County celebrates LGBTQ pride by awarding locals for their advocacy

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Photo Courtesy of Glen Frieson
During the county’s pride ceremony, County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., center, presented Pride of Essex County Awards to, from left, Hetrick Martin Institute-New Jersey Executive Director Ashawnda Fleming; North Jersey Pride Executive Director C.J. Prince; and North Jersey Community Research Initiative Executive Director Brian McGovern.

NEWARK, NJ — The Essex County Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Advisory Board hosted the Essex County LGBTQ Pride Month Celebration on Wednesday, June 29. During the ceremony, County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. presented Pride of Essex County Awards to Hetrick Martin Institute-New Jersey Executive Director Ashawnda Fleming, North Jersey Pride Executive Director C.J. Prince and North Jersey Community Research Initiative Executive Director Brian McGovern in recognition of their support in the struggle for equality for the members of the LGBTQ community.

“We are proud to celebrate Essex County Pride Month and raise awareness about the LGBTQ community in Essex and how this segment of the population has contributed to the development of our county. Our year-long cultural heritage series recognizes the diversity of our residents and it is fitting that we include the LGBTQ community,” DiVincenzo said, according to a press release. “Our three honorees have worked hard to provide support, promote understanding and protect human rights.”

Fleming has more than 18 years of nonprofit management experience, including serving as the vice president of development for Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey. She has also served as a development consultant to national nonprofit groups, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and First Candle/SIDS Alliance. Her career of service began in the late 1990s when she served as the vice president of clinical compliance for the largest substance abuse and mental health provider in the Mid-Atlantic region and managed a staff of 150. She also managed a national research initiative at Georgetown University, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“Through HMI, I have the opportunity to change lives and save lives, and there’s no better work,” Fleming, who gave credit to HMI for her being nominated for the Essex County Award, said in the press release. “Children today live with traumatic events every day. It is up to us to steward them to a future where violence is not necessary.”

Prior to being selected as chief executive director of NJCRI in April 2009, McGovern served as treatment, prevention and support service director at NJCRI. He has also worked as special project administrator in ambulatory care services for University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and as the associate director for Queens Health Network. McGovern has more than 25 years of experience in providing and managing prevention, treatment and education services for HIV/AIDS and mental health.

“I am very honored to be here and receive this award,” McGovern said. “Sadly, when I was growing up, AIDS was putting the LGBTQ community on the map, but that’s why so many of us were looking for our identity. What happened in Orlando is a new reminder of why we need to stand up and be more aware.”

With North Jersey Pride, C.J. Prince produces events and programming to bring the LGBTQ and ally communities together to increase awareness, understanding and empathy, and to make the world a safer place for LGBTQ youth. The North Jersey Pride Festival takes place annually on the second Sunday of June in Maplewood. Prince also is a journalist, and has written hundreds of articles for magazines, including Entrepreneur, The Advocate, Chief Executive and Working Mother, and for online sites such as Huffington Post and VillageQ. Her two proudest achievements will always be her daughters, Maya and Eliana.

“Thank you to the county executive and the advisory board for this incredible honor. We started our event as just a picnic and fortunately the township of Maplewood and the community were so welcoming and supportive of us. This year, the Pride Festival welcomed over 5,000 attendees,” Prince said. “The festival and events like this help bring different communities together. It reminds us that we can’t achieve equality on our own, we have to work together.”