No hate found here … just love


Organizing a peaceful march (or walk) often takes months to prepare. There’s the publicity required. There’s planning the route. There’s getting permits and police. There’s frankly just a lot of work involved beforehand.

And yet somehow, Eddie Acosta, 26, a longtime Kearny resident and current Harrison resident, was able to pull off the impossible: In just a week and a day, he and some of his closest friends planned and carried out West Hudson’s first-ever “Walk for Love,” a response to the heinous massacre that took place in the early-morning hours of Sunday, June 12, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The March for Love — which took place Saturday, June 26 — made its way from the sidewalks at Kearny Town Hall, south along Kearny Ave., and ended at Harrison Town Hall on Harrison Ave. The crowd, estimated at around 150 people, included all walks of life — gay, straight, black, white, Latino … you name it — and that was the idea of the walk. It wasn’t just an LGBT event. It was designed for all people, no matter what background they came from, to bring attention to love — despite all the hate in the world, there are plenty of people in the world, including here in West Hudson, whose only goal is to spread love.

For Acosta, the walk was beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

“I woke up Friday (June 17) and I thought to myself, ‘enough!’” Acosta told The Observer prior to the walk. “Enough of the hate. Enough of the violence. I wanted to do something about it and the idea of the walk came to be. Now I had no idea if I was going to be able to pull it off. But the idea was there — my partner Gerard and some of my friends decided we were going to do something about it — and we did it, and it’s just amazing we were able to pull it off in just about a week.”

To pull it off, Acosta and his friends spent the early part of last week speaking to elected officials in Kearny, East Newark and Harrison, along with the chief of police in Kearny and East Newark and a representative of the chief in Harrison.

While it was far too late to get permits to shut down Kearny Ave. and Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard, the police reps and a handful of elected officials all got on board and said the walk could take place on the sidewalk.

When all was said and done, the Kearny Police Department provided four uniformed officers (and possibly a few plain-clothed officers) — all of whom walked along with the group the entire way, keeping everyone safe from potential detractors.

Aside from a brief potentially ugly episode where, just before the walk began, a known town irritant walked past the group twice with two bricks in his hand — one of the uniformed Kearny officers quickly took the bricks from the guy and sent him on his way — there were no incidents.

Acosta took time to acknowledge the police for their presence.

“I want to thank Chief (John) Dowie for what he did for us today,” Acosta told the crowd assembled at Kearny Town Hall prior to the walk. “We are so lucky to have the Kearny police with us today — and I want you all to give them a great round of applause. Come on!”

During the walk, Acosta dressed in drag and carried with him the Rainbow Flag. In essence, it was a historical moment for the West Hudson LGBT community, even if the walk was for all kinds of people.

“It really was a historical moment,” Acosta said. “I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a time, ever, where a drag queen walked down Kearny Ave. in six-inch heels carrying the flag.”

From all of this, Acosta said he hopes, one day, to open a safe place for local LGBT people to gather.

“It may not be huge, or maybe it is, but there is an LGBT community here,” Acosta said. “And if we unite as one, we can change the world with kindness, and not hate. We want people to know this is a great place to live, raise children.”

Meanwhile, Acosta’s partner, Gerard Anthony Gagliano, 21, of Harrison, said he was thrilled to be able to be part of the historical work — and he hopes this becomes an annual tradition.

“At the beginning, Eddie was able to handle things by himself, but then it just blew up,” Gagliano said. “We figured we’d be lucky if we got 30 people. But to see how it just blew up like this? Amazing.”

Gagliano said he and Acosta hope to turn the walk into something much bigger — a non-profit that leads to corporate sponsorship and greater awareness.

“We’re in talks to become a non-profit,” Gagliano said. “We spoke with Target (an LGBT-friendly corporation) and they told us that to sponsor us, we need to be an official non-profit to assure their sponsoring is proper. If you couple that with the elected officials who were all supportive and excited (none walked, however), there’s room for so much more.”

Gagliano said the message of “love” goes well beyond the LGBT community in West Hudson.

“I don’t remember a time where there was so many shootings, stabbings in this area as there are now,” Gagliano said. “The police here do a great job, but there are times I don’t feel safe walking home. It was different when I was in high school. So I hope that we can even bring awareness to what happens here locally — and to do something about it.”

Acosta’s mother, Jeannette, flew up to New Jersey from her home in Lake Marion, Fla., said she’s extremely proud of what her son did to make the Walk for Love possible.

“My son is amazing,” she said. “What happened in Pulse could very easily happen here one day if we don’t do something about it. If we think everything is OK here and it can’t happen, we’re fooling ourselves because it can happen here. As for my son, I’ve always been his biggest supporter — and I will love him until I take my last breath. It wasn’t always easy along the way, but I walk away from today prouder than ever of Eddie.”

In addition to Acosta and Gagliano, Brigett Marrero and

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.