The way Lis Janes sees it, the community she loves hasn’t matured to the degree of gender tolerance found in bigger cities. Lis hopes to change that.
Two years after moving to the area from Portland, Lis, chair of the Pride L-A planning committee, is helping organize a series of events coming up later this month. We caught up to ask her about those events as well as her thoughts about her new home.
Who is Lis Janes and what is Pride L-A? Lis Janes is an artist, and a chair on the Pride L-A planning committee. Two years ago, she moved to Lewiston-Auburn, hoping to set down roots. Lis has found true joy in doing community work in L-A, including by joining the planning committee for Pride L-A, a series of events centered around a march and festival on June 10th in Simard-Payne Park in Lewiston.
What is the joy you have found in Pride L-A? It’s the first year, so even with experienced people involved, there’s no template for what we are doing. It’s been a lot of hard work and reminding one another that this is about having fun and bringing the community together. The joy comes when you’ve come through this really hard process as a team, and this thing that means so much to so many is happening and you all contributed to that. It’s an incredible feeling.
Why have Pride in Lewiston-Auburn? In bigger cities, people are less concerned with others’ sexual or gender identity. In L-A, we are sort of like a small town inside a small city. We all love that about L-A, but members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t always feel safe here. We are hoping that offering welcoming pride events, including our family-friendly march and festival will help change that.
Why is this year’s event titled Rise Up? Rise Up is a march in solidarity with all people who are hurt by bigotry and hatred. It is inspired by the Solidarity March in Washington D.C. that is also taking place in June of this year. There are a lot of connections between LGBTQ+ justice, and other social justice work, including economic justice, (dis)ability justice and racial justice.
We see you’re from Portland. What challenges have you faced since moving to L-A? I moved here only knowing one person. I was working 12-hour night shifts at a nursing home, which made it hard to meet new people. I changed my work schedule and started getting to know my neighbors. I have met so many wonderful people that my life and my heart is full, and I really have a hard time imagining living anywhere else.
What do you love about Lewiston-Auburn? So many things! I consider Lewiston-Auburn to be Maine’s most undervalued community. I don’t think L-A is for everyone, though. In my experience, to truly understand the value of L-A, you have to be willing to get your hands a little dirty with the sometimes tough community work that we are doing here, building bridges across difference such as race, class, sexual and gender identity, religion, language and nation of origin.
What are your concerns about Lewiston-Auburn? A lot of communities across the world have been “revitalized” in an attempt to bring the economy back to life, and it always hurts the working poor, including families who have been living in their community for generations. There are people in L-A trying to prevent that, but we have to constantly question our ideas and if they will benefit everyone, or just people who are living above the poverty line.
Any other projects in the works? My heart lives at the Webster Street Community Garden in Auburn, growing veggies and meeting neighbors, which are, after all, two of my favorite things. I am also in the Tip L/A Leadership Program, and am working with the Southern Maine Workers’ Center in Lewiston on the Health Care is a Human Right Campaign. As far as my studio art practice goes, August will mark one year into a long-term project called Hypersapiens, which marries my love of art, community and social justice.
Can anyone get involved in Pride L-A? Absolutely! There are lots of opportunities for community members to get involved! We welcome people from the LGBTQ+ community, and allies from all walks of life. The best way to connect with us is through our website, pride-l-a.weebly.com, or by finding us on Facebook and Instagram by searching @pridelamaine.