Featured, Local News

Coalition rises in support of LGBTQ+, BIPOC communities 

‘All are welcome here,’ says new Rutland campaign

Building off a desire to make the greater Rutland community hospitable to everyone, including the LGBTQ+ community, a new coalition and campaign is heralding the message that “All are welcome here.”

Initiated by Rutland native Avery Provin, the effort includes members of the local LGBTQ+ community members, Downtown Rutland Partnership, I Love Rutland, Social Tinkering, and others.

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The “I Love Rutland, VT” logo incorporates the Progress Pride Flag in the heart on this bumper sticker.

In early 2020 with the onset of the pandemic, Provin left his college campus and returned to Rutland to complete his final year, where feelings of belonging and displacement emerged. While reacclimating to Rutland, he began to think about systemic issues of inclusion and discrimination, and how to encourage youth to stay in or return to Rutland.

“Our community can do more to fully embrace diversity, which will help Rutland usher in and retain a more inclusive future generation that will lead to a more successful overall community,” Provin said.

Avery had been back in Rutland a month when June and Pride Month 2020 came along, and he saw few signs of LGBTQ+ Pride. “I realized I needed to make the most of my time and talents to create positive change for those going through what I went through as a youth,” Provin said. “LGBTQ+ youth face many challenges, especially in rural areas, and that serves as extra motivation for queer youth and diverse populations to leave rural communities. Lack of visibility hinders self-acceptance, so when LGBTQ+ people are seen by society, they are better understood, creating a critical shift in social consciousness and acceptance of all people.”

Provin began reaching out to others in the community, including organizers of the I Love Rutland campaign, Downtown Rutland Partnership, Queer Connect Rutland, and Social Tinkering’s Jeanette Langston. In addition, Project Vision has recently joined the effort to help champion this project. These conversations have led to a broad new collaboration and campaign to trumpet diversity, equality, and inclusion and to celebrate Pride Month in June.

The new campaign is built off the I Love Rutland logo, incorporating the Progress Pride Flag into the heart, which will be printed on bumper stickers, downtown banners and yard signs. 

“Rutland is a wonderful community that we love tremendously, and that love extends to everyone,” I Love Rutland co-creator Steve Costello said. “As we as a nation and community continue to confront sexism, racism and hate and support diversity, equity, inclusion, and love, we want to ensure that we make it clear that we embrace everyone.”

Although the collaboration is a fledgling project, it has already brought marginalized people and allies together across Rutland County. 

“As a lifelong Rutlander, I am proud of the hard work that is being done to combat racism and want to ensure that work extends to support our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors as well,” said Awesome Graphics owner Tami Napolitano.

“Together, we hope to truly solidify that ‘all are welcome here,’ and to especially show our youth they are seen, heard, and they belong here,” Langston said.

Rutland’s new organization, Social Tinkering, and the Downtown Rutland Partnership are coordinating logistics on the project. Fundraising for the project has begun via GoFundMe at gofund.me/4ab87389. For more info, contact Jeanette Langston at [email protected] or 802-342-5811.

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