In NYC, marking 50th anniversary of Pride, no matter what

A person wearing rainbow-colored wings and a matching rainbow-colored tee-shirt walks through the street during a queer liberation march for Black Lives Matter and against police brutality, Sunday, June 28, 2020, in New York.

LGBTQ Pride is turning 50 this year a little short on its signature fanfare, after the coronavirus pandemic drove it to the internet and after calls for racial equality sparked by the killing of George Floyd further overtook it.

Activists and organizers are using the intersection of holiday and history in the making — including the Supreme Court's decision giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people workplace protections — to uplift the people of color already among them and by making Black Lives Matter the centerpiece of Global Pride events this weekend.

“Pride was born of protest,” said Cathy Renna, communications director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, seeing analogies in the pandemic and in common threads of the Black and LGBTQ rights movements. “Trans women of color have been targeted in what has been called an epidemic, and the Stonewall uprising happened in response to police harassment and brutality."

The first Pride march took place June 28, 1970, a year after the 1969 uprisings at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, which were led by trans women of color. A few other commemorations took place that year and later spread until 50 years on, there's scarcely a place on Earth that doesn't host some type of Pride event.

Joplin has conducted a Pride event for years, but the 2020 festival — originally scheduled for late August — has been canceled because of concerns about COVID-19 and because key fundraisers for this year's event also had to be scrapped, said Ashley Benson, volunteer coordinator with JOMO Pride Inc.

That decision has been particularly disappointing for organizers who say last year's event, which drew close to 3,000 people, was the largest Joplin Pride to date, Benson said. But options are being discussed for taking Pride online.

"We're still working on the key points on how we're going to do virtual Pride," Benson said. "I really do think it's important that we try to make that a reality. Our community really loves to see each other and talk to each other, so we're going to try to make that happen."

Global Pride, an online festival that took place this weekend, featured activists and politicians, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and entertainers such as Betty Who, Deborah Cox, Laverne Cox, Jake Shears and Martha Wash.

“Trans folks, particularly the LGBTQ-I folks of color, have gotten discrimination from the larger systems of white supremacy and on racist terms, and then also have experienced transphobia and homophobia within our own communities," trans actor Laverne Cox told The Associated Press in an interview recently. “And so, part of what the Black Trans Lives Matter movement ... is acknowledging that communities of color still have a lot of work to do to fully reconcile our history of transphobia, specifically, and homophobia as well."

Connected movements

In Minnesota, where Floyd died last month at the hands of Minneapolis police, it was immediately clear that Pride as usual — one of the nation's largest — would be inappropriate, said Twin Cities Pride board member Felix Foster. Instead, the backbone of this year’s Twin Cities Pride will take the form of a solidarity march honoring the memory of Floyd and others killed by Minnesota police.

“We’re never going to stop letting ourselves, each other, and the whole ... world know that our liberation has always been led by BIPOC (Black and Indigenous people of color) queer and trans folks — and when we do get free, when we get free together, it will be with Black and brown queer and trans folks at the front," said Amber Hikes, the American Civil Liberties Union's first chief equity and inclusion officer, in a Facebook post.

Locally, JOMO Pride Inc. has issued its own statement on the racial unrest and protests of the past month, saying its advocacy is for people of all races, sexual orientations and genders.

"With the current climate of the country, we are reminded in the LGBTQ+ community what the fight for equal rights can cost, and we as an organization felt the need to state our support for the Black Lives Matter movement," the group said on Facebook.

Benson, a person of color, doesn't believe that Pride has taken a back seat to the unrest after Floyd's killing. Instead, the two movements — LGBTQ equality and racial equality — are intimately connected.

"It's almost like an understanding — how can we equally think of both issues?" Benson said. "I think it all intertwines. I think we're all on the same level, trying to fight for one another, because in my opinion, if we're not on the same page, then we don't have anything."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Emily Younker is the managing editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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