BY MATT TRACEY
Nothing — not even the coronavirus pandemic — could stop Queens Pride.
Entertainers, bikers, runners, lawmakers, and countless others participated in an hours-long virtual edition of the 28th annual Queens Pride March and Multicultural Festival on June 7.
The online event marked the first time since the borough’s Pride festivities started in 1993 that the event did not take place in person. Queens Pride’s director of operations, Kelvin O. Howell, Jr., kicked off the event by acknowledging the unique circumstances surrounding this year’s festivities.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re going virtual and we cannot take it to the streets, but this, too, shall pass, and when it does we will be back on in the streets doing what we do best,” Howell said.
This year’s event, hosted by Marcus Woollen and Candy Samples, leaned heavily on highlighting the history of Queens Pride. Organizers dug back into the archives to feature footage from the earliest days of the borough’s Pride festivities. Out gay Queens City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who co-founded Queens Pride, recalled an uphill battle to get the event up and running.
“Back in 1992, a lot of people thought I was crazy when I said we needed to have a Pride Parade and Festival here in the borough of Queens,” Dromm said in a video message. “It had never been done in any borough outside of Manhattan before, but the time was right.”
The time was considered to be right because of a combination of recent developments during that era. Julio Rivera, a Puerto Rican gay man, was murdered in 1990 in a hate-motivated attack by three white men, and there was inflammatory resistance — especially in Queens — to Children of the Rainbow, a proposal to introduce an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum into the city’s schools. Those moments helped expedite the swelling support for a borough-based Pride event.
While history was a running theme during the virtual program, Dromm also encouraged folks to look ahead and focus on making progress in the future.
“We need to move forward even though we are in the middle of this crisis,” Dromm said. “It’s really important that we remain visible and present in all communities in the borough of Queens and beyond.”
The grand marshals were the late Larry Kramer, who died May 27; the Black Lives Matter movement; and Julian Sanjivan, the co-president of InterPride who previously was the march director for Heritage of Pride.
Among other elected officials on hand included State Attorney General Letitia James, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, State Senators Jessica Ramos, John Liu, and Michael Gianaris, Assemblymembers Alicia Hyndman, Michael G. DenDekker, and David Weprin, Councilmembers Costa Constantinides (a candidate for Queens borough president) and out gay Jimmy Van Bramer, and Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee. Rod Townsend, the former president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City who is seeking a Council seat from Queens in 2021, also joined in.
Ramos, a strong supporter of sex work decriminalization, elaborated on what she said is her job as an LGBTQ ally to continue to fight for the people of Queens.
“That means repealing the Walking While Trans ban, that means decriminalizing sex work, that means getting rid of the gay and trans panic defense, and that means we are fighting for a school curriculum that is inclusive of LGBTQ history so that our students can see themselves in the history books,” Ramos said.
Gotham Cheer, the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club of New York City, the American Veterans for Equal Rights New York, Brooklyn Pride, the Metropolitan Community Church of New York, Pride for Youth, the LGBTQ running and triathlon club Front Runners New York, Gay Men’s Health Crisis CEO Kelsey Louie, the AIDS Center of Queens, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation were among other participants.
You can view the entire Queens Pride program here: