By Christina Santucci
More than two decades have passed since the Queens Pride Parade took root in Jackson Heights to combat discrimination, but organizers and elected officials say the LGBT community is still battling hate-fueled violence.
“As much fun as we have, there is more work to do moving forward, and that is what we are marching towards, the place where there will be no more Julio Riveras, Edgar Garzons or Mark Carsons slain anywhere in the city of New York because of who they are,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), the city’s first openly gay Council speaker, told some of the estimated 40,000 revelers Sunday.
The parade was founded in response to Rivera’s murder in 1990 and each year participants pause for a moment of silence at the corner of 37th Avenue and 78th Street in memory of victims of hate crimes, including Garzon, who was killed in Jackson Heights in 2001.
“We pledged and we vowed 21 years ago when we started this parade that we would never let that happen in this community again,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is gay and helped found Queens Pride.
This year, officials pointed to Carson’s murder in May as evidence of lingering hatred against members of the LGBT community.
“Let’s not forget that in all of our progress, still two weeks ago Mark Carson was killed blocks from Stonewall,” Quinn said. “Killed, shot point-blank in the face because he was gay — for no other reason.”
Police said Carson was shot and killed in Greenwich Village May 18, and 33-year-old Elliot Morales has been charged with murder as a hate crime in his death.
And in response to a spate of violence, Quinn and members of the Council’s LGBT caucus announced at the parade a series of free self-defense training sessions which will kick off in Manhattan Saturday. Additional classes in Queens and Brooklyn are slated to be announced in the coming weeks, officials said.
After taking a moment to announce the defensive training, Quinn rejoined her wife, Kim Catullo, in the procession as Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) was accompanied by his husband, Dan Hendrick. Van Bramer said he first marched in the parade as a St. John’s University student in 1993.
A bevy of other elected officials also attended in support as the avenue was awash in all the colors of the rainbow for the festivities.
Emcees Marcus Woolen and Candy Samples set up shop in front of the Jackson Heights Post Office, playfully critiquing groups like Cheer New York and a contingent of several dozen men — and a handful of women — dressed as warriors from Hombres Lounge in Jackson Heights.
Elaborately costumed participants shimmied along the purple line painted in the center of 37th Avenue and past the street sign dedicated several years again in Rivera’s memory.
“When somebody writes the full history of the LGBT community and its strength and power, this parade and the response to the murder of Julio Rivera will be one of the key focal points in that history,” Quinn said. “It was a tragedy that became a political turning point for our entire community.”
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4589.