Thousands of LGBTQ people flooded the streets in the sweltering summer heat on June 27 to celebrate the 51st annual NYC Pride March and related events.
The march commenced in-person and aired live on ABC 7 at noon along East 26th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway and concluded at Christopher Street and Greenwich Street. Heritage of Pride (HOP), or NYC Pride, launched the event under the theme “The Fight Continues” to condemn racial injustice and emphasize the ways COVID-19 exacerbated disparities among LGBTQ people of color. Although it was limited, this marked the first in-person march by NYC Pride since organizers went virtual last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It was one of two main Pride events held in New York City on June 27, along with the Reclaim Pride Coalition’s Queer Liberation March.
Three of the six grand marshals appeared at the ceremony, including out transgender model Aaron Rose Philip; Ceyenne Doroshow, a performer and founder of GLITS, an LGBTQ grassroots organization; and Demetre Daskalakis, who is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention and previously worked in the New York City Health Department.
During a press conference ahead of the celebration, Philip, a disability advocate, underscored the importance of visibility at Pride demonstrations.
“I am just a girl from Antigua by way of the Bronx — to be seen and held by my community like this is everything to me,” she said. “My community is why I get up in the morning. They are why I have the drive to do what I do… I aspire to make sure you’re seen properly.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator, also took the stage to honor Pride. Schumer boasted about declaring his support for marriage equality years before it became the law of the land in 2015 and added that his backing of LGBTQ rights is buoyed by his support for his out queer daughter, Alison, who married fiancée Elizabeth Weiland in 2018.
Following the press conference, HOP Co-Chair André Thomas said organizers were tight-lipped on plans for a physical celebration in order to protect the safety of spectators.
“We are still coming out of the pandemic, and we still have people who are not vaccinated,” Thomas said. “Having a large mass crowd, even if it’s outside — there’s still a risk to some people…the fight still continues against COVID.”
Thomas also addressed HOP’s controversial decision to ban uniformed officers from annual festivities. The policy, which is in effect until at least 2025, comes against a national reckoning with racial injustice as well as incidents of police violence targeting LGBTQ individuals.
“They can take their uniforms off; I can’t take off my Black skin. A trans person can’t change who they are,” Thomas said. “When it comes to participating, we can say to take off that symbol that is triggering for so many people.”
Following the announcement last month, the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) ripped HOP officials, stating that they took “the low road by preventing their fellow community members from celebrating their identities.” Days before the kick-off of the march, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea criticized the ban at an NYPD press conference.
“I personally don’t agree with it, and I’m disappointed,” Shea said on June 24.
In responding to Shea’s comments, Thomas recalled a protest in April that erupted into chaos when the NYPD violently roughed up protesters after a monument was defaced in Manhattan. He said organizers are urging the NYPD to take accountability.
“The NYPD commissioner back in 2019 apologized for the events of Stonewall in 1969, but there’s 50 years of history between now and then of incidents that continue to happen up through April of this year that hasn’t been addressed,” Thomas said. “We are not asking them to go on an apology tour. We are asking them to say, ‘we know we have done harm to your community — to Black people to Brown people, to trans people.'”
During the march, the Caribbean Equality Project, an LGBTQ advocacy group in New York for queer and trans Caribbeans, walked in the parade with traditional carnival outfits. For attendees, the march provided a safe space for LGBTQ individuals who have lost gathering places due to the pandemic.
Frankie Ramos, 26, told Gay City News that this is his first pride as an out transgender man.
“I have really bad social anxiety because of my dysphoria, so coming to a place where I know no one is going to judge me is great,” he said. “It lets me be able to be me and not hide in a closet anymore.”
Among other events produced by HOP on June 27 included Pridefest, which featured queer vendors, music, and food on Fourth Avenue between 13th and Ninth Street. Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall single “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” blasted in the background while attendees danced.
Myrna Morris, a 61-year-old butch woman of Manhattan, attended Pridefest with her wife of more than a decade. Morris has been attending Pride events for 30 years and said events like this foster strength in her identity.
“It’s important to show people that we are people too,” she said. “[You] should never judge no one for who they are.”
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