Borough continues its robust display of community’s diversity with daylong roster of events
Despite morning haze and occasional showers, Prospect Park proved the perfect setting on Saturday, June 11, for the ninth annual Brooklyn Pride celebration.
The day began with a five-kilometer run, then continued with a street festival along Prospect Park West and a stage show just inside the park, ending with the city’s only nighttime gay pride parade, a colorful, candle-lit procession of more than 4,000, including contingents of gay and lesbian parents, clergy, politicians and musical performers down Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue.
“Brooklyn is the center of lesbian and gay life in New York City, you know that,” Brooklyn Borough Pres. Marty Markowitz, the borough’s most vocal booster, told cheering throngs. “How fortunate and lucky we are that Brooklyn has such a large, large population of gay and lesbians that make contributions every day to making Brooklyn that special place that it always has been, and always will be.”
On a more important political note, Markowitz, who is straight and a Democrat, spoke about his conversion to the growing ranks of those elected officials supporting same-sex marriage.
“When this president by the name of Bush, when he demonized the gay and lesbian community across this nation, that’s when I realized it was the right thing to do,” Markowitz explained. “With marriage comes all the benefits and of course, all the legal obligations, and if you want it, you got it. Because equal is equal.”
Markowitz’s proclamation of June 11 as Brooklyn Pride Celebration Day set the stage for an afternoon of memorable performances in Prospect Park from an array of poets, speakers, musicians and dancers who entertained the thousands lounging and picnicking on the lawn.
Some highlights of the afternoon included performances by openly gay and lesbian singers Ari Gold, Allison Tartalia, Julie Loyd, Karen Jacobsen and drag queen Cashetta. Bette Midler impersonator Donna Maxen did spot-on performances of Midler favorites including, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B.” Drag kings Papito and Mistah gave gender-bending a Latin edge with a salsa-inspired routine and Delvis Lopez, an African-American lesbian, sang songs like “Cry” that she said was inspired by the women in her life. The dance troupes of Anthony and Santa Luz inspired impromptu salsa dancing among a group of women in front of the stage, and Groove Entertainment, donned in matching outfits of camouflage pants and rainbow shirts with white hoods, held the crowd’s attention. Latin band Mano a Mano closed the stage show, wrapping up in early evening.
Meanwhile, at the adjacent street festival along Prospect Park West, the crowds grew thick as the day passed. Stretching out along nearly eight blocks, the festival attracted not only vendors, who hawked everything from sausage and peppers to sunglasses, but many social service providers as well. The Charles Angel Wellness Center offered free HIV testing, while across the street, a Callen-Lorde Community Health Center booth passed out safe-sex kits that included condoms, lubricant and HIV prevention information.
Brooklyn-based groups including People of Color in Crisis, The Audre Lorde Project, Dyke TV and The Center for Anti-Violence Education also had representatives staffing information tables.
Clergy members from various religious affiliations—most of whom have provided a grass-roots base of support in the ongoing marriage equality struggle, in some cases sanctioning commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples for whom marriage is prohibited—attended the various functions. The denominations included Christian organizations like the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church and the Metropolitan Community Church of New York and Jewish groups including Union Temple.
Shortly after the day’s park events concluded, the sky opened up, dumping an hour’s worth of torrential rain, putting a temporary hold on a lively outdoor barbecue at Cattyshack, a new lesbian bar at Fourth Avenue and President Street.
By nine o’clock, when revelers made their way to Seventh Avenue for the annual night parade, the rain was a distant memory. The parade was led by leather-clad crew of Dykes on Bikes, whose growling engines typically lead many gay pride parades, including Manhattan’s annual Fifth Avenue march. Lesbian groups included Las Buenas Amigas, or Best Friends, a Latina group; the Audre Lorde Project, a queer people of color community center in Fort Greene named for the legendary poet and activist; the Lesbian Herstory Archives, a Park Slope-based historical organization with one of the world’s most extensive lesbian collections; Men of All Colors Together, a multi-racial gay group; Dignity, a Roman Catholic gay advocacy group; SAGE, or Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, an LGBT group for seniors; Brooklyn Parents for Peace, an anti-violence group; and the Gay Officers Action League, an LGBT affiliation of law enforcement professionals.
The Radical Faeries, some walking on stilts while hula-hooping, garnered a warm reception from parade watchers. The lesbian bar Ginger’s turned out one the most elaborate floats, resplendent in a naval theme. Markowitz, surrounded by a dozen drag queens, danced on a gold-canopied float that proudly proclaimed, “Brooklyn loves the LGBTs!”
After the parade, lines of parade goers snaked down Park Slope’s streets as capacity crowds made their way to the various bars and restaurants. The large crowds prompted police to respond to a noise complaint at Cattyshack. The popular FM radio station WKTU hosted the day’s official after-party at Club Evolution on 62nd Street.
Brooklyn organizers are already gearing up for next year’s tenth anniversary of what is clearly one of the city’s most vibrant and inclusive gay pride celebrations.