Pride Month Featured Evanstonians
Gerald "Gerry" Johnson
Gerald “Gerry” Johnson is a lifelong Evanstonian who attended Evanston Township High School. As a gay man, Gerry has given back to the LGBTQIA+ communities in both Evanston and Chicago through years of volunteer work.
After going away to college, Gerry returned to Evanston and began looking for opportunities to bring him closer to the LGBTQIA+ community and ways to contribute in a dedicated way. He found this opportunity at the Howard Brown Health Center where he volunteered for over 20 years.
One of Gerry’s passions since a young age has been singing. In his younger years, he was a member of the ETHS choir and his college concert choir. These experiences led him to join the Windy City Gay Chorus, where he has been a long-term member for over 30 years. Throughout his years with this organization, he has travelled to and performed in three countries, participated in Chicago Pride Parades and Gay Games, and raised funds for AIDS organizations.
Gerry was also an active member of his neighborhood group in the early 2000s, called Foster Park Neighbors. This group worked to raise issues of concern facing the Black community and 5th Ward in Evanston.
Most recently, Gerry joined as a member of the Pride Parade Committee for the Main-Dempster Mile’s first Evanston Pride Parade. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this event had to be postponed for a year. With a background in advertising and marketing, Gerry hopes to assist in promotional efforts as a part of the Committee.
“I have struggled and longed to find a real sense of the LGBTQIA+ community here in Evanston, and meet other fellow LGBTQIA+ Evanstonians, so I was excited when this opportunity to join the Pride Parade Committee presented itself. I’m really looking forward to helping get the Evanston Pride Parade off the ground next year,” said Gerry.
Gerry hopes that these efforts to celebrate Pride and highlight LGBTQIA+ folks here in Evanston will create a much needed sense of community and camaraderie, and lead to new opportunities to meet and get to know other LGBTQIA+ Evanston residents.
In honor of Pride Month, we’re featuring Rada Yovovich (she/her) who was a member of this year’s Pride Fest Planning Committee. As a queer
cis woman, Rada began advocating for equity, diversity and inclusion in college and has since continued her efforts throughout her career, including work here in Evanston.
Rada grew up in Evanston and attended ETHS. Although she now lives in Uptown in Chicago, she has kept a close relationship with the Evanston community. She is deeply committed to Evanston’s potential to be a truly safe and inclusive space for its LGBTQIA+ citizens.
“I am passionate about LGBTQIA+ inclusion, particularly for trans-identifying and BIPOC members of that community,” said Rada. “Much of my commitment to community stems from what I learned in Evanston about the power and safety of a supportive community, and I work to foster that lived experience for all parts of my LGBTQIA+ family.”
Her organization, The Darkest Horse Ventures (thedarkesthorse.com), is an Evanston-based next-gen consultancy focused on the intersection of Radical Inclusion, Emerging Technology, The Future of Work, and Health Wellbeing and Human Potential. Through this organization, Rada has worked with students at ETHS by participating in the Women’s Empowerment Conference, speaking to the women in the STEM (WiSTEM) program, and participating in the STEAM DTI Program Think Tank. Rada has also spoken at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management for Pride events.
Not only has she worked with Evanston students on equity and inclusion, but Rada has also hosted inclusion events and presentations for local Evanston businesses and organizations, including 818 Co-Working and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. Her additional work within the community includes partnering with Anti-Racism Playdate and supporting the Anti-Racism Fest.