By Bill Parry
The grand marshals for next Sunday’s Queens Pride parade and festival in Jackson Heights were announced Tuesday. Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst), OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern and the AIDS Center of Queens County will lead the 24th annual march when it steps off at noon.
“Queens Pride is very lucky to have three diverse grand marshals that personify our 2016 theme, ‘El Orgullo Nos Une/Pride Unites Us,’” Queens Pride Co-Chairman Alan Reiff said. “ACQC with their broad and diverse outreach to help the Queens community with health and life issues; Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland for representing the 21st Council District with equality and fairness and for being the first Latina elected to political office in Queens; and Jessica Stern, the executive director of OutRight Action International, for her courageous leadership in bringing equality and freedom to our diverse LGBT community around the world, who just happens to be from Queens.
“Each is a role model and we are proud to have them as 2016 grand marshals,” Reif said.
The parade was originally conceived in 1993 as a response to homophobic attacks on the borough’s lesbian and gay communities made by School Board 24 President Mary Cummins. Now-City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) was an award-winning public school teacher at PS 199, who turned activist when he founded the parade.
“The Queens Pride Parade continues to spread the empowering message that we in the LGBT community are your family, friends and neighbors,” Dromm said. “For 24 years, this parade has opened the hearts and minds of Queens residents and has made the historic gains the LGBT community has seen over the past several years possible.”
Dromm recalls the first year when 10,000 spectators turned out and witnessed a huge presence by the NYPD because “no one knew what to expect.” Now it is the second largest Pride celebration in New York City, drawing crowds of 40,000 spectators each year.
“As a Council member representing a growing trans-Latina community in Queens, it is my pleasure and my honor to serve as a grand marshal and be an up-stander against violence and discrimination targeting the LGBTQ community,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “The Queens Pride parade is a celebration of our human rights, it represents our unity as a community and sends a clear message that every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individual has a place to live and love here.”
The parade kicks off at noon at 89th Street and 37th Avenue, and goes down 37th Avenue, ending at 75th Street where it disperses into a street festival. The Multicultural Festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from 73rd Street to 77th Street.
“Dozens of community-based organizations will be participating in our festival headlined by Crystal Waters,” Queens Pride Co-Chair manAndrew Ronan said. “All of these participants stand with our grand marshals in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. There is still time to register for the parade and festival. Visit www.queen
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr