After a yearlong pandemic break, Medford Pride on Main (MPOM) is making a comeback.
“I really can’t wait anymore,” said Founder Justin Gibbs.
The nonprofit, which was founded in 2019, had just gotten its footing when COVID-19 forced Medford to shut down. At that point, MPOM stopped all its events, but Gibbs is working to bring LGBTQ+ pride back into the community by planning virtual programs.
“We really want our presence to always remain a very loud one in the community,” Gibbs explained. “No matter what, we’re always still going to be that one constant thing that the community can look to.”
The first event, a “Spring Into Drag” storytime, will take place on Zoom on April 3. The virtual program will feature drag queen Heavens 2 Betsy Stratton, who will read a children’s book aloud and perform song and dance numbers.
MPOM is also planning outdoor, in-person events for the spring and installing a pride garden in collaboration with Medford Arts Center. The group is determined to host a socially-distanced community event for Pride Month in June.
“Life is adapting to the new normal,” Gibbs noted. “Now we’re trying to find what we can do as far as events and fundraisers and still have pride.”
Fundraising has been difficult for the nonprofit, which typically makes most of its revenue through in-person events. During the pandemic, MPOM sold T-shirts online to stay afloat.
“A lot of nonprofits are struggling right now,” Gibbs explained. “They’re now trying to navigate their way of keeping things going and alive.”
When Gibbs moved to Medford as a teenager, he didn’t feel as though it was a place he could settle down comfortably.
“As a gay man living here, I never felt 100 percent welcome or like this was like a place where I could stay and maybe start a family,” he said.
As an adult, he visited New Hope, Pa., an area known for its acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Gibbs saw a connection between New Hope’s bustling Main Street and Medford’s old school charm.
“There’s no reason why Medford can’t have the same thing,” he remarked. “We have a beautiful Main Street. We have tons of history. There’s no reason we cannot recreate that in the town that we have.”
In 2019, he started MPOM’s Facebook group, a platform that connected him with Medford’s LGBTQ+ population and allies, most of whom he never knew existed.
“There’s a whole world of people that are living here, that you would never know, but it opened that door to the possibilities,” he said. “So many people here in the town actually do support the LGBTQ community.”
Gibbs said he will continue to push to make MPOM’s mission a household name in hopes that it will make Medford a more welcoming place.
“Just think of how many LGBTQ kids live in a community like this and grow up here,” Gibbs said. “They’ll say that they won’t be accepted, they can’t be who they are and true to them in this town. That’s the image that I want to beat.”
More information, including access to upcoming events, will be posted on medfordprideonmain.com