Trans Leaders Demand Oversight of Annual Pride Festivities

People march down 5th Avenue during the 2019 World Pride NYC and Stonewall 50th LGBTQ Pride Parade in New York
Black and Brown trans leaders are demanding more oversight in this year’s NYC Pride celebration.
Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Several transgender leaders and organizations in the city are calling on organizers of the city’s main Pride festivities to allow Black and Brown transgender individuals to run the annual Pride events instead.

“We the undersigned call on InterPride, Heritage of Pride, and the City of New York to turn over the responsibilities of producing and coordinating the annual NYC pride festivities, to Queer Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of color,” stated the letter, which was signed by STARR director Mariah Lopez; activist Cecilia Gentili; City Council candidate Elisa Crespo of the Bronx; New York Transgender Advocacy Group founder and executive director Kiara St. James; Transgender Strategy Center deputy director Aryah Lester; LGBT Community Center of New Orleans president Syria Jackson Synclaire; Daronesia Duncan Boyd, the executive director of the Trans United Fund; Al Michaels, a relative of Marsha P. Johnson; and Marissa Miller, a national community organizer.

The January 26 letter, delivered to Mayor Bill de Blasio, out gay Speaker Corey Johnson, and the co-chairs of Heritage of Pride (HOP) and InterPride, stressed that Pride originated as a riot but has “morphed into a multi-billlion dollar global industry,” echoing longstanding criticism of the annual march’s police presence, partnerships with large corporations, and lack of LGBTQ people of color included in the event’s preparation.

HOP — which produces the city’s annual Pride march and related events — has been the subject of significant criticism, and the appetite for change has been especially evident in the strong turnout for the alternative Reclaim Pride Coalition’s Queer Liberation March in recent years.

However, despite raising concerns that Pride has become too commercialized, the advocates are not calling for the elimination of corporate ties to the events — unlike many other activists who have sought the complete removal of corporations from Pride.

“The default racial and gender expression of Pride festivities are undeniably white and cis,” the letter states. “It’s time for the default racial and gender expressions of Pride to be restored to its original form. We are demanding Black and Brown-led festivities, Black and Brown performers and talent, and partnerships with Black and Brown-led corporate entities.”

When reached for comment, HOP told Gay City News they have scheduled a meeting with Lopez and STARR.

“We’d be happy to speak further with Gay City News after we’ve met with them,” Heritage of Pride co-chair André Thomas told Gay City News.

Among other points, the letter also asks for Black and Brown trans-led organizations to have control over a new route and for the city to assist minority and women-owned businesses in gaining economic opportunities. Another priority listed on the letter asks Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to acknowledge the birthdays of Sylvia Rivera on July 2 and Marsha P. Johnson on August 24.

Furthermore, the leaders doubled down on the big-money commercialization of Pride at a time when poor LGBTQ New Yorkers are struggling to get by.

“Thousands of Queer BIPOC across this nation still live in severe poverty,” organizers wrote in the letter. “We still have the crushing boot of systemic oppression and economic exploitation firmly on our necks.”

Organizers also underscored the emphasis on bringing accountability to Pride festivities that are funded in part by taxpayers.

“It’s time we address the racist and sexist inequity within annual Pride celebrations, of which public dollars tax dollars are utilized,” organizers declared.

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