Members of the Raging Grannies perform a song at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. | Screenshot.


Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors was the shortest and perhaps most celebratory in this reporter’s memory.

Aside from the consent calendar, there was just a single agenda item scheduled for discussion in open session, and it got pulled at the outset of the meeting, to be brought back at a later date.

That left the morning free for reading a few proclamations, including one recognizing LGBTQIA+ Pride Month and one honoring Juneteenth, both of which elicited heartfelt emotional testimony from the public and individual supervisors. 

Fourth District Supervisor Natalie Arroyo read into the record a proclamation recognizing June 2023, and every June henceforth, as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) Pride Month. 

The document expresses support for “the rights of all citizens to experience equality and freedom from discrimination,” and is says the rainbow Pride flag “shall be raised annually throughout the month of June at County of Humboldt facilities.”

The proclamation also says the county is “committed to supporting visibility, safety, dignity and equality for LGBTQIA+ people” and calls on residents to embrace the founding principle that “every individual has infinite dignity and worth.”

The reading of the proclamation generated a spontaneous round of applause from those in attendance. 

The rainbow Pride flag now flies outside county buildings each June.

Members of the local LGBTQIA+ community thanked the board for their bravery. Calla Peltier-Olson, lead organizer of the Humboldt County Transition-Age Youth Collaboration, an advocacy group working to help people age 16 to 26 emerging from the foster care, juvenile justice, homelessness and behavioral health systems, said conversations with young people revealed the need to reject the “moral hysteria” that sometimes surrounds these issues.

“Not only did we hear stories of youth experiencing peer bullying and harassment before they even knew what being LGBTQIA+ meant, but we heard from youth who are abused and rejected from their families and foster families for being who they are,” Peltier-Olson said.

Her organization produced a report last year outlining policy recommendations for improving inclusivity.

“There are many changes needed in our community to protect these young people,” she said. “And with this proclamation, and yearly flying the Pride flag, you take a step towards making a safer place for them in this county.”

More applause.

Members of the local “gaggle” of Raging Grannies, a nonprofit social justice group, then busted out a ukulele and performed an inclusion-themed song to the melody of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

As applause rang out in the chamber again, Board Chair and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone said, “Wow, what a morning.” While applause is generally discouraged at supes meetings, Madrone said he’d be lenient given the topic at hand. “I think it’s important to celebrate these things in our community,” he said.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson agreed, saying this year’s Pride declaration was better than last year’s. 

“It represents, for me, how far we’ve come in a year,” he said, “but also I’m going to say how far we’ve fallen because a lot of this is in response to a lot of real negativity that we’re dealing with in the community and as a nation.” Wilson was presumably referring to such developments as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the recent wave of anti-trans legislation across the country, and the sometimes violent right-wing protests that have become common at drag events.

Wilson then proceeded to read a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth, a recently declared federal holiday marking the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that the Civil War had ended (two and a half years earlier) and they were free.

“Black history is American history and is important to celebrate as we create safe spaces, representation, inclusion and empowerment for the Black community in Humboldt County,” the proclamation reads. “[T]his holiday is especially important for Humboldt County, as [the Black] community makes up 1.5% of the population but have [experienced] and continue to experience various forms of discrimination and inequity.”

As part of the proclamation, the Board of Supervisors pledged to “work tirelessly to root out institutional racism wherever it exists and advance equality and inclusion.”

Harper-Desir, co-founder of Black Humboldt

Mo Harper-Desir, co-founder of Black Humboldt, appeared via Zoom and thanked the board for both the Juneteenth and the LGBTQIA+ proclamations and urged its members to “step into actions” that create inclusivity and safety for marginalized communities.

In honor of Juneteenth, Black Humboldt will be hosting an event called “Celebrating Freedom” this Saturday, June 17th, from noon to 10 p.m. at Eureka’s Halvorsen Park, featuring food trucks, live music and a youth zone. Harper-Desir encouraged the community to attend as a means of recognizing that Black history is American history while also having fun.

Wilson acknowledged the hard work that marginalized groups must do to promote equality and justice for themselves and called on allies to take up that burden. He also thanked Black Humboldt.

“I want to thank these organizations because they’re really making our community better,” he added. “It’s just so much more fun and interesting and joyful to have all of this inclusivity and joy within all of these groups … .”

Fourth District Supervisor Natalie Arroyo said she had received some emails from folks who were “not so supportive” of these two proclamations, characterizing them as meaningless gestures.

“I would push back and say that if this seems meaningless to you, it might not be for you,” Arroyo said. By way of analogy, she said that the effort to prevent elder abuse isn’t necessarily for her at this point in her life but she advocates anyway “because it keeps people safe and it strengthens our community.”

“The LGBTQIA+ and two spirit community right now are not feeling safe in our community,” she continued, “and I think the very least we can do is say ‘We support you. We see you. We recognize your inherent worth and dignity and we want you to have access to resources to help keep you and your community safe.’”

Over the course of the next hour, several public speakers remarked on the importance of the proclamations. “This is what inclusion looks like, and it’s not always a smooth road, and we realize that,” said Jeremy Clark, the county’s diversity, equity and inclusion manager. “But, you know, with the support of your board, and with the support of our employees and county department heads, we are having an impact and we are making a difference. And it’s palpable. And you can feel it in the halls, and you can you can see it in some of the survey results that I hope to share with you in the near future.”

Michael Weiss, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, said the proclamations and statements of support are a big deal, “but I want to tell you that that flag out there is huge because there’s a lot of people in the community that don’t come to these meetings or don’t see these recordings. And the other day, a young person — a young queer person — said to me, they saw the flag and it made them cry. That’s huge and I just wanted to say thank you so much.”

Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell voiced her support for both proclamations, adding that while she sometimes has trouble saying the right things, no one should be afraid to express themselves, “whatever your way of life is.” She added that she’s “super proud of our board for recognizing that we all have that right to be different and to be safe and to feel safe and secure in our county.”

Earlier in the meeting, the board read a proclamation recognizing “Eligibility Specialist Appreciation Week,” which offers a tip o’ the cap to the people who help connect community members with public assistance programs providing medical services, food assistance and financial assistance.