Pride starts early in June across the Hudson Valley, Catskills and Berkshires. This episode I talk to Osun Zotique, executive director of OutHudson and the co-grand marshal of Hudson Pride. If you’re following the news, you may have also seen that Osun just announced a historic run for congress to represent the new 19th district. To their knowledge, Osun is the first trans non-binary candidate to run for national office. Learn more at OsunforNY.com.
Osun and I talk about pride in the Hudson Valley, about Hudson (“the P-town of the Hudson Valley”), about LGBTQ contribution to the upstate’s community, economy and culture. Osun also teaches me about “forest bathing” and how this year’s Pride is an opportunity to take that COVID Stickiness and well, dance it out…
Photo credit: JD Urban. Provided by OutHudson.
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Episode 67: Pride Is Back
Mat: I really liked daffodils. They're yellow and cheerful. Ours have white pedals around the yellow center. They seem to be smiling. Even laughing sometimes.
This makes me think of that TV show as a kid, the magic garden. Remember "The Chuckle Patch."
As you probably know, because apparently most people know this, and I just learned it, daffodils also have meaning. As some of the very first flowers we see in springtime, their appearance tells us winter is over. Some meanings given to them or what they represent rebirth and new beginnings.
But is it really all on one color flower? I mean, look around, I also saw tulips red and purple ones. And as I walked Nora up the road in the morning, I pass our red Japanese maple — red is incredible. Remember, I did an entire episode on the color red? Then, around the bend before I even see it, I smell a lilac tree on a neighbor's lawn. And then see the purple in the lilacs.
I believe this flowering is a signal from nature. I am here. I am present. I am proudly part of this world. This is happening. Enjoy me if you can, but I'm enjoying being here, nonetheless.
Yeah. It's not luck that it's here. It's confidence to bloom. And, you know, something. Anytime a year, especially right now, you just can't take it for granted.
SFX: Theme Song
“Pride Is Back”
Mat: I'm Mat Zucker, and this is Cidiot: Learning to live and love life in the Hudson Valley. Episode 67.
Everybody, well mostly everybody, knows June is traditionally "Pride" month in the U S and much, but not all of the world. This is different than LGBT history month, which is in October and coincides with National Coming Out Day.
Back in episode 20, "Very Local Pride," I talk about how Brian and I met at the Pride March in New York, after marching with my parents, and then marching later in Tivoli's first parade, 20 years later, and the beauty of it in a small town. This year is anything but small .Pride is back with a vengeance. Celebration. Activism, a bit of relief, of worry, of excitement, and a lot of purpose.
While New York City's big March is the last Sunday in June, much of the activities across the Hudson valley start the very first weekend, which is why I'm getting this out ahead of time.
Friday, June 3rd, the flag goes up in Hudson at 7:30 PM at Hudson City Hall. Hudson's march down Warren Street is Saturday, June 4th. Also Saturday, June 4th, Stanford, New York has its first pride celebration, starting with a proclamation reading at Stanford town hall at 12:30 PM. This is followed by community barbecue and live music at 1:00 PM in Stanfordville at Bangallworks. You may remember hearing about Bangallworks and meeting Steven, Tom who run it on episode 49. Sunday, June 5th is New Paltz's march, followed by the Hudson valley pride tea dance. Saturday, June 11th is the march in Poughkeepsie. Sunday, June 12th is Albany's. Saturday, June 18th is pride plus in Callicoon. Their first ever.
And Sunday, June 26th. Well, you know, that's the father, mother guncle, and Liza Minnelli of all marches — Pride in New York city. Actually, there's a lot more, so much that I put up on Cidiot.com a blog post with activities across dates and towns of whatever I could take up from various sources. So go have a look. There's a link in the show notes.
Now for this episode, I didn't just want to rattle off a big list, but I wanted to hear from someone at the center of pride, someone I'm proud to have just met.
Osun Zotique is executive director of Out Hudson and the co-grand marshal of Hudson Pride. If you're following the news, you may have also seen that Osun just announced to run for Congress to represent the new 19th district. This is historic. To their knowledge, Osun is the first trans non-binary candidate to run for national office. Amazing, right?
Osun and I talk about pride in the Hudson valley about pride at this point in the pandemic, after a multi-year hiatus, about LGBTQ contribution to the upstate's community, economy and culture. I learn about forest bathing. And how this year's pride is an opportunity to take that COVID stickiness and well.... dance it out.
“Osun Zotique – Interview part 1”
Mat: Hi Osun,
Osun: Hey, Mat.
Mat: Thanks for coming on Cidiot.
Osun: Wow. What a pleasure to be here with you. And talking about this upcoming summer in the Hudson valley,
Mat: I know, it’s Pride too. And you're like a pride celebrity being co-marshall. What's your, what's your stature?
Osun: Yes. I'm the co-grand Marcia and The Hudson Pride Parade .And I'm also, I invited to be the co-grand Marshall of the Dutchess County pride parade as well, separately from OutHudson. So there's a number of celebrations all around the Hudson Valley.
Mat: So the return of pride is a big deal right now because we really had a couple of years off, both in Hudson and almost everywhere. There'd been some small celebrations where people where we're able to. What feels different to you? What do you think is special about this year?
Osun: So, this year, we are now able to have mass gatherings somewhat more safely than we did in the past. Out Hudson did have a few celebrations the past couple of years. But we did not have the parade and we did not have our all our traditions. So I think what feels different is that there's this sense that we all deserve a little celebration. We're all so ready for this, from what I'm hearing in the community. It's time, the time has arrived to fully step into pride season in all of its glory in all of its self-acceptance. And there couldn't be a better time to do that, even in the climate and landscape of transition to in the larger society and everything that's going on as well.
Mat: Is there a theme for this year?
Osun: Yeah, the OutHudson, theme this year is "Out of This World." And so there's an alien, fun, outer space, choose your own alien gender identity sort of realness category that's available. And it actually was the theme of the pre-pandemic march the last year. So we actually carry that through line all the way through 2020.
Mat: That's so cool. My husband and I marched in OutHudson's parade three years ago with Jeff Beals, who was a progressive candidate and we marched on Warren Street, next to a convertible in which he was JFK and he had Marilyn this drag queen next to him and we were all running alongside and it was super fun; it was another world.
Osun: It was another world back then, for sure. And the political aspect is still very present. I would say, as queer activists, those of us who are involved in supporting and advocating for the community now that there are still a number of challenges and struggles facing the LGBTQ community. And so we're present for that as well. — advocating for trans kids and queer kids to feel more comfortable in their school environments, advocating for all different, other issues as well, any remaining homophobia or discomfort in the community around, our existence and visibility and sort of wellbeing.
We are continuing inn that work as well, kind of cheerfully and joyfully, educating our communities about who we are and the gifts that we all have, whether that be creating beautiful decorations, performing the so many talents and gifts that the queer communities bring to the Hudson Valley that really are such a lifeblood to the economy here, tourism industry and everything that makes upstate so special is partially related to LGBTQ ingenuity and talent in my personal opinion.
Mat: I agree with that. And I don't know if you'll agree with this, but I always find it maybe it's because I grew up in the eighties and I was marching down Fifth Avenue and I met my husband on Gay Pride and my parents marched with me and I also feel, and maybe it's the shadow of AIDS, but I feel like it's celebration, but it's also what you said, that activism and sometimes people forget there's also a little bit of fight in it. And I like to remind people that this is not just pure celebration, but pride in terms of channeling that energy towards action and demanding things. And I think that people forget that.
Osun: Yeah. I really hear you. And particularly, as you said in the past before, some of these equal protections werefinally put together, it must've felt different. I would say that in my experience, pride still matters very deeply. P ride still matters for the youth —teens and younger folks whose brains are still developing. They still feel kind of different and other, and it's important to give that visibility to young folks to show that the incredible diversity of the queer community, queer families, queer grownups, queer kids, queer teenagers. , it's very important to be there just to sit there and be, and show off. , you never know what kind of impact that's going to have. And in fact, in one of the most recent prides, we had a couple of upper middle-aged adults who actually came out who actually experienced a realization of their own sexual orientation or gender identity or something. And kind of came out into themselves in a new quantum leap of some kind by attending OutHudson in, in recent years.
Mat: That's amazing.
Osun: Yeah. I think just being who we are and making ourselves really visible, it has an effect.
Mat: And what should people expect this year, especially without Hudson I mean? There's more, there's more than just the parade.
Osun: So the city of Hudson is celebrating national pride month by raising the rainbow flag over city hall for the entire month of June. In addition to that, Out Hudson is sponsoring the parade on Saturday, June 4th at 2:00 PM. And that's going to be really beautiful – a family-friendly, safe, fun mass gathering where we will all prance down Warren Street together led by Mayor Camille Johnson and myself as co-grand marshals, or as we affectionately call it in OutHudson, “Grand Marshas” after Marsha P. Johnson.
We also have about 14 other events, in our lineup offered by our community event partners. For our introverts, you could look forward to a Thursday night, June 2 Adult Coloring Club at Wylde coworking space and cafe. It's going to be really cozy and beautiful featuring local art. Also the Hudson Eye Festival monthly Recess series is going to showcase a local queer artist - a writer in a salon on Sunday. For our more extroverted folks, the dance parties: "All the Bodies" is a beloved annual tradition. Also likewise, "Poke the Bear." down at Hudson Brewing Company is an after-party, right after the parade spills into Poke The Bear beer party for those some inclined. And there’s Trixie's drag extravaganza. Also "Nearly Stationery" at Hudson Hall has a pride edition on Saturday after the parade too, which features a really gorgeous ballet duo and the music of a gay composer, John Cage. So there's many different vibes that you can seek out while you're at OutHudson Pride.
Mat: I put up a blog post with a lot of these activities and stuff on Cidiot.com. So people can go see those too. And how'd you get this great gig to be co-Grand Marsha?
Osun: Well, this is a unique year and I came into the directorship of OutHudson during the pandemic. You'd really went through so much change and transformation as Out Hudson, as a city, as a region. And so there was this conversation about how to do this year, how to do that moment of coming out of the shadows of the quarantine and just simply keeping it down home, keeping it hometown, and with some appreciation of the leadership throughout the pandemic. We reached out to Mayor Komo, who is our youngest mayor in Hudson history, our first black mayor, and had some history, and who got elected during COVID. And we were so happy to connect with him. And then we just kind of felt that we would include me as well to co-marshall and sort of preside over festivities that we want to have be brought back and to feel safe and to feel really seen in the community. So Mayor Komo and I will be sort of overseeing the celebration together. And I'll be wearing my Marsha P. Johnson, flower, crown with a silver. So that's all I'm going to leak about my outfits. I have multiple outfits planned.
Mat: I love Pride because it brings the community close together. I always found historically there was a lot of segregation within the gay community, you know, between men and women, generations and there wasn't a lot of visibility for trans community. It was very segregated and Pride is a moment where people can come together and rally and get to know each other and have shared purpose and shared values and be yourself, but as part of a family. And I feel that great energy from allies, and I like to feel that from other people around me too. So I look forward to that in Pride.
Osun: Totally. So many different valuable subcultures, or sub-communities, or I don't know what to call it, like within that rainbow spectrum and within that alphabet of all the different letters. So we all get to kind of make new connections. Our queer youth are going to be marching, right up front with first spot there. And we have our queer elders, we have a big range of floats marching in the parade.
And I mean, for me personally and around town from what I hear, Hudson is really like the P-town of upstate. We're really getting there. I think that it's a really architecturally significant town with multiple generations of queer history, dating back to John Ashbury, basically our own private Walt Whitman, poet Laureate. And we have multiple generations of gay and queer history in the city.
I hope that the entire queer and ally community across the entire Hudson Valley becomes activated, motivated, inspired to build community, to build bridges of solidarity and to stay active in the community safely. Respectfully, obviously , with activism, with awareness about important issues — registering to vote, volunteer in the community, any last remnants of that weird COVID stickiness that may have gotten lodged in our bones as a queer family, I pray that we can all dance it out together this year, and to emerge fully from a quarantine mindset into the future.
“Osun Zotique – Interview Part 2”
Mat: So tell me more about Out Hudson and its history and what it's about. I'm sure not everybody knows it. They know the parade, but they may not know the organization.
Osun: Pride is a month, you know, and it, the entire month of June is national pride month, but OutHudson is actually about 13 or 15 year old non-profit that actually serves the Columbia County, New York community. It was founded by a group of queer leaders to help support and advocate for the visibility and quality of life of queer people in this region at a time before we had marriage equality and a lot of the protections that we currently have.
So they really went out and began this process of putting together an organization to do the parade to run a festival of additional programs and also to create a scholarship fund to send one graduating 12th grader per year —a scholarship to the college of their choice. They've really laid the groundwork for, a vital advocacy, nonprofit for queer folks in Columbia County. And one of our prior directors, Charlie Farusi, is the grandson of a beloved mayor. He is active in the LGBT advocacy space and he notably was the first non-female homecoming queen at Hudson High. If I'm not mistaken about 10, 12 years ago, he and his boyfriend, I'm pretty sure that they were dating at the time, got elected together for homecoming. So he was the queen and that was just a really big celebration and a big, interesting moment in that public high school district and the city of Hudson in upstate New York. And then our other outgoing director before me, the two co-directors before me, Rich Volo, also known as Trixie Star. Trixie has been coordinating drag and various, queer community. In Hudson for many, many years. And she's currently running a special website called Trixie's List where she keeps an eye out for all the important local happenings.
Mat: We've got a very nice write-up on Trixie's list about my podcasting workshop.
Osun: I saw. Everybody reads Trixie's list. And of course she's selling cookies for Ukraine, which is just the most fantastic.
Mat: Awww nice. And what's your relationship to Hudson and the Hudson valley?
Osun: I am a first-generation American. most of my family is from Cuba and my mom was born in Cuba and came over as a child. Then I was born here. I grew up in Atlanta and came up to Lincoln Center in New York city and spent a lot of time in Hell's Kitchen and all around the city for school college, and a little bit after that. And then I made my way up to this region, after receiving a job offer from a prep school in Berkshire County. Berkshire County was wonderful, but it wasn't, I didn't feel called to live there. I felt called to live in Hudson. The energy, the architecture, the Hudson Valley really spoke to me and its combination of history and wildness. And so I've lived up here since my mid-twenties. I've been up here for about six or seven years and transitioned through teaching grad school, yoga teacher school, and most recently actually, , something kind of interesting happen. I'm the first to my knowledge, trans, non-binary person in us history to run for national elected office here in the 19th Congressional District of New York. So the community has really amazing me welcome. And I'm trying to give back and really make a crack in that glass ceiling for the queer community.
Mat: Yeah. Thank you for doing that. I mean, it's so important when people are first and, and, and do that because then others can
Osun: Yes. You know, and there's so many examples of that. I mean, Shirley Chisholm running and many different other examples in the queer community that somebody kind of has to be the one to sortof come out of the cake if you will, and just break the ice and get that process going. And I was shocked after running for a local position that I, again to my best Googling, to my best knowledge, not a single trans person or nonbinary person or anything, has ever served in national elected office. So we're going to change that. We announced, and we are we're running, and we'll see what happens.
Mat: So I ask everyone, my, my brother-in-law got me to ask this of every single guest is what is your favorite secret? Hidden, not so secret place in the Hudson Valley. If you have one.
Osun: My favorite place to eat is Little Deb's Oasis. It's a queer-owned restaurant, which has been nominated for a James Beard. It's incredible, but that's not so secret.
Mat: Where do you go to get inspired??
Osun: So my secret spot that, that flashed in mind for this is actually just outside of Hudson in an adjoining town and it's called the Won Dharma center. It is a Buddhist temple and retreat center set on multi hundred acres of rolling pasture and fields and meadows with like a glass brutalist sort of temple and building and the hiking trails and grounds are open to the community at various times when they're not hosting retreats and stuff. And they teach specific schools of meditation as well. And it's just a place where I've gotten so much solace and so much peace, just forest bathing, basically.
Mat: Wait, what's forest bathing?
Osun: Oh, yes. Let me put on my yoga teacher hat for a second. Forest bathing. So walking mindfully through the forest and through the woods potentially like removing your footwear if you want to feel the soles of your feet on the mossy earth or on the grass. You can then begin to co-regulate your nervous system with the literal earth. And you feel your feet on the Earth and you take slow steps and maybe you keep your arms out by your side and you just sort of tune in and drop into the forest, to the soil, to the grass, the trees, and you soften your gaze and you introvert your awareness. And you just sort of go into that space where you're not doing the New York City power walk to the, A train, which I've done and you're not doing a hike exercise. You're actually slowing down and tuning in and sort of bathing in the essence of the forest, the chlorophyll, the green light, the, the, the trip. Yeah. And it's saying it's so restorative.
Mat: I want to go forest bathing.
Osun: Yes, come. It's not on the Pride lineup, but we can arrange that.
“Dance It Out”
Mat: Thanks, Osun and OutHudson, as well as Stanford Pride, Dutchess Pride. Big Gay Hudson valley and many other groups that contributed to the info on the blog post. I'm really excited for Pride. Brian and I are going to march. There's Hudson. There's Millbrook. There's Stanford. There's Callicoon. New Paltz, Pittsfield and more.
And when it's all over, you know what I'm going to do to relax and recenter myself and restore. Yup: forest bathing. I'm Mat Zucker. Happy pride and thank you to all the allies out there. I hope you know how powerful your presence is.
It's a big month in the Hudson valley, Catskills and Berkshires. These are challenging times. But as Osun said, we're going to dance it out. Come visit.
SFX: Theme Song