In honor of Pride Month, New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, Garden State Equality is partnering with The City of Trenton and The Arc Mercer to host a celebratory Cocktails & Conversation event in the capital city.

Join New Jersey’s LGBTQ+ leaders and allies at Trenton Social on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. to celebrate. Enjoy some music, cocktails and mocktails during an evening of discussions about equality and inclusivity in the city of Trenton.

Featured speakers include the event organizer Kadja Manuel, the LGBTQ+ Committee Chair of the Trenton Branch NAACP and Executive Assistant and Community Organizer with Garden State Equality, Trenton Mayor W. Reed Gusciora and Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson speaking on the importance of visibility, Crystal Feliciano, North Ward District 5 Committeewoman speaking on the importance of allyship and CEO of Greater Trenton, George Sowa speaking on the importance of diversity.

“The (Trenton) Social is one of those places where everyone comes together,” said Manuel. “The Social is probably one of the few places, at least for me, being an LGBTQ person of color who grew up here, feel safe and welcomed.”

Manuel, who grew up in the West Ward of Trenton and openly served in the U.S. Army, frequents Trenton Social often. To him, the welcoming atmosphere of Trenton Social is ideal for this prideful celebration.

“It doesn’t matter your race, creed or whatever music you listen to, it’s a place for everyone,” he said, “Since I know LGBTQ people typically frequent that place in this town, it would be the perfect place and opportunity just to bring awareness.”

To enlist further support for the diverse attendees looking to attend the Cocktails & Conversations event, Garden State Equality, The City of Trenton and The Arc Mercer also paired up with Hyacinth, New Jersey’s largest and first HIV service provider, to provide on-site testing for HIV and STD/STI’s. This free service promotes safe sexual activity among the LGBTQ+ community.

A mobile van will be parked at Trenton Social the night of the event to additionally offer free COVID-19 vaccinations and testing. For those who may need vaccination or testing elsewhere, Garden State Equality is also offering a free way to get to a location through their partnership with Lyft.

“Obviously, we are an LGBTQ+ organization and we’re looking to really help get LGBTQ people who are underserved and those who live in urban areas test, and also the vaccine by providing transportation,” said Manuel.

Through the Lyft Safety and Harm Prevention Program, Garden State Equality will pay for up to $40 ($20 each direction) of Lyft transportation fee to assure Trentonians in need can get to and from the event, or any other local site, for vaccinations or testing. This transportation service also reassures those feeling uneasy about walking or driving home the evening of the event that they will make it home safely.

“[The program] basically gets LGBTQ people out of dangerous situations,” said Manuel. “And since this event will be happening at night, if someone’s walking home and they feel like they live in an area that’s not as safe as others, we’ll be able to provide that transportation for them as well.”

Through this collaborative community event, Garden State Equality, The Arc Mercer, Hyacinth and all featured speakers hope this upcoming event encourages communication amongst Trentonians, making the city a safe place for all ideas and forms of self-expression. For Manuel, that inclusivity is what Pride is all about.

“Over the past year, a separate community, for the first time felt visible, they felt seen and heard, and that was the African American community with the wake of George Floyd,” said Manuel, “Pride is more than just a celebration. It’s also about being seen and being heard, but also listening and seeing other folks.”

The networking, socializing and testing aspects of the event will take place from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Any attendee looking to stay past 8:00 p.m. to closing for additional dancing and music must pay a $10 cover.

Garden State Equality lifts up the diverse voices of LGBTQ+ communities through education and advocacy to advance the movement for equality in New Jersey and nationally. The team works tirelessly to ensure the communities they serve experience lived equality. Garden State Equality is the largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in New Jersey, with over 150,000 members. Established in 2004, it is now one of the most successful statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organizations in the nation with services that include advocacy, policy work, and training. The organization works to address safe environments for youth, improvement of health services that meet LGBTQ+ community needs, and respectful treatment of seniors. Beyond that, Garden State Equality supports New Jersey’s activist community by bringing an LGBTQ+ lens to the shared struggle for justice.
With all of its current work being informed by racial, economic, and disability justice concerns, Garden State Equality envisions a vibrant and diverse Garden State with full equality in the law and LGBTQ+ residents of all backgrounds experiencing equality in their lives.
The Arc Mercer has exceptionally caring and dedicated staff providing comprehensive community-based services that help people with special needs to thrive. It serves as the only agency to offer premier transportation and health care services in Mercer County.

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