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Reclaim Pride Hosts Forum on 2019 Parade

The Resistance contingent in this year’s LGBTQ Pride Parade. | DONNA ACETO

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | Activists who are challenging how New York City’s Pride Parade is run and how it represents the queer community held a town hall meeting to discuss this year’s parade and to plan next steps for the 2019 event that will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which marked the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

“We decided the most important thing of all, we created this march,” said Karla Jay, the author and a member of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), an early radical LGBTQ group that was involved in organizing the first march in 1970 that commemorated the riots. “You, the people who are here, you are the true inheritors of this march, we created it for you. We did not create it for Citibank.”

Jay was among roughly 10 former GLF members who attended the August 31 town hall, which was held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. More than 100 people attended the two-hour event.

Dissident coalition says it’s met with Heritage of Pride, will keep pressure up

While New York City’s Pride Parade presents an image of unity to the large crowds that line the march route every year, it has frequently been the subject of controversy. In recent years, the most common complaint is that organizers have abandoned the event’s radical roots and turned it over to the corporations that sponsor the parade.

The 2018 parade, which was a dry run for the 2019 parade, was notable for the frontloading of sponsors, elected officials and candidates for public office, and city and state government agencies so that they could be seen in the three-hour live broadcast of the parade that was carried by WABC-TV.

Heritage of Pride (HOP), the group that organizes the parade and related events, has argued that the corporations represent employee resource groups and their contingents are comprised of LGBTQ employees and their allies. For activists, the floats and large contingents fielded by sponsors are little more than ads that do not reflect the authentic LGBTQ community.   

The 2018 march route — which began in Chelsea, headed south on Seventh Avenue, east on Christopher and Eighth Streets then north on Fifth Avenue to end at 29th Street — was controversial as was limiting contingents to no more than 200 marchers. The new route was supposed to reduce the duration of the parade, but it only shaved 24 minutes off of the 2017 parade, which ended at 9:38 p.m. The parade begins at noon on the last Sunday in June. HOP allowed 13 contingents, including 11 sponsors, to exceed the 200-marcher limit, after telling activists that part of the rationale for the limit was to reduce the size of sponsor contingents.

“They failed at everything they wanted to do,” said Bill Bahlman, a longtime LGBTQ activist, referring to HOP.

The Reclaim Pride Coalition, which represented the counter view on the parade this year, organized the town hall. Members of the Coalition confronted HOP at some of that group’s public meetings and, since this June’s parade, had at least one private meeting with HOP.

“We presented them with a vision of a major civil rights march,” said Ann Northrop, a longtime lesbian and AIDS activist, referring to the 2019 parade. “This was a whole new idea to them.”

While the town hall did not produce any concrete plans for 2019 or how the Coalition should proceed in its challenge to HOP, members did begin the process of organizing committees and they invited attendees to join them at regular Saturday afternoon meetings that are held at the Center. They agreed that they would continue to pressure HOP to change. Coalition members were told HOP would host a town hall about next year’s parade on August 13.

“We need to make this hurt for them,” said Alex Leitch, a Coalition member, during the town hall.

Members were divided on what the 2019 parade should look like, with some expressing the view that a more celebratory event is correct and others wanting more overtly political content. There was some discussion of having an alternative march. Founders and organizers of the Dyke March, which always takes place the Saturday evening before the Pride Parade, turned out to support the Coalition, but also to push back against any plan that would impinge on the Dyke March.

“You absolutely cannot step on the Dyke March,” one organizer said. “We will fuck you up.”

7 Responses to Reclaim Pride Hosts Forum on 2019 Parade

  1. HOPper August 3, 2018 at 10:17 am

    "For activists, the floats and large contingents fielded by sponsors are little more than ads that do not reflect the authentic LGBTQ community."

    And there it is, the #1 reason why it's hard for me to take these people seriously. They have this notion that there is an authentic way to be LGBTQ and express Pride and then there are inauthentic ways. And they are the gatekeepers who decide what is authentic and what isn't. Most of the time, the distinction tends to be "I don't like my perception of what the politics or motivations of this person/group are, so they're not really what Pride is supposed to be about." I have yet to hear a coherent idea from them yet about how we reduce that to an evenly-applied and fair policy that doesn't, at some point of application, exclude members of the community they claim they are there to represent.

    Reply
  2. Eleanor Batchelder August 8, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    This article talks about the "Aug 31 town hall" — what year was that? 2017?

    Reply
  3. horatiost August 10, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    That date was a typo. The meeting was on July 31 not August 31, 2018

    Reply
  4. Dennis Siple August 10, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    I suggest HOP look at the first word in the name of their organization and begin there. Heritage, it would seem means little to them. Our Heritage is one of oppression, fake marriages and hiding in closets; lost jobs and arrests for being in gay bars raided for no reason. Our Pride rests on the backs of fallen drag queens and those who dared to fight back and those who came out of the closet to join them in throwing off the chains of oppression. THAT is what we celebrate for in Pride events worldwide – It's our fucking Independence Day. And all of those corporations and banks and liquor companies would have fired every one of our queer asses back in the day if we were outed. Except of course, those queers in a position of power. If we must, let the underwriters have their logos on just One sign carried by employees who are willing to go to the back of the bus. Just like credits at the end of a movie.

    Reply
  5. Martha Shelley August 10, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    I was the first to propose a protest march after Stonewall, and was one of the organizers. It took place exactly one month after the riot. We then organized the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, and another march in June 1970. It's sickening to watch Gay Pride become an advertising opportunity for corporations and politicians that never have and never would do anything for gays (or any other marginalized/oppressed group), unless they stand to make a buck off us. A prime example: Wells Fargo, which I understand had a very big float this year. And which is essentially a criminal enterprise. In the last few years it 1) opened unauthorized accounts for customers and then deducted fees from their real accounts to pay for the fake ones, 2) fired employees who wouldn't go along with this scam, 3) invested in private prisons, and 4) targeted minority communities for subprime mortgages and then foreclosed on them, draining any accumulated savings out of those communities. But hey, we should let them have their float in our parade, because they are willing to hire openly gay people to do their dirty work, and because they are willing to pony up some of the expenses of the parade–right?

    Reply
  6. Marc Schnapp August 11, 2018 at 12:17 am

    The Hop (house of pandering?) person uses the classic sophistry tool of charicature to mischaracterize the objections many of us have to the nature of recent Stonewall Revolt commemorations. These events should broadly represent who we are. We are Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. We are Rollarina (who had a day job on Wall Street). We are Latino, African American, Asian, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists. Working class and creative folks of elite and not so celebrated corners of society.

    And most of us work for a living. So it's more desirable to have employers who make it clear they won't fire us for being queer than ones who'd persecute us. As Martha Shelley points out, being ethical can sometimes be grounds for firing instead of our gender identity or affectional affiliations.

    Our commemoration should represent the broad spectrum of our identities. And should be particularly solicitous to those of us who have the fewest protections: asylum seekers, working class folks unprotected by unions and employee associations, homeless youth, those jeopardized by today's climate of demonization and reactionary attacks.

    We can be celebratory AND hyperaware at the same time. We can thrill at how far we have come in the aggregate. But that's not much consolation to a queer kid who's kicked out by parents!

    We need an event that has a high awareness of history and how struggle and friction accompany social progress. Recognize the gains and acknowledge that we have a long way to go.

    Reply
  7. THOMAS MCLOUGHLIN August 11, 2018 at 7:41 am

    The March could be over in a few hours, if it went up or down Fifth Avenue. No turns. No blocking traffic on other Avenuss. Very few stops for crosstown traffic.
    A celebration could be held a few nights before at Stonewall.

    Reply

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