New York City Hosts World Pride

United Airlines at New York Pride. Photo via Facebook.

In just a few days we will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots — a defining moment in history in which LGBT people took to the streets to protest oppression and injustice at the hands of the police and the larger reality of inequality they were forced to live every single day. 

Fifty years later the community is preparing for aparade where thousands will march in the streets of New York City alongside the police forces they once resisted, as well as community organizations, small businesses, and a number of large corporations waving Pride flags and throwing rainbow-clad merchandise to the crowds flooding the sidewalks. 

It will be a celebration to remember — NYC is simultaneously hosting WorldPride, the first time on American soil and the second in North America’s history. The theme of the dually marketed Stonewall50 / WorldPride 2019 is “Millions of Moments of Pride,” according to the official website. There are celebrations throughout the month of June, more than 50 scheduled events and an estimated three million participants. 

WorldPride will open with a benefit concert on Wednesday, June 26 at 7 p.m., and ticket proceeds will support the Ali Forney Center, Immigration Equality and SAGE, three leading LGBT organizations in NYC, according to the official pride site. Whoopi Goldberg will host the opening ceremony that will feature speakers and performers, including Cyndi Lauper, DAYA, Ciara, Billy Porter and more.  

Pride celebrations will continue into the weekend with a number of sponsored events and opportunities to party including a Cosplay party, Human Rights conference, sponsored brunches, food festivals, musical performances throughout the city and of course the Sunday pride parade and festival. 

Last year’s march had over 550 unique marching contingents alongside over 100 floats — making it one of the largest Pride marches in history. This year the march will feature cast members from the TV series Pose, the Gay Liberation Front, The Trevor Project, trans activist, author and veteran Monica Helms, and more. 

After the parade, thousands of pride-goers will enjoy PrideFest, the annual street fair filled with entertainers, food and vendors that bridges community leaders, corporate sponsors and local businesses with the LGBT community.  

While corporate sponsorship drastically elevates the budget for Pride celebrations — corporate floats cost anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000 compared to nonprofits who pay up to $2,050 according to Heritage of Pride Executive board member James Fallarino — many people are upset with just how corporate Pride has become.  

“It’s all about the money, and that’s what we find offensive — the corporatization of our lives,” Housing Works chief executive Charles King said. 

There is an official NYC rally on Friday, June 28 at 6 p.m. to commemorate the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, with speakers including Pulse Nightclub owner and founder of the onePULSE Foundation Barbara Poma and Harnaam Kaur — the Bearded Dame — who is a body positivity warrior, world record holder, and activist. 

“LGBTQIA+ rights and human rights are under attack by the current political environment,” the Pride website reads. “Join community activists, organizers, politicians, and more for this unprecedented moment in our history. Take a stand, show up in force, and make your voice heard in this re-imagined Rally experience.” 

And then there is the Queer Liberation March for those who are not satisfied with a “re-imagined” experience and recognize that the current threats to human rights require a much more serious kind of demonstration.

This march is held on the same day as the official Pride march in NYC, but will look very different — organizers of this march claim that it will be a much more sober protest and not a “flashy show.” It will also be barricade-free, encouraging bystanders to take to the streets and join in the march. 

“This is a clash of values,” Reclaim Pride Coalition’s Bill Dobbs said. “Their march stands for corporate pride and the status quo. Ours stands for change.”  

Pride officials claim that corporate sponsorship is crucial in providing supplies, insurance, security and more to the expensive Pride events and celebrations, and has taken the financial burden off advocacy groups and community nonprofits who have tighter budgets, according to Cathy Renna, spokeswoman for Heritage of Pride who has organized the official Pride March since 1984. 

Large corporations are also in the minority when it comes to marching contingencies. Most of the 677 groups in the Pride March represent smaller nonprofits and community organizations, Fallarino said, adding that corporations are accepted only if they have an LGBT employee group participating in the march.  

“I don’t think we’ve lost our way or sold out and turned this into a party or something it wasn’t originally meant to be,” Fallarino said.