Progress makes its mark on O.B. history

Now flying at Ocean Park, the Progress Pride flag will be a sign of inclusivity to locals and visitors alike.


In a profound moment for the town of Oak Bluffs, the NAACP-hosted Progress Pride flag-raising ceremony at Ocean Park made its mark in history by joining towns worldwide in showing support of their LGBTQ community. 

The ceremony, in celebration of the beginning of National Pride Month and the Island’s LGBTQ elders, youth, in addition to its straight allies, drew immense support from local Vineyarders, including Island officials, parents of LGBTQ children, and passersby. 

A moment of silence was punctuated with acknowledging names of deceased members of the LGBTQ community to honor their memory. 

The celebration follows a series of lengthy deliberations among the town’s select board and its constituents; the approval of raising the flag has been a focus of much discourse among the Island community.

Originally requested by Arthur Hardy-Doubleday, president of the NAACP of Martha’s Vineyard, and Jenelle Gadowski, a member of the NAACP’s executive committee, the proposal to fly the Progress Pride flag was met with overwhelming support from the Island community, but still was far from guaranteed approval. 

When met with resistance from the town, Doubleday and Gadowski assertively and carefully guided the debates toward societal progress while navigating a town official–made minefield of hurdles. 

The request was ultimately approved by the Oak Bluffs select board in a 4-1 vote, with select board member Jason Balboni as the lone dissenter. Despite the initial proposal to fly the Progress Pride flag on the town’s flagpole for the entirety of June, the board emphatically capped the flag flying at two weeks.

On Wednesday, the show went on regardless, making barely any note of the uphill battle, and instead led the celebration with positivity. 

Jenelle Gadowski, NAACP executive committee member and LGBTQ committee chair, who at only 23 years old has been a leading advocate on behalf of the Island’s LGBTQ community’s efforts to fly the Progress Pride flag in Oak Bluffs, was praised for her leadership, organizing, and her ability to navigate the recent stormy waters of resistance. 

“Consensus building [can be an] inefficient process,” said Doubleday. “But the reason there are so many people here is because we’ve built consensus,” adding that Gadowski has been a significant part of those efforts. 

In recalling when the NAACP “decided they were going to get down with the LGBTQ community,” Arthur Doubleday, who is an attorney by day, said he initially geared his focus to the logistics of forming a subcommittee, and that if it weren’t for Gadowski, the LGBTQ committee of the MV NAACP “wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.”

Raleigh Russell, straight ally and parent to a transgender child, said, “This flag means a lot, not only to my child and our family, but to a global community of all races and walks of life … [The Progress Pride flag] shows camaraderie, solidarity, support, acceptance, and inclusivity,” she continued. “It represents hope for a better future for our LGBTQ community.”

NAACP member Susanna Sturgis addressed the crowd, detailing her own experience within the LGBTQ community, spanning decades. Feeling unwelcome in Washington, D.C., in the midst of a precarious political climate, Sturgis moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1985. “It was a whole different thing [here],” she said. Although not lacking humor and levity, Sturgis’ speech drew attention to some of the history of the Island’s LGBTQ community, and the beginning of an enhanced coordinating of and accessibility to services for the then-named Lesbian and Gay Association. 

Martha’s Vineyard is a “magical place,” said MV NAACP member and Oak Bluffs resident Toni Kauffman, “and yet we still have the same kinds of issues that any other place has.” 

Kauffman, sporting a NAACP baseball cap, said the purpose of fighting for the flag to be raised at Ocean Park was because it serves as a gateway to the Island, and for visitors. “We want them to know that the majority of us want to live in a place that’s inclusive,” Kauffman said.

It was not an easy path to Wednesday’s event. What was seen by many as a suspiciously timed addition to the April 26 Oak Bluffs select board meeting agenda — which included the discussion of and possible vote for approving the request of flying the Progress Pride flag — the board introduced the concept of a town flag policy. The policy, which has been subsequently approved as written on May 10, prohibits any flags, other than those approved by the select board, from being raised on town property. Although the board’s decision to allow the Progress Pride flag to fly from June 1 to June 14 still stands because it preceded the enactment of the policy, the controversial adoption of the flag policy raised concerns over the town’s possible unwillingness to contribute to an inclusive and forward-thinking community. 

The Progress Pride flag itself was created and designed by artist Daniel Quasar in 2018, and is based upon a reinterpretation of Gilbert Baker’s 1978 Pride flag. In addition to its rainbowed design — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, which represents life, healing, sunlight, nature, peace/art, and spirit, respectively, the Progress Pride flag includes black, brown, pink, pale blue, and white. The additions serve to represent people of color, the transgender community, and those living with HIV/AIDS, with the stripes shaped in a right-facing arrow, symbolizing both achieved and unfinished progress regarding society’s full inclusion of the LGBTQ community. 

Few Island towns have expressed resistance to outwardly supporting the LGBTQ communities, with Oak Bluffs and Chilmark being the only towns that denied the request to raise the Progress Pride flag on town flagpoles in 2021. 

As of Wednesday evening, Oak Bluffs has joined all other Island towns — with the exception of Chilmark — in collective support of the Island’s LGBTQ community and its efforts to proudly fly the Progress Pride flag.


  1. Thank you to my Town for raising this symbolic flag to recognize our LGBTQ+ community and to honor the individuals who fought for the rights that I and others enjoy today.

  2. All good, my turn. I’m a Vietnam Veteren, I would like the POW/MIA Flag back now for those left behind in Afghanistan. Let us truly give EVERYONE a turn. I would also like to fly the Cree Nation flag that states, ” ALL CHILDREN MATTER”. And finally, my dog Thor, his flag, I would like to fly a flag for all our deceased best friends. I will be in touch with you Oak Bluffs. I’ll bring my Honorable Discharge to the times if you need proof. All true statements. Everyone gets a chance now, right Oak Bluffs?

  3. It’s great that Oak Bluffs is flying the Pride Flag too bad Chilmark is so stuck on the past and decided not to fly the Pride flag. I thought this town was a little more progressive apparently not!

  4. Well, it looks pretty up there.
    I fully support what it stands for, and I am fully cognisant of the pride that people feel at this milestone of recognition.
    But, as much as we might wish it is inclusive, in today’s society, it is not.
    It does not include those among us who embrace bias and hatred.
    It certainly doesn’t include the homophobes.
    It does not include the racists.
    It does not include those who would call any kind of deviation from what they consider “god’s” decision as to the number of x’s or y’s in ones genome as the final arbitrator of who someone should be, or who they should love an “abomination”.

    My comment here is to remind us all that hate, ignorance, prejudice and intolerance is still stalking the communities that are within the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.
    We still have a long way to go before this symbol of love and freedom can be considered inclusive.

    • Looks like in our everyone gets a trophy world everyone gets a flag as well. I’m a very proud heterosexual , where’s my flag?

      • John– I get your sentiment–I think the town has set a precedent that is not wise.
        However, it’s not up to someone else to tell you where your flag is.
        By all means, if you have a heterosexual flag that makes you proud, and you can get a few like minded individuals to petition the town to fly it, go for it.
        If it offends some people, well, they can get over it.

      • John Axel, if no such flag exists, why don’t you design one? We can fly it during White Men’s History Month.

  5. I think it is wonderful everyone is included. I have some favorite flags too.. I’m so happy we all get 2 weeks for our favorite flag. How about one for the hospital workers, and one for emergency responders. I think the police should get 4 weeks for above and beyond call of duty and having to deal with the likes of you all ha ha a joke..I still like the Cree Nation flag with “ALL CHILDREN MATTER”, It’s red, very colorful… Not once did I mention the words hate ignorance prejudice intolerance. Someone who thinks you are all idiots did.

    • Robert– I don’t think everyone is an idiot, but some people clearly post idiotic comments.
      I hope we can all agree that when it comes to the issues concerning the LGBTQ community that there are some people who have all those nasty feelings and emotions about their rights.

  6. Why do we celebrate an irrelevant characteristic? If you aren’t some degree of non-binary you don’t merit a parade or a flag. Absence from a growing list of genders and sexualities is depressing.. It’s chic to be something other than straight. Who am I to talk, I’m just a regular white guy. I’m the worst. All people who look like me are racist and white supremacists. This whole phenomenon is genuinely stupid. If you’re defined by your genitals or which type you prefer it is silly. People aren’t special because of who they have sex with.

    • Well, Andrew, and some others – the flag/parade is in part to symbolize the struggle of oppressed minorities in our society to enjoy the rights and privileges that us regular white guys have enjoyed . Women have had to organize and fight just for the right to vote, continue to struggle to earn equal pay in the workforce, let alone protect their reproductive rights. Persons of color have not had the same privileges and opportunities afforded to you. Gay/non-binary and the transgendered have not had equal protections under the law for most of our history. They needed to fight for them. And I’m sure countless other examples, to include Native Americans, the physically challenged, etc. Let the flags fly for those who have had and continue to have to fight the fight to be treated as equal. I don’t think this applies to you or your dog.
      Mr. Muzik – thank-you for your service. Veterans rights have also been a struggle. I sympathize with that.

  7. Mr Kelfer, the groups that you refer to have been protected since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Dems filibustered the Act while more Repubs than Dems voted for it. This not fighting for equal rights; it is fighting to de sensitize the general public that same sex marriage and any other distortion is ok and should be embraced. No one cares what sex you are.

    • andy— “no one” covers a lot of people . MANY people do not care what sex someone is. but you seem to be very concerned that people need to be the “right” sex, and you seem to be quite willing to discriminate against people who you deem to be the “wrong” sex.
      Am I missing something ?

    • Andrew Engelman, do you know anything about U.S. history? The Democrats who filibustered the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the mid-1960s were white Southern Democrats. The South at the time was a one-party state and only white people could vote. As a result, those Southern Democrats — men like James Eastland, Strom Thurmond, and John Stennis — built up a lot of seniority, and hence power, in Congress. Because those acts passed, and thanks to Nixon’s so-called “southern strategy,” those white Southern Democrats became Republicans. In the decades since, they have been working hard to turn the whole U.S. into a 21st century “solid South,” where only the votes of white people count. And like their forebears of 1861, they’ll resort to insurrection to make it happen.

      • Ms Sturgis. To suggest blacks dont have the vote in the South is silly. Blacks often do not vote just as young people do not vote but they are afforded the opportunity. Playing around with voting is the invention of the Dems.

      • Susanna–andy knows all about U.S history.
        He knows about the “Dixiecrats”.
        He knows that if you pass voter ID laws in Louisiana that require an original birth certificate it will disproportionately impact poor black people more than rich white people.
        He knows restricting mail in ballots will disproportionately impact poor black people more than rich white people.
        He knows having only one drop off ballot box per county in Texas will disproportionately impact poor black people more than rich white people.
        He knows it, and he knows the economic, social and cultural reasons for it.
        He knows the only significant voter fraud going on in this country is at the state legislation level, and not at the ballot box.

        He knows all about it, Susanna, and he loves it.

        • Keller. You have no factual basis for accusing me of not wanting blacks to vote. I want everyone to vote and would support a law that makes voting mandatory for the Presidential election.

        • I understand from his post WHY he knows so little about U.S. history: he has a hard time reading for comprehension, as opposed to seeing what he wants to see. It’s pretty clear (isn’t it?) that I was talking not about today but about the pre–Voting Rights Act South, when Black people were effectively disenfranchised by white Southern Democrats, aka Dixiecrats. Black people, especially Black women, and other people most certainly do vote, and they generally don’t vote for Republicans. In case anyone’s wondering why Republicans are working so hard to make it harder for them to vote?

    • Andy– we already went through the vocabulary lesson.
      You would prefer to not let people use the bathroom of their choice. You profess to support laws that would prohibit people such as Katlyn Jenner using the woman’s room.
      That’s the same kind of discrimination that had white only bathrooms and restaurants in our lifetimes.
      Or perhaps you think “white only” bathrooms were not discrimination.

      • Keller this not about Vocabulary it is about your beguilement.
        Disagreement is argument or debate. Distinct treatment of an individual or group to their disadvantage; treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality; prejudice; bigotry—that is Discrimination. I disagree with liberals on most things but I would never discriminate against them in selling stuff or renting rooms or any other service. You dont want to see the difference.

        • Andy– I know we both like to beat some large dead animal sometimes.
          But your definition of discrimination is EXACTLY what you have argued for months if not years when it comes to anything associated with the LGTBQ community.
          Tell me you have always been for the rights of homosexuals to marry within their gender.
          Tell me you have always been for the rights of trans people to use the public restroom of their identity.
          Yes– perhaps you have never personally stood in the doorway of a public restroom and blocked the doorway so someone you “disagreed with” could not enter.
          perhaps you have never personally stood up at a gay wedding and objected when they asked that question because you “disagreed” that there were two brides or two grooms.
          But you favor legislation that would institutionalize those types of “discrimination”.
          Your word games provide no cover for you.

  8. I am glad that the flag is going to be able to be flown in my hometown of Oak Bluffs.
    Let others enjoy their lives and love who they choose.
    It’s not my business what you do in your bedroom or with whom as long as they are consenting adults and safe.
    What a shame that you gun toting haters of everything not white are so concerned about a flag.
    What about all these children elderly and people HUMANS being assassinated daily not by choice but because of being in the wrong place. Can’t you just love people for their differences. PLEASE

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