The Cover Girls and hometown crowds highlight Da Bronx Pride Festival

The Cover Girls were the main act at the Da Bronx Pride festival on Saturday, June 22, 2024.
The Cover Girls were the main act at the Da Bronx Pride festival on Saturday, June 22, 2024.
Michael Luongo

Mail carriers are not the only ones who don’t let the weather stop them. A torrential rain in the midst of a massive heatwave couldn’t stop Da Bronx Pride Festival along Westchester Avenue on June 22 — just one week before NYC Pride’s grand finale in Manhattan.

As subway trains roared overhead to the side of the stage, patrons danced, sang, and cheered to greetings from spoken word poets, drag artists, singers, and politicians, including Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibbons, who addressed the crowd after leading an earlier parade. The day’s highlight was a performance by The Cover Girls, the New York City singers who rose to fame in the late 1980s, with some of its members Bronx natives. 

Body painter and artist Charly Dominguez, left, poses with some models at Da Bronx Pride Festival.
Body painter and artist Charly Dominguez, left, poses with some models at Da Bronx Pride Festival.Michael Luongo

Destination Tomorrow, the Bronx LGBTQ Community Center, led the way in producing Da Bronx Pride‘s festivities, which represent the final borough-based Pride event after Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn held their main events earlier in the month.

A rainbow covered attendee at Da Bronx Pride Festival.
A rainbow covered attendee at Da Bronx Pride Festival.Michael Luongo

As he staffed a table on Westchester Avenue, Michael Mims, a living positive peer navigator at Bronxworks, told Gay City News, “The rain just stopped and we set up and people have been non-stop coming to get this information.”

A strong breeze after the rain offered some respite for the event’s approximately 500 attendees. Still, for many of the performers, some clad in heavy costumes, the heat was still on. After stepping from the stage in a red velvet dress to dance with patrons, Egyptt Labeija, the actress and drag persona extraordinaire who described herself as “the Overall Godmother of the House of Labeija,” told Gay City News, “It’s hot, but if these people came out here in this rain and this heat, I have to give them what they want. And at 60 years old, to do what I did ain’t easy. So, I feel good because it made them feel good.”

Dahlia Sin and Edwin Reynoso served as MCs, introducing performers including poet Nicco Diaz, Gia the Warrior Princess, Kelly KaBoom, Octavia Anye, Sundari, and many others. Behind the stage, patrons posed with the NYPD’s rainbow-covered Pride vehicle. Dozens of organizations and vendors lined Westchester Avenue, from TD Bank to NYC Health & Hospitals, many giving out rainbow-themed items with their logos.

Egyptt Labeija commented on the heat during a performance at Da Bronx Pride Festival.
Egyptt Labeija commented on the heat during a performance at Da Bronx Pride Festival.Michael Luongo

Alex Santiago, chief operating officer of Destination Tomorrow, reflected on the borough’s broad diversity, telling Gay City News, “Even with entertainment this year, we hit every demographic you could think of, which was different. We had spoken word this year, which we never had before,” a reference to Diaz. Santiago also commented that over the years, the range and number of vendors for the event expanded, allowing the festival to grow from just half a block to now over two blocks.

There’s also a special energy here.

“What makes having Pride in the Bronx different is, with New York being so huge and having all the different boroughs, you shouldn’t have to go outside of your home base or your borough in order to get services, which is why we’re located in the Bronx,” Santiago said. “And the same when it comes to celebrating who we are: We should be able to do it at home and not have to go to Manhattan, or Queens or anywhere else. We should be able to celebrate who we are where we live.”

Political leaders also dispatched their team members to the event. Representatives from Bronx and Queens Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez staffed a table. In addition, Kim Watson-Benjamin, who serves as the LGBTQ and health coordinator for Housing, Health, Equity Department in the Office of New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, and Chanel J. Lopez, deputy director of LGBTQ+ Affairs for Governor Kathy Hochul, gave honorary proclamations on stage to Sean Coleman, the CEO of Destination Tomorrow and other community members.

Sean Coleman, the CEO of Destination Tomorrow, holds a proclamation from Governor Kathy Hochul.
Sean Coleman, the CEO of Destination Tomorrow, holds a proclamation from Governor Kathy Hochul.Michael Luongo

The event closed with The Cover Girls, sporting billowing rainbow-tinged goddess dresses. Members of the Freestyle group changed since their 1980s debut, with current singers including Sabrina, who told Gay City News “I have a lot of last names,” and Lorraine Munoz, both Bronx natives, and Evelyn Escalera, currently the longest-standing member originally from Spanish Harlem.

“Performing in the Bronx is different,” Munoz told Gay City News. “[It’s] so special because, you know, we grew up here. It’s great to come back home and the energy on the stage from the crowd is just fantastic. It’s just all love. So, we feel it, we take it in, and we try to push it back.”

Asked to reflect on the changes in the Bronx over the decades on LGBTQ+ issues, Sabrina commented that she and Munoz had always had LGBTQ friends, especially as they both attended High School of Performing Arts, sometimes known as the Fame school, based on the 1980 movie of the same name. Still, Sabrina told Gay City News, “We were learning, being young. We had plenty of gay friends, LGBT, but again it was different. It was just you, kind of just grew up and there were no really real conversations about it.”

Munoz added: “You had friendships. You had social gatherings and you just knew, but now it’s there’s education on it. There’s conversations about it, and there’s understanding and there’s parades to celebrate it.”

A quick selfie in the sun.
A quick selfie in the sun.Michael Luongo

“I think it’s great for the real part of visibility in the Bronx,” Blue Rivera, the Cover Girls road manager, also added, commenting on the group’s long history and relationship with LGBTQ fans. “And I think just being progressive and then being part of the community and the music for so long, knowing that they’re supportive, and that they’re also still here. It’s kind of symbiotic between the culture, the music, the group, because they’ve been great supporters of the LGBT for so long, and they’ve supported them for so long as dance music and freestyle. So, it’s just kind of giving the love back.”

Escalera added: “It’s an honor to be here and pride is amazing. Love is love and I think people really need to embrace that. You know, I really dislike when I see people ousting other people, whether because of their race, creed, color, whatever, you know, or sexual orientation. I don’t like that. But this right here, it brings us all together and here look at all the rainbows delivering love.”