BUCKSPORT — “I’ve been yelled at,” said David Weeda. “I’ve been beaten up. I’ve had horrible situations of death threats on the phone.”
Weeda, a gay man who has spent much of his life working as an activist, particularly with the gay rights movement, starting in Kansas City, Mo., back in the 1980s, is one of the organizers of Bucksport’s first Pride celebration, happening on the Bucksport waterfront Saturday.
Ellsworth Pride also is hosting a Pride event over the weekend, scheduled from 1-5 p.m. Sunday at Knowlton Park in Ellsworth.
Weeda said he has been harassed in Bucksport because of his orientation.
Both Weeda and another organizer, Derek Cole of Bucksport, a straight father of two, have been regularly standing on the corner of Main Street with a Black Lives Matter group for the past year.
“On Thursday the 8th, Derek couldn’t join me in the beginning, so I was there alone,” Weeda said. “I put the American flag up. I put the rainbow flag up. A car comes down Main Street and slows way down. He yells, ‘Take that goddamn flag down.’” “It rattled me,” Weeda said. But the confrontation wasn’t over. The man parked behind Weeda’s vehicle, yelled some more, shot video with his phone and finally went to complain at the police station about a rainbow flag being flown on public property. Weeda also called the station to let officers know what was going on. Police explained to the man who was upset about the rainbow flag that Weeda had a right to fly it.
“The cop said he was confident this guy understood it was OK,” Weeda said. “The same guy came the second day.”
“You just feel like the work you’re doing has an impact, but you’re continually going five steps forward and 10 steps back,” he added.
“It’s apparent that no matter where you live, there’s always work to be done in a community,” Cole said.
But first, Saturday’s Pride celebration is a chance for everyone to have a good time.
The all-ages event, which starts at 4 p.m., will have free pizza, drinks, ice cream and entertainment, including a DJ and a band.
“DJ Chipmunk (aka Nicolas Delli Paoli) will be playing tunes and emceeing from 4 to 7 p.m., including an open mic hour beginning at 6, with headliners Gus La Casse and Mathias Kamin playing fiddle, guitar and banjo beginning at 7.
“All this aside, we’re just trying to have some fun,” said Cole. “It’s summer in Maine. COVID may or may not be over. Let’s have a party while we still can.”
Cole said, “Every town should stand up and say, ‘We love and support you.’ I want to make sure my two kids, when they leave our house, are comfortable loving whoever they want to love or not loving anyone. I want them to be accepted for whoever they end up being. To make sure my kids don’t have to put up with anything.”
The funds raised from Saturday’s event will be donated to the gay/straight alliance clubs at Bucksport High School and The Reach School.
“Throughout my life, whenever you make a public address, you always end with a speech that you’re doing this work for the next generation,” Weeda said.
The activist cited an organization called the Trevor Project, which states that the suicide rate among LGBTQ+ teenagers is three times the rate of their peers.
“The last thing I want to hear is another story about the Penobscot Narrows Bridge,” said Cole. “I don’t want that for anybody’s kids.”
The pair are also planning a film festival in October at the Alamo Theatre.
Weeda worked for several years in the late ’80s and early ’90s in Kansas City getting legislation passed to prevent discrimination against people who were HIV-positive as well as getting a gay rights law passed.
That work was the focus of a 2018 documentary called “The Ordinance Project,” which they hope to show at the film festival this fall.
Why do Pride events occur in June?
Weeda explained that it was in June of 1969 that the Stonewall Riots occurred. The riots, which occurred at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City between police and gay people, was the catalyst for the global gay rights movement.
Weeda quipped that the battle has moved beyond gay and lesbian rights to encompass “all the letters in the alphabet — LGBTQ+.”
A Bucksport mother is a member of the group.
“Bucksport Pride pledges to continue building a community with civility, compassion, and love, which welcomes, appreciates and supports the broad spectrum of diversity in our human family,” said Maggie Wentworth. “I grew-up in this town and now I’m raising my children here. I’m so glad that Bucksport is celebrating Pride; all of our citizens, particularly our youth, need to feel safe and welcome no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Health Equity Alliance in Bangor is serving as the fiscal sponsor for the event.