New York City’s second-largest Pride celebration, and the first major Pride event taking place this month, kicked off Sunday, June 4, in Jackson Heights, Queens. The theme: Dragtastic.
“With ‘Dragtastic’ as our theme this year, we are saying to the world that we love drag and all it represents,” former New York City Councilmember and LGBT Caucus Chair Daniel Dromm said in a written statement.
The New Queens Pride is in its second year under the leadership of the LGBT Network and its president David Kilmnick, who are continuing a 30-year-old Pride tradition in Jackson Heights held annually on the first Sunday in June.
“Last year’s record-setting crowd established New Queens Pride as THE place to be to kick off Pride Month,” Kilmnick said.
Before noon, a record 125 community groups and floats, including representation from over two dozen local schools, waited for their cue to get rolling. Some attendees and float participants arrived just as the procession was starting.
Dennis Redmond, chief strategy officer for The Queens Community House, lined up for the parade along with two of the organization’s LGBTQ-specific programs — the Queens Center for Gay Seniors (“the borough’s only senior center for LGBT adults”) and Generation Q, which provides a drop-in center for LGBTQ youth in Queens as well as providing educational programs for LGBT students and teachers.
“We’re going to have a good time!” Dennis promised while older adults loaded onto the trolley.
One difference between Queens Pride and the NYC Pride in Manhattan is diversity. Queens is the city’s center for multiculturalism, drawing LGBTQ individuals from all over the world to the borough.
LGBTQ activist Brendan Fay helped facilitate the Community House’s senior program, but also attended the parade in support of his home country, Ireland.
“I marched in the very first parade here in ‘93,” said Fay, who added that he has attended every single Queens Pride since.
“I think parades are so important. It’s about being visible,” Brendan said, noting that the queer experience can be isolating for everyone — from teens to older adults. “There are some people for whom this is their first experience of belonging to a community.”
“I’m very proud of Queens,” Brendan said.
This sentiment was echoed by an older lesbian couple from West Palm Beach, Shirley and Joan, who proudly waved flags at the procession from behind a police barrier.
“At home we have to fight, and here we have to stand and see what we’re fighting for,” Shirley said. “We’ve been together 50 years. In the beginning, it wasn’t like this.”
The parade atmosphere was so infectious that storefronts swung their doors wide open to the community. Art Retail Therapy on 37th Avenue and 85th Street proudly showed their support for the parade.
“We love bringing art to the community,” store owner Francisco, who was born and raised in Queens, said.
“Queer people make Jackson Heights what it is,” added Charlie, a staff member.
As the parade progressed and the bass turned up, more and more of the crowd gave in to dancing on both sides of the street. A marching band rendition of Harry Styles’ “As it Was,” performed by the Queer Big Apple Corps, elicited as much excitement and noise as the acrobatics from the Gotham Cheer float.
The parade culminated in a five-hour Multicultural Festival, also produced by the LGBT Network, on 75th Street. An endless line of vendors and community groups on either side of the road median entertained participants before the performances could start — with a lineup welcoming returning and brand-new talent to the stage.
“We’ve made great progress over the last few decades and although people are trying to roll our rights and gains back, we are an unstoppable force when we work together,” Kilmnick added.
The 2023 New Queens Pride also marks the LGBT Network’s 30th Anniversary, with more official anniversary celebrations taking place in November, and the second Pride since the COVID hiatus.
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