By Bill Parry
This Sunday’s St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside promises to be the most political yet since the march began in 1999, turning exclusion of Irish LGBT groups into a multicultural celebration of Irish culture. Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy founded the parade after the LGBT Irish community was not permitted to march in the traditional St. Patrick’s Parade under a gay banner.
This year Liberal TV personality Phil Donahue will serve as honoree along with human rights advocate Anastasia Somoza. They will join dozens of elected officials in a rally at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue before the parade steps off at 1 p.m. and heads East on Skillman Avenue finishing at 58th Street and Woodside Avenue.
“In a time of stress for immigrant communities this St. Pat’s for All will be coming together in celebration and a rally of support,” Fay said. “As New Yorkers we need each other. We support each other.”
Among the 100 organizations registered to march are Irish community organizations, immigrant communities, and LGBT groups. There will be bagpipe bands, including the County Cork Pipe Band, the Pipers of the FDNY and the Queens-based La Mecigaya Asturian Pipe band.
This year’s march has special significance in light of President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and the recent crackdown by the U.S. Department of Homeless Security.
“As Irish people we are aware and remember our own story as refugees and immigrants fleeing famine and poverty only to arrive on the shores of the U.S. to encounter prejudice,” Fay said. “This experience has shaped our lives and history. As Irish people we have transformed the anguish of the past into a compassionate advocacy for human rights across the globe. As Irish New Yorkers we raise our voices and speak out in support and in solidarity with our immigrant and Muslim neighbors most affected by the executive order from the Trump administration, which placed a ban on refugees from Syria and on visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. A clear outcome has been the swell of grassroots rallies at airports in New York and across the U.S. against the ban and in compassionate solidarity. I’m glad to see many of the Irish community offering support.”
Fay and Walsh D’Arcy vowed the St. Pat’s for All Parade would march for its 18th consecutive year after their Lavender and Green Organization was allowed to take part in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue. In December, the two were recipients of the 2016 Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad, which was presented by Irish President Michael D. Higgins at a state dinner in Dublin.
“The work for equality is ongoing,” Fay said in accepting the award.
Walsh D’Arcy promises this year’s edition will be the largest yet with new groups signing up for the first time, many of them immigrant and cultural organizations.
“As a child of Irish immigrants, I am very proud of St. Pat’s for All, the inclusive St. Patrick’s parade in Queens,” she said. “We have always reached out to all the immigrant groups in Queens and we highlight our shared history of immigration — the joys and the trials of adopting a new country. This year, we hold hands and embrace the children and families who face threats and discrimination. We march together.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr