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LGBTQ activists in NYC, LA reimagine pride marches as solidarity protests

Organizers of the LA Pride Festival and New York's Queer Liberation March announced their respective events will this year be dedicated to black solidarity.
Image: Activists march in the Queer Liberation March on 2019 World Pride NYC and Stonewall 50th LGBTQ Pride day in New York
Activists participate in the Queer Liberation March in Greenwich Village in New York on June 30. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

New York and Los Angeles, like hundreds of other cities around the world, canceled their in-person Pride Month celebrations this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But on Wednesday, amid protests across the country, the organizers of the annual LA Pride Festival and Parade announced that they would revive their June 14 centerpiece event as a "solidarity protest march" with the black community "in response to racial injustice, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression."

Thursday, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, the group behind last year's inaugural alternative pride march, said it, too, would dedicate its Pride Month event to black solidarity, renaming it the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality.

Reclaim Pride, which hosted its first event in large part to exclude police participation, said its June 28 event "will be focused on elevating and protecting Black Lives."

Jon Carter, one of the group's organizers, said the New York event will be fully responsive to the evolving pandemic situation.

"Guarding public safety to the best of our ability is our top priority and will be a huge part of any of the plans that we commit to," Carter said.

New York City's big annual pride march, organized by Heritage of Pride, was canceled in April because of the pandemic, with no plans as of now for an in-person revival.

A 50-year history

In Los Angeles, pride march organizers said part of their decision to reorient the march was the history of the LGBTQ community — notably the contributions of queer people of color to the movement.

"Fifty years ago Christopher Street West took to the streets of Hollywood Blvd in order to peacefully protest against police brutality and oppression," Estevan Montemayor, president of Christopher Street West's board, was quoted as saying on LA Pride's website. "It is our moral imperative to honor the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who bravely led the Stonewall uprising, by standing in solidarity with the Black community against systemic racism and joining the fight for meaningful and long-lasting reform."

The first Los Angeles pride march was held in 1970 just after New York City's first march, which was then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day march — hence the Los Angeles event's name, Christopher Street West. This year marks the 50th anniversaries of both cities' inaugural pride marches.

The first pride marches were held to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, widely considered to be a pivotal moment in the LGBTQ rights movement.

Questions remain

In a video posted on Facebook, Ashlee Marie Preston, a Los Angeles-based black trans activist and former Christopher Street West board member, said she and other Los Angeles-based black queer activists were unaware of plans to hold a "Black Lives Matter solidarity march."

In an interview Thursday, she said it would have been "tone deaf" not to mention the recent protests, and she noted that LA Pride organizers have yet to state whether there will be a police or sheriff's presence at the march.

LA Pride "has been asked many times, even when I was on the board, to not have the sheriff or police present," Preston said. "At a time when police brutality is at the center, that guarantee hasn't been made."

Preston is one of the emcees for New York City Pride's virtual rally event on Friday, June 26.

Raquel Willis, a transgender activist, writer and former editor at Out Magazine, criticized Christopher Street West for invoking the names of Johnson and Rivera, pioneering trans activists of color, "without having any of the Marshas and Sylvias up there today involved with the leadership of their work."

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