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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

This Is Who We Are: Springfield Mass Pride

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First Springfield Pride? Eh, Maybe Not.

In 2011, Robin and I were members of the Springfield Pride Committee. We were particularly excited about this, because we believed that it was the FIRST PRIDE EVENT EVER HELD IN THE CITY OF SPRINGFIELD. Of course, we were wrong about that, but details about earlier Pride events were sketchy: What year was the first Pride event in Springfield? Who was in charge? When did Pride events stop happening? Why?

To answer these questions, I thought it might be worthwhile to search out and interview some of those trailblazing LGBT leaders of the past. I had some vague ideas about creating short promotional videos from the footage, which we could post on our website… or something. Once I started conducting the interviews, however, it became harder and harder to resist the pull toward a full-length documentary. There was just too much good stuff – too many fascinating people, too many inspiring/funny/heartbreaking stories. The people I interviewed (especially George Nemphos!) had t-shirts, photos, and posters commemorating the early Pride events. James Gleason at the Springfield Republican dug up archival photos for me to use. The helpful folks at the Springfield Library helped me find newspaper articles that filled in the gaps. Several friends (including my son, Max) offered to compose music for the soundtrack.

Eventually, I had to break it to the Pride Committee – those short promo spots that I promised to create for Pride 2012 had morphed into a full-length film, which wouldn’t be completed until Pride 2013. At the earliest.

After close to two years of phone calls, interviews, days off spent at the Springfield Library, and long weekends spent in front of my computer, This Is Who We Are was finally completed in May 2013, one week before its premiere as the opening night event of Springfield Pride 2013.

Hutson Inniss

The very first interview I conducted for this project was with Hutson Inniss. At that early stage, I didn’t have a clear vision of the end product, and our conversation was loose and wide-ranging. The answers that Hutson gave me pointed toward the organizing themes which would guide the rest of the project. This film would not exist in its current form without Hutson’s warm and thoughtful input. I was very excited to share the film with him, hoping that he would approve, hoping that he would feel honored. Two months before the premiere screening, I received word that Hutson had passed away. I only ever met Hutson once, but had so much admiration for him, his accomplishments, the way that his whole life was oriented toward equality for all. He was a sweet, brave, smart man, and he is sorely missed.

It’s high-def, so feel free to full-screen it!

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