Hazel Park to raise Pride Flag at City Hall

Native author to present at library following ceremony June 1

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published May 17, 2019

 Mike McFall, vice chair of the Hazel Park Downtown Development Authority, and Hazel Park native and author Frank Anthony Polito stand with the Pride Flag at Hazel Park City Hall May 15. The flag will be raised there at a June 1 ceremony. Immediately following the flag raising, Polito will discuss his books at the library next door. His trilogy of novels feature themes relating to LGBTQ pride.

Mike McFall, vice chair of the Hazel Park Downtown Development Authority, and Hazel Park native and author Frank Anthony Polito stand with the Pride Flag at Hazel Park City Hall May 15. The flag will be raised there at a June 1 ceremony. Immediately following the flag raising, Polito will discuss his books at the library next door. His trilogy of novels feature themes relating to LGBTQ pride.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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HAZEL PARK — June is officially recognized as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the city of Hazel Park — and to put a rainbow-striped exclamation point on the fact, the Pride Flag will once again be raised and flown over the war memorial at Hazel Park City Hall.

The flag-raising ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. June 1 at the Salute to Heroes statue in front of Hazel Park City Hall, 111 E. Nine Mile Road. State Sen. Jeremy Moss and state Rep. Robert Wittenberg plan to be in attendance, along with the Hazel Park City Council. The event is being hosted by downtown Hazel Park in order to promote diversity, tolerance and acceptance.

Immediately after the flag-raising ceremony, Hazel Park native and writer Frank Anthony Polito, author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning novel “Drama Queers!” will present at the Hazel Park District Library, located next door to City Hall at 123 E. Nine Mile Road.

“Hazel Park has a sizable and growing LGBTQ+ community, and this will be our second year celebrating Pride Month,” said Mike McFall, vice chair of the city’s Downtown Development Authority, noting that the City Council once again plans to pass a resolution recognizing June as Pride Month.

“Hazel Park is known as ‘The Friendly City,’ and the community’s response has really reinforced this message,” he said.  

McFall noted that the flag will remain in place at least for the month of June. In 2018, it flew over City Hall for much of the summer.

“I wouldn’t want to leave it up year-round, because I think the annual flag-raising ceremony is a good way to remind and promote the message of diversity and inclusivity in our community,” he said.

“Personally, the flag has great meaning,” McFall continued. “When I enter a community and see the rainbow flag, I know I am in a place that is welcoming to all. A place where my husband and I can be who we are without issue. But it’s also a reminder that there is much to be done. While the LGBTQ+ community has made great strides, there is still work to be done. That’s why public events like this are so important. It’s a time where friends and neighbors can come together and show support for one another.”

For his presentation at the library after the flag-raising ceremony, Polito said he plans to read a short sample from his trilogy of novels, which includes “Band Fags!” (2008), “Drama Queers!” (2009) and “The Spirit of Detroit” (2013). The stories focus on a cast of characters who attended Hazel Park High during the mid-to-late ’80s — characters inspired by Polito himself, as well as his closest friends, many of whom he stays in touch with to this day.

“The message in all of my books is to take pride in who you are, as an LGBTQ person, and to be proud of where you come from,” Polito said. “Hazel Park has often gotten a bad rap over the last few decades. It’s nice to see things are turning around — and this Pride event is just one of many great things happening in 21st-century Hazel Park.

“Growing up as a young gay person in Hazel Park during the 1980s, I never dreamed that 35 years later I would see a rainbow flag flying high over City Hall, let alone a declaration of June as Pride Month,” Polito said. “To know that my partner of almost 30 years and I, and others in our community, are welcome in Hazel Park makes me even more proud of the city that I call my hometown.”

McFall said it’s important to remember that the small town of Hazel Park made national headlines when residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse challenged the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage — a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and changed history by legalizing same-sex marriage across the entire country.

“Their historic court case helped make it legal for not only my husband and I to get married, but countless others nationwide,” he said.

Polito said he encourages everyone to attend — “both LGBTQ folks, along with their allies” — since there is “strength in numbers.”

“The more people who are seen supporting LGBTQ rights, the more others who may be against them will start to change their own negative attitudes and views,” Polito said. “We are all the same. We want the same things in life: to be happy and to be able to proudly love the person who we choose to love.”

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