift Shop and a member of the Perkasie Pride Committee, posted her disappointment on FaceBook with a message to those who potentially found delight in taking property that doesn’t belong to them:
“There’s a small group of people in town who are stealing our tiny rainbow flags. I believe they think that by removing our flags from garden club planters & our own business’s personal planters/gardens, that they will erase the LGBTQ community from Perkasie!”
“Well, my dear folks, you will not erase us. We are your neighbors and we are hard-working people, just like you. We have been here all along. We may even be your children, cousins, grandparents or friends” she said.
Throughout history we’ve evidenced what happens when a group of people, because of the color of their skin, their sex, or how and when they choose to worship, causes them to become a target of ignorance that manifests itself as hate. It’s ugly and not exclusive to Perkasie; it’s infected the Pennridge School District and communities throughout Bucks County.
Gray-Stoll, a former and now retired educator, relocated to Perkasie and opened the gallery with her partner approximately nine years ago. She said the business is more than a store – that it’s a place to create community and a safe space for anyone seeking solace.
In stark contrast, a right-to-know request to Perkasie Borough revealed recent correspondence from Kim Bedillion, President of the Pennridge Area Republican Club, who apparently believes she has her finger on the pulse of the community, or at least the anti-LGBTQ right-wing part of the community.
“Last year Pride flags were given to businesses to display, which put businesses in an awkward position. Display the flag and potentially alienate a portion of customers or don’t display the flag and potentially alienate another portion of customers. Having to take a stand on this hot button issue is an added level of stress and pressure that our business owners do not need” Bedillion wrote.
While it’s not clear as to what inspired Bedillion – who makes assumptions by using the word “potentially” along with referencing the Pride event as a “hot button issue” – to draft this communication, a reasonable guess might be a combination of witlessness coupled with the overconfidence that frequently accompanies self-entitlement.
And Bedillion didn’t stop there. She also attacked children’s books available at last year’s event, including the book “Worm Loves Worm,” which teaches children about love and acceptance.
Who’s to say whether or not those who stole the Pride flags weren’t influenced by Bedillion’s sentiment?
Skin color, sex and religion aren’t contagious but hate is. Instead of enhancing the world, hate has a way of poisoning it.
Tomorrow, Perkasie will joyfully celebrate diversity and inclusivity. As Gray-Stoll wrote on her FaceBook page:
“If you like us, join us at our events! If you don’t like us, kindly go on a picnic with your family, read your children a book, or go swimming instead. Please do something else and stop hurting other people.”
That’s not a big ask.