County Executive David Crowley, Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, and Supervisor Peter Burgelis, in partnership with the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), hosted a special kick off celebration for 2023 Pride Month in Milwaukee County at Cathedral Square Park on May 31.

Pride Month begins on June 1, but Milwaukee County held the special event a day early to unveil this year’s Pride Bus, designed by MCTS employee Brianne Mueller. The theme for 2023 is “the bus is for all of us,” with that message incorporated into the vibrant graphics on each side of the vehicle.

“As we as we kick off Pride Month 2023, let’s celebrate the extraordinary contributions from Milwaukee County’s LGBTQ+ community, to the arts, sciences, culture, and all parts of our community in all neighborhoods in our county,” said Supervisor Burgelis. “What better way to do that than with a 40-foot-long statement to residents that all people are welcome in Milwaukee County, and that the bus is for all of us.”

As the first openly gay member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, Burgelis said that he knew firsthand that there was still a lot of work ahead to make Milwaukee more inclusive for all sexual orientations and gender identities. But he was encouraged to see the incredible community leaders who attended the event, and thanked them for their commitment to ensuring equality in justice society.

“This employee-designed Pride Bus serves as a vibrant symbol of inclusivity and acceptance. It is a moving testament to our dedication for fostering a community where everyone can live and thrive without fear of judgment or prejudice,” said Chairwoman Nicholson. “We also recognize that Pride Month is not only a celebration, but also a time for reflection and action. It is a time to honor the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and to recommit ourselves to the ongoing fight for equity, acceptance, and justice.”

Because the 2021 Pride Bus was so popular with the public, MCTS was excited to bring it back this year with a fresh look. Four design options were presented to all MCTS employees to vote on, for the final selection.

“While our 2021 artwork incorporated the pride flag into the design of our regular fleet, this year I wanted to make the entire bus an abstraction on the pride flag with the ‘Progress Pride Flag’ colors wrapping around the sides and rear of the bus to call specific attention to those communities,” said Mueller. “As a company, we chose this design to show our support for the community and to let Milwaukee County know that the bus is a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

Pride Month is a powerful reminder of the resilience, courage, and tenacity of LGBTQ+ individuals who fought for equal rights. It also honors those accomplishments, proving that anyone can live their lives authentically, free from discrimination and prejudice regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This is an important time to reinforce positive and affirming messages that encourage LGBTQ+ residents to embrace their authentic selves,” said County Executive Crowley. “Across the nation, we are seeing heightened discrimination. We are seeing bullying and violence directed towards the queer community. In our own backyard, we have seen senseless violence directed at our fellow residents, and tragic deaths of transgender women of color.”

County Executive Crowley said that queer residents needed to know that they were not alone. It was Milwaukee County’s vision to achieve both race and health equity, including the protection of and advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ neighbors.

The bus design addressed the first area of focus in Milwaukee County’s strategic plan to achieve that vision of intentional inclusion.

The Pride Bus will alternate different routes across the County for the next year, in an effort to show ongoing support and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community.