Colorful Celebration: City Dedicates Rainbow Crosswalks To Boystown Neighborhood

Lisa Fielding
May 30, 2019 - 2:12 pm
Categories: 

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Fourteen rainbow and colored crosswalks will soon greet locals and visitors in the Boystown neighborhood.

"The rainbow crosswalk project signifies that the city remains steadfast in protecting who we are," said Ramesh Ariyanayakam, President, North Halsted Business Alliance. 

The new crosswalks that run north and south throughout the Boystown neighborhood, represent LGBTQ and transgender pride.

The city of Chicago dedicated 14 rainbow and colored crosswalks in the Boystown neighborhood on Thursday.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"As we step onto the crosswalks, we have to remember our history and how hard it was as we walk forward to a brighter future," said Stu Zirin, Vice President, North Halstead Business Alliance.

"The crosswalks signify the impact that the geographic history held in our coming out process that shouldn't be forgotten."

Thirteen of the crosswalks will use the colors of the rainbow, while the completed crosswalk at Melrose and Halsted has the pink, white and blue colors of the transgender flag.

Transgender Flag Crosswalk
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"Who would have thought back in the 1980's that in 2019 that we would be celebrating the LGBT community and putting in these rainbow crosswalks," recalled Alderman James Cappleman, 46th Ward.

"This was also time during the AIDS crisis and many of us were devastating when our friends were dying. We weren't allowed to have Catholic Mass in church. A lot of times, we had to have funeral gatherings, a lot of times they were in the bars because it was the only place we were allowed to have them. This was a time that was devastating, but we learned very quickly that we had to unite together to address this. There's a saying 'silence equals death.' This is what caused me to come out," Cappelman said. "It's a history that shows that we had to fight really hard. This was a place we came, it was the only place I knew of where I could be safe."

The city of Chicago dedicated 14 rainbow and colored crosswalks in the Boystown neighborhood on Thursday.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Alderman Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward, said the new crosswalks are more than just street art.

"For those who is not familiar, I am the first openly gay, elected Latino alderman in the city of Chicago's South Side," Lopez said.

"This is our heritage, our gay heritage in the city of Chicago. Years ago, you needed an essential place to be to be safe, to be welcomed and to be loved. I'm glad to see that as we are becoming more inclusive of gays and lesbians and transgender and everyone else that falls under that rainbow in our city, we can't lose the history of who was there to defend us, to protect us and be there with us."

The city of Chicago dedicated 14 rainbow and colored crosswalks in the Boystown neighborhood on Thursday.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"They whole idea of being out and proud was an anathema back 30, 40 years ago," recalled Alderman Tom Tunney, 44th Ward. "None of the bars here were open to the street because they were places where you would hide, you didn't want to be seen coming in or going out of it. We've come so far. We need to keep this street alive."

All the crosswalks will be finished in time for Pride Fest June 22 and 23 and the parade on June 30. Chicago's Pride Parade will celebrate its 50th year this summer.

The $60,000 cost is being funded entirely through the Alliance, through donations at neighborhood festivals.

Boystown already has 20 rainbow pylons along Halsted to celebrate the neighborhood’s history.