A guest post from longtime LGBTQ activist and former Pride committee member, Billy Hileman. This is in response to decisions by the Delta Foundation that excluded Richard Parsakian’s participation as curator of dance performances at the festival, and separately left him no choice but to withdraw the historic rainbow pride flag.
For the first time in nearly 25 years, the massive rainbow flag won’t be part of an LGBTQIA+ march in Pittsburgh during our Pride month. Too many corporations rolling at the front of the Delta-EQT-we-are-for-sale Parade to squeeze in the most recognizable modern symbol of queer liberation. Also missing from the Delta Corporate stages this weekend will be the dance performances that in recent years showcased racially and culturally diverse artists. These two missing aspects of Pride have one person in common: Richard Parsakian.
Richard Parsakian is a treasure of the queer community and the city’s artistic, cultural and political life. Richard as you know, is the owner of Eons — the museum of vintage clothing and accessories — where you can shop while the smell, color and feel of fabric, along with the beauty of antique hat boxes stacked to the ceiling carry you to another time. He arrived in Pittsburgh as a young man, 47 years ago. He has been committed to promoting dance that spans many cultures. His sensitivity to disenfranchised artists and dedication uncensored performance art has been an anti-racist, inclusive force in Pittsburgh’s art community for decades. He pushes non-artist folks like me in the LGBTQIA+ community to pay attention to the exquisite creativity and talent that is in our city. He is visionary. If folks won’t sit in the audience in one of our magnificent theaters, he will bring the art to Pride. He brought something Delta could ill afford to lose.
Richard and artist Bill Godfrey created the 30’ x 60’ rainbow flag nearly 25 years ago and it has been in every Pittsburgh LGBTQIA+ pride parade since. Doesn’t matter if the parade is organized by the Three Rivers Pride Committee, the GLCC, or Delta.
Richard Parsakian has been a promoter of cultural events in our community while simultaneously been in the fight for civil rights and the fight against AIDS. A pragmatic and steady thinker. A voice of reason. A fundraiser in the fight against AIDS. A member of the LGBTQIA+ advisory council. A person who has been there, looked for solutions, cared for everyone in his community.
Science can find the answers to how HIV replicates, how drugs interfere with that replication, and ultimately save lives. Freedom, creativity and art give us reasons to live. Richard Parsakian has a hand in all of that for the benefit of us. There are a lot of folks who I am proud, so proud to know in our community. Nobody more so than Richard Parsakian.
When you march in Delta’s we-are-nothing-without-corporate-sponsorship-Pride? Parade on Sunday, look around and see what and who is missing.