Sunny skies greet thousands who revel in Prospect Park and march through the Heights
Almost as if to make up for the rain-soaked disappointment that was last year’s event, glorious blue skies graced the annual Brooklyn Gay Pride parade and festivities on June 12. By 11 a.m. last Saturday, the streets along the parade route were bustling with enterprising vendors selling Pride memorabilia, sunglasses and even bed linens, amidst corner boys handing out flyers for gay clubs and representatives from community advocacy organizations chatting with parade goers.
Staff from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis handed out safe-sex literature and condoms, while Project Achieve, a testing and AIDS services organization, encouraged people to get tested for HIV.
Dyke TV was on hand to promote their new series, “The D Word,” and men from the New York City Gay Hockey Association showed up to sell copies of their beefcake calendar, a popular fund-raiser, as well as promoted their multi-team tournament on June 18-20. The Brooklyn-based Center for Anti-Violence Education was disseminating information on upcoming martial arts classes, while the hunky, gay-supportive crew at Utilikilts were steadfast in their mission to get every man out of his pants and into well, a skirt.
Newcomers to this year’s event included two organizations spearheaded by heterosexuals promoting same-sex marriage rights. SAME, the Straight Alliance for Marriage Equality, was founded only a few months ago, yet has already organized a presence in the upcoming New York City Pride March, to enlist support for gay marriage and to work against the Federal Marriage Amendment which seeks to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The other group, SWISH, or Straight Women in Support of Homos, has used humor in their bi-coastal advocacy work, spreading the message that “gay love isn’t just for gay people anymore.”
Earlier on Saturday, a 5-kilometer run got athletes warmed up. Later in Prospect Park, the main stage began hopping shortly after 1 p.m., with jazz by Cynthia Hilts, and Kenya Devoreax singing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Throughout the day various public officials arrived to address the crowds including Borough President Marty Markowitz, with an openly gay judicial candidate, Harley Diamond, plus City Councilmember Bill DeBlasio and Assemblymember Jim Brennan.
“Brooklyn is the second largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the New York area,” said DeBlasio, “And the New York City Council is very proud of the role we are playing in the struggle for civil rights. Even though Bloomberg vetoed the Equal Benefits Bill, we will overrule the veto!” DeBlasio was referring to the recent legislation overwhelmingly passed by the Council that seeks to mandate contractors doing business with the city to provide the same benefits to domestic partners as they accord to spouses.
“Brooklyn Pride gives hundreds of thousands of gays the chance to have a great time in Prospect Park, the jewel of Brooklyn,” added Brennan. “Ultimately, there will be marriage equality in the United States… and in New York State.”
Markowitz ended, as he has in past years, by reminding participants that while Brooklyn may not have the state’s largest gay population, it does boast, “the largest lesbian community in New York State.”
“We in Brooklyn understand that if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, Christians, Muslims or Jews, white, black and everything else, we are all children of one God,” said Markowitz. “From one end of Brooklyn to another we say… if you make it in Brooklyn—where else matters?”
The rock group Sister Funk played a few numbers and for theater fans, the men of “Naked Boys Singing” pranced and sang, clad in rainbow leotards. Standing feet above the rest, drag queen Flotilla DeBarge belted out “Hit the Road, Jack,” and “American Woman,” and elicited laughter from a crowd gathered in the midday heat. DeBarge even shared her new tune, “Feelin’ Yourself,” which according to her, was very big in Japan.
By the time the show wrapped up shortly after 6 p.m., the crowd had made its way over to Fifth Avenue to local gay bars Excelsior and Ginger’s. On the outdoor patios at both places, revelers enjoyed happy hour and bided their time until the parade.
At 9 p.m., after a long day of celebrations, the annual Night Parade stepped off, leaving the park from the festival, and traveling up 15th Street to Seventh Avenue, continuing north on Seventh Avenue to Lincoln Place. The Dykes on Bikes led the procession, comprised of the organizations from the street festivals, a few flatbed trucks with dancing boys, and what one participant referred to as, “a couple of tragic looking drag queens.”
With the parade soon over, revelers once again dispersed to local watering holes, or headed to an after-party at Spectrum, a gay disco in Bay Ridge, where DJ Eddie Rivera laid down tracks that took Brooklyn very proudly into the night.