New Pride Events in Pittsburgh Shake Up The Status Quo

A few years ago, a group known as Roots Pride stood up in a very public way against the structural racism embedded in the current incarnation of Pittsburgh Pridefest. With very limited resources, organizers coordinated community meetings, activities and events to celebrate the LGBTQ community of the region and the spirit of Stonewall – creating a vibrant alternative to the Pride activities.

At the time, I said to Ledcat that a critical blow had been struck against the foundation (pun – ha!) of Pride, but it would be awhile until it morphed into its next phase. I still hold true to that philosophy. Roots Pride organizers Joy KMT and Michael David Battle took a principled stance highlighting the reality that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and it resonated albeit slowly.

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This year, we see the emergence of two (potentially, three) new ‘alt-Pride’ events that are claiming the legacy of Stonewall and Pridefest to create new community opportunities in June. I use alt-Pride to indicate that they are independent of the mainstream Pridefest organizers, but they in many ways lay a more genuine claim to the legacy of Pride. 

On Saturday, June 10, the GLCC of Pittsburgh (our LGBTQ community center) will host the first ever Smoke and Mirrors Penn OUT Loud Art Crawl from 3PM to 12 AM along the same corridor as the popular Unblurred First Fridays.

Spend the day visiting over a dozen supportive community spaces, strolling Penn Ave (Garfield, 15224) through interactive exhibits and exploring the many facets of Pride through the years. All evening long you can enjoy independent LGBTQ+ performers and see lots of queer art by people from the Pittsburgh community. We love local! And the night won’t end until we get the chance to dance! We’re gonna dust off those disco balls and break out the glowsticks for this one! Our Smoke and Mirrors Disco Dance Party with babe dj’s- Kates Weeney and Stephanie Tsong is gonna sparkle!

Most activities, events and stops are FREE! (food, drinks and small cover charges may apply at various events) There will be plenty of recovery friendly stops and many that are open to all ages! We are also committed to making sure that venues will be as handicap accessible as possible.

Note, that of course we’ll be there with #AMPLIFY to collect stories and share our archive with the community thanks to our friends at Most Wanted Fine Art.

I like that this event presents free and low-cost options for people who want to celebrate with their community. Highlighting local artists is something mainstream Pride overlooks so it is a great gap for the GLCC to fill in creating an event that’s family friendly, has designated sober spaces and a clear acknowledgement of needs for accessibility. Plus, a nighttime dance party. Penn Avenue is a great place to celebrate LGBTQ Pride.

On Sunday, June 11, SisTers PGH is hosting the People’s Pride 2k17 along the route of the event formerly known as the Pride March in Downtown Pittsburgh. This march will step off at 1 PM after the other march wraps up.

We will march on them in a display of resistance towards exploitation, capitalism, dangerous partnerships, white supremacy, segregated Prides, and putting our children and visitors in harm’s way. Roots Pride Pittsburgh who began the resistance years ago started this train and we honor them and there resistance at a time our community needed it the most. Since Delta’s inception, their primary interest has been building their own self-image by staging expensive Marches that non-profits can barely afford to participate in, but feel compelled to buy into for exposure and out of a true commitment to our LGBTQIA+ community.

Pride’s history is being capitalized on in Pittsburgh this year and as a community we can no longer sit silent and watch this happen. If we want change, it will only happen when we come together and make sure it happens and sticks.

This demonstration of resistance will invoke the change we need within our community!

So we have the GLCC organizing a “new Pride event for Pittsburgh” in the spirit of the traditional festival with vendors, activities, etc highlighting local LGBTQ people and then a new march that literally reclaims territory in the name of Pride.

I take the long view and see that these are both positive steps, building on the foundation of Roots Pride, toward a Pride celebration that more accurately reflects who we are in Pittsburgh’s queer and trans community. One is led by a long-standing community organization and the other is led by trans women of color.

Perhaps the new incarnation of Pride will be a series of events organized by different folks in the community, reflecting different priorities. Why not? It more accurately reflect who we are as a community to have Roots Pride, GLCC events, Black Pride, Latin Pride, Youth Pride, Trans Pride, and so forth with lots of glorious intersections among those events.

A few months ago, I blogged about the realities of two Pittsburghs with the divide along racial lines. There is in truth more than two Pittsburghs and one of those lines runs right down Liberty Avenue, snaking through the bars between the customers and the owners, and then down around the rest of the community between those who have white cis male privilege to trade upon and everyone else.

Sometimes the line is thick and in some places thinning out to near transparency. I could tease out the analogy, but I suspect you get the point. There are multiple queer Pittsburghs. So perhaps multiple Prides are the way to acknowledge our lived experiences versus trying to cram us into a community event that simply doesn’t fit many of us?

I realize this isn’t a particularly eloquent post. I’m writing because I think it needs to be said and I want to go on the record supporting the GLCC and SisTers PGH. We need to stand with people who resist for all of us. We need to have courage to resist ourselves.

We also need to take care of those whose sacrifices brought us to where we are.

Be proud.

UPDATED: Just today, SisTers PGH received notification of their approval as a 501c3 organization so I have updated the post to reflect their officially sanctioned name.

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