By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio will march for the third straight year in the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside Sunday. The inclusive event gets underway with speeches from elected officials and community leaders at the Queen of Angels Church at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue beginning at 1 p.m.
The 17th annual parade steps off at 2 p.m. with bagpipe bands, puppets and stilt walkers making their way up Skillman Avenue to 58th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside.
The St. Pat’s for All Parade started as a predominantly gay-pride march organized after members of the Irish LGBT community were excluded from Manhattan’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1991. Deep emotional wounds began to heal in May when Astoria resident Brendan Fay, one of the founders of the St. Pat’s for All Parade, was notified that his LGBT group was invited to march in the Manhattan parade for the first time in a quarter of a century.
“Seventeen years ago the Irish community in Queens embraced the idea,” Fay said. “And now this year the Fifth Avenue parade welcomes the Irish LGBT group the Lavender and Green Alliance. It is heartening to see our parades and cultural celebrations more welcoming.”
The move ends a 25-year boycott of the parade that began when the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, made up of largely Irish LGBT immigrants, applied to the march and was denied. Parade organizers declared their march to be a Catholic procession and thus gay groups were not welcome, setting off massive protests for years. Fay said the invite ends a journey on a long and winding road to equality, a road marked by painful exclusion and years of protests and arrests.
On Feb. 17, Irish Consul General Barbara Jones hosted a reception in honor of St. Pat’s for All and this year’s grand marshals, Loretta Bennan Gluckman and Colum McCann. It was a history-making night, as leaders of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade announced the inclusion of the Lavender and Green Alliance.
“From the podium, I looked out at the crowd of supporters, old and new, and I saw the entire New York Irish community represented, and all of them cheering,” St. Pat’s for All co-chair Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy said. “It was a night I will never forget. Hands were extended with words of welcome, bridging a community divide. After 25 years, LGBT Irish will be where we belong on March 17, all together with our Irish community on Fifth Avenue. I am proud of the role of St. Pat’s for All in bringing us to this historic threshold.”
The march on Sunday will also mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising of 1916, when a small group of Irish women and men proclaimed an independent and free Ireland. Fay said the theme of this year’s St. Pat’s for All is “Cherishing all the children of the nation equally,” taken from the Irish Proclamation of 1916.
“It is as meaningful for Irish New Yorkers in 2016, a century later,” Fay said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr