Ava Mackin is not one to let social distancing restrictions cancel the Pride celebration she had carefully planned. So rather than postpone until a later date, the 13-year-old from Sturbridge, Massachusetts pressed on, creating her very own “Paint Your Towns Rainbow" movement. Within it, alongside her family the young queer activist has given away hundreds of rainbow flags to local businesses to hang outside their doors.
“She’s just one of those people who wants to make a change,” Mackin’s mother, Lisa Gregoire, tells Out. The campaign initially started at the Saw Dust Coffee House and Dessert Bar where she works. Sturbridge is a small town an hour’s drive east of Boston.
“They’ve been really supportive,” she says of tthe venue's response to Mackin’s request to hang a flag outside their doors.
Their support spurred the project on and Mackin kept distributing flags until she ran out. Then, the movement took on a life of its own and has resulted in a cascade of Pride across her hometown.
This isn’t the first time Mackin has made a difference in her community. With mom's help, she had earlier responded to the lack of LGBTQ+ youth groups in town by creating Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
The change is welcomed by another of the town’s residents including Sarah Prager, the author of numerous books including her most recent Rainbow Revolutionaries. Prager reached out to Mackin after seeing the flags flying in town.
“It gives me a feeling of celebration to see the rainbows as I drive through town,” Prager tells Out, but is also quick to point out the need for further in policies and training regarding LGBTQ+ issues and awareness. “There's definitely a lot of work to do in Sturbridge. It's not outright hateful in most cases, but you don't have to scratch too much beneath the surface to find some very problematic issues.”
For her part, Mackins is now intent on building alliances at her school and spreading the Paint Your Towns Rainbow movement to communities and towns in her area.
“That’s all she talks about, helping others,” Gregoire beams.