Oak Bluffs to raise Pride, Juneteenth flags

The select’s board decision caps months of debate over the issue.

Oak Bluffs' temporary ceremonial flagpole will be located at Farland Square. — MV Times

The Oak Bluffs select board voted in favor of flying both the Progress Pride flag and the Juneteenth flag on town property in June.

The Progress Pride flag will be flown from June 1 through 14 in honor of Pride Month. The Junteenth flag will be flown from June 16 to 20 in recognition of Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19.

The Progress Pride, created and designed in 2018, is based upon a reinterpretation of Gilbert Baker’s 1978 Pride flag. In addition to its rainbow design, 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. 

After a number of contentious meetings last year, the Oak Bluffs select board agreed to raise the Progress Pride flag at Ocean Park for 14 days in June. Chilmark remains the only Island town that’s chosen not to display the Pride flag on town property.

After last year’s approval by the Oak Bluffs Select Board to fly the Progress Pride flag for two weeks, the town enacted a strict flag policy prohibiting any flags, other than those approved by the select board — flags of the U.S., commonwealth of Massachusetts, town of Oak Bluffs, and official military and POW-MIA — from being raised on any town property.

This led to the denial of a subsequent request made by the NAACP Martha’s Vineyard branch to fly the Juneteenth flag — a symbol of African American freedom and emancipation from slavery. 

But that policy has since been amended.

It now allows the select board the right to raise additional flags as a form of government speech. Because the town will not be accepting application requests regarding particular flags, the decision will be entirely at the discretion of the five-member board.

As part of the new policy, the select board opted to designate a town flagpole as a ceremonial one, which will be able to display flags decided upon by the select board.

On Tuesday, it was decided that a new flagpole will be erected, rather than utilizing an existing one, for the ceremonial flags.

After the select board mulled over options for the location of the ceremonial flagpole, it was decided that the town will install a temporary pole at Farland Square, which will display the approved third-party flags this upcoming summer. In the event that the town is unable to use the Farland Square location, the interim pole will be located outside the Oak Bluffs Police Station.

Select board members Jason Balboni and Dion Alley stated that they’d prefer non–federally recognized flags not be flown at Ocean Park, and suggested alternatives, such as wall mounting on the town’s information booth, or at town hall.

Town administrator Deborah Potter noted that because the Martha’s Vineyard Commission had reviewed the town hall construction project, they’d likely have to return to the commission to modify the agreed-upon landscaping design. 

Select board member Emma Green-Beach said she’d prefer a more noticeable location, such as in front of the Oak Bluffs Police Department building.

Still, the board approved the erection of a permanent ceremonial flagpole at town hall. 

While some select board members expressed support for the location, members of the public took issue with the lack of visibility. 

“Honestly, if I hadn’t been coming to all these meetings, I would never drive by this building,” said Jennie Gadowski. “There’s a great deal of effort going into Pride Weekend in Oak Bluffs,” she said. “There’s a lot of people coming to the events that benefit this town.”

She urged the board to consider a more visible location, before offering to personally cover costs of a temporary flag installation at Ocean Park’s gazebo. The board declined the offer.

Raleigh Russell agreed, and said the town hall location is “way more tucked away, and way less celebratory.” 

Since the board stated that Ocean Park was not an option, she said, “I think the flagpole should go at the police station. It’s going to be the most visible for everyone getting off the boat, everyone in Oak Bluffs.”

After discussions and votes regarding the flagpole locations, select board member Tom Hallahan moved to approve the flying of the Progress Pride flag for 14 days “to celebrate the great diversity of our Island community and our support for Pride.” That motion passed unanimously. 

Hallahan also led the vote for the Juneteenth flag for four days, which passed unanimously. As “the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States,” Hallahan said, the town recognizing Juneteenth shows “support of our African American community and communities of color.” 


  1. At the Town Hall?? Really? Who’s going to see it? It will not be a welcome sign to the diversity of visitors to our Island. Why can’t a separate flagpole be installed at Ocean Park? Is there a rationale for installing at Town Hall, other than keeping it out of sight from most people?

    • The flag represents the citizens, not the tourists.
      Citizens go to Town Hall, Ocean Park, not so much.

  2. Well, they made it clear that it represents government speech, so Town Hall is the perfect place to do that. Why would you need to see a flag in Ocean Park?

    • Brenda– To me , it isn’t about if you support the LGBTQ+ community or people of color or not.

      I just don’t want the town to be taking sides.

      Let me remind you that people are free to be racist, anti semitic, homophobic, and all sorts of other things that you or I find offensive. This is America.
      Some people find the actions of the LGBTQ+ community and pro choice movement to be equally offensive.
      If the town wants to “virtue signal” about how inclusive they are, they should be obligated to include all points of view.
      Since I don’t want to see the flag of “southern heritage” flying here, I can understand why some people don’t want to see the pride flag.
      It’s not inclusive to only be inclusive to points of view you agree with.

      • Being LGBTQ+ is not what you believe – it’s who you are. It’s not an opinion. It’s like being brown, white, or black. It’s not something you choose. Are we a welcoming community or not?

      • The Southern Heritage Flag represented the States Rights to self determination.
        To determine if the citizens in each state have the right to own, work , beat, disfigure, rape and buy and sell human beings.
        They were primarily Christians.

      • Respectfully, not the same, Don.
        The message of a BLM sign, Juneteenth or LGBTQ flags is to demonstrate our tolerance of persons historically marginalized and discriminated against…it says that we as a Vineyard community do not tolerate hate.
        A “southern heritage” flag does not send this message.

  3. Farland Square is the (in my opinion) perfect spot for the flags to be represented by the town and received by the multi cultural group of people that visit the Island! Gives non islanders a feel of acceptance about life here and of a life they might be able to relate to! Good decision! Thank you

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