Molly Pinta, who attends Twin Groves Middle School in suburban Buffalo Grove, will be in one of the first floats in the inaugural Buffalo Grove Pride Parade, set to start in the northwest suburb at 10 a.m.
Pinta will be on the Memorial Float, being built by her dad and a family friend, to honor Matthew Albano – a young, gay man who passed away last fall. The float will be on a 24-foot flatbed truck with a DJ. Pinta is “overwhelmingly excited” for the moment.
The entire Buffalo Grove Pride Parade has been a year-long Pinta Project that certainly would earn this student an A+ in social causes, mixed with acceptance, love, hard-work and finances.
The Buffalo Grove Pride Parade “has always been sort of a thing in the distance … it’s crazy that it’s now (about) two weeks away,” she said. “I’m really hoping that people can feel as overwhelmed with happiness as I have been at past pride events.”
The Buffalo Grove Parade route will cover just under a mile, and about 2,000 people are expected to participate – walking or riding on a float. There will be a variety of entrants, from Lakeside Pride’s Marching Band to Congressman Brad Schneider, plus school groups, religious organizations and more.
Organizers are hoping for 5,000 attendees, or more.
“If (attendees) feel the sense of joy, love, and acceptance we felt at Aurora’s parade (in 2018), it will have been a success,” Pinta said. “Our project started with how we felt, and we wanted this parade for others to have the same experience. Of course, a large attendance can always be hoped for, but if we can change just one life, or open just one set of eyes, we’ve done as we wished to do.”
The Buffalo Grove Pride Parade will have four special honorees, including lesbian couple Chara and Jessie Elias. In addition, the parade will include a grand marshal appearance by Demi JoLato (Joe Lah), a drag queen who was born and raised in Buffalo Grove and has made a successful career with Alexis Michelle of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. And finally, Rep. Greg Harris will participate.
“Our goal for the parade is for all the closeted people in Buffalo Grove to see the supportive community around here,” Pinta said. “Before the past year, I didn’t hear much about the gay community. This could be because I’m a kid; however, random kids I don’t even know have come up to me in school, so kids surely hear about these kinds of things, too.”
Pinta praised the support they have received from city officials, including the Deputy Village Manager, Deputy Police Chief and others. “The most exciting thing was that the police had created a keynote presentation to teach our parade marshals about handling the crowd and all of their slides were rainbow color,” she said. “They also mentioned that their own families will attend. This, to us, was the highest compliment.”
Support for the event also has included a non-profit that has twice donated to the cause. Plus, “I got to speak (to) a group called, 100 Women Who Care, putting myself up against two other charities for a grand prize, (and) I won the $15,000 for our organization.”
Pinta added, “We’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response. If there’s a single bad comment, 30 people will be there to defend us. I know there is some backlash, but it’s not really seen as much as the love. We get so many people at each event, and, of course, we live in a liberal-accepting bubble, but I really hope we have done something to spread awareness to those locally who might not have supported the LGBTQ community. In general, people are super excited and planning their outfits already. We have over 80 entries, and the police asked my mom to make a cut off here for (the) first year. We have had at least 15 more groups try to enter the parade since (the cutoff). We see this as very exciting – lots of people want to be a part of (the event).”
The parade will feature the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) from Buffalo Grove and Stevenson High Schools, plus five local middle schools, she said.
Attendees also are coming to Buffalo Grove from neighboring states and of course Chicago. Plus, there will be attendees in BG from both Aurora and Woodstock, cities that are throwing their own pride events.
“The biggest highlight (so far) is that I could name 20 people off the top of my head who are comfortable being themselves because this project happened, and my mom could tell you lots more,” Pinta said.
“I think (the work over the past year to plan for the Buffalo Grove Pride Parade has) made me more aware of what a good situation I’m in. I’ve talked to people who’ve been shunned by their families for being who they are, (and to) people (who) have been abused and bullied. It’s made me see what I have, and made me even more than before want to change the need for the closet, and for fear of being true to yourself and the people in your life.”
Pinta acknowledged that “there probably will be” protesters.
But the love and rainbows will out-weigh negativity, she said.
“My parents and the parade marshals have trained for how to handle this,” she added.
Pinta said she wants the event to happen again in 2020, but no decision has been made yet. Another option is instead host it in BG every other year, with another town hosting on the alternating year.
Since last June, the Buffalo Grove Pride Parade has raised more than $50,000.
“The Pinta Pride Project is so much more than a parade,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, the parade will be very exciting, but the many, many events over the past year, such as vigils, panels, celebrations, rallies and just connecting on Facebook have been so special. Also, the rainbow buffalo stickers and magnets are on cars all over town.”
Honoring Molly Pinta
Pinta was named the Youth Grand Marshal for the 50th Annual Chicago Pride Parade, scheduled for Sunday, June 30, starting at 12 noon.
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is the Honorary Grand Marshal.
“I feel incredibly honored to be recognized for the work I’ve done for the past year, especially on the special anniversary of the first time gay people truly stood up for themselves,” Pinta said. “I cannot believe that my picture appears next to the new, gay mayor of Chicago’s on the Grand Marshal page for Chicago. I am overwhelmed with excitement and know that I am so lucky.
“I cannot believe that I get to meet her.”
Favorite TV Show: American Horror Story
Favorite Movie: “Don’t know in general, but my favorite horror movie is, Saw.”
Favorite app: Apple Music/Messenger App
Favorite Subject in School: Math – “I want to be a math teacher when I grow up.”
Least Favorite Subject in School: Music
Little-known Fact: “My middle name is supposed to be ‘Samantha,’ but whoever wrote it on my birth certificate spelled it wrong, so I am hereby known as ‘Molly Samatha Pinta.’ No “n.” My parents didn’t notice until I was about 4 or 5 years-old (and we) still haven’t changed it.”
Celebrity You’d Most Like to Meet: Ellen DeGeneres
(Complete the sentence): 10 Years From Today … “I would like The Pinta Pride Project to still be as successful as it has been in its first year. I would love to say that I want to be a full-time activist, and I would love to continue activism, but I would love to be settled with a teaching job. Activism will likely always be a part of my life as it’s been my upbringing. We still have a lot of fighting to do – abortion, LGBT rights, women’s rights, less discrimination in general.”
From Carolyn Pinta (Molly’s mom): “I know that many people think I am crazy for the way I have put my phone number and email address out for the whole world to see while working on this project, but what privileges that (also) has brought. I have personally spoken to, guided to support and comfort, and laughed and connected with dozens of parents whose teens have come out. It has been an honor to be able to help people who are stumbling through new territory and to bring them in to a place of love and acceptance. The Pinta Family is the luckiest!”