The group that has organized Philadelphia’s Pride Parade and official Pride events for the past 28 years has disbanded.
Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the official Pride Parade for the city of Philadelphia was postponed and downsized into a PrideLite Festival in September. But on June 21, the organization Philly Pride Presents announced that “there will be no PrideLite Festival on September 4.” The organization, instead, has announced the disbandment of its committee and the dissolving of the group.
The catalyst for this disbandment was a June 10 Facebook post from the nonprofit group, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. In the post, the organization’s Facebook profile retold the story behind the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The problem is, the post included anti-trans and pro-cop sentiments.
“The Stonewall Riots were exactly that,” the post read. “Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. The police were going to transport the bar’s alcohol in patrol wagons, but the patrol wagons had not yet arrived, so patrons were required to wait in line for about 15 minutes. The violence escalated until the police were outnumbered by between 500 and 600 demonstrators. Pennies were throw at the police, then bricks. Ten police officers – including two policewomen – barricade themselves, and several handcuffed detainees inside the Stonewall Inn for their safety. A parking meter was uprooted and used by the crowd as a battering ram. The riots and pandemonium lasted 5 days, the crowds increasing every day.”
After its release, the Facebook post and organization received harsh pushback from Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community. From several social media posts to a column from Philadelphia Magazine, there were several people condemning Philly Pride Presents and calling for a boycott. Then, the organization released a statement on June 17 apologizing for the original post. Philly Pride Presents also alleged that an unnamed senior advisor had resigned from the board after creating the post.
“Although no offense was intended, offense was taken and we are sorry. As a consequence, our senior advisor, responsible for the postings, has resigned from the board. The executive director, Fran Price, did not post or approve these comments and requested that they be removed when she read them.”
But, again, the group then suddenly disappeared. By Monday, June 21, Philly Pride Presents’ phone line was disconnected, its Facebook page was deleted, and large portions of its website were removed from public view.
In response to the sudden disappearance of Philly Pride Presents, some on social media are celebrating the change as a victory. Though, some are frustrated with the lack of information and accountability. And some wonder who will fill in to organize Philly’s future Pride events.
— Justin Nordell (@jnordell) June 21, 2021
On the last matter, Black and brown LGBTQ organizers like Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, a West Philadelphia-based writer and co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Co-operative (BBWC), are putting together an event to replace the abandoned September PrideLite. In addition, Another Planet Barber Shop is hosting a South Street Pride this Saturday, June 26. Plus, there are several Pride-themed events happening all over the city, according to the PhillyGayCalendar. There just isn’t a main organization tying them all together. Despite that, Muhammad and company see this sudden disappearance as a much-needed change.
“It allows for something new to be born,” Muhammad told The Inquirer. “It allows for something resonant with Black and brown queer and trans people in the city, for all LGBTQ folks in the city, to have a space that’s truly held by the people in our community.”
Philly PRIDE Presents dissolved itself.
Let’s build a better PRIDE together.🌈
If you’d like to be part of thinking about this, please email me.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org#PhillyPride
— Abdul-Aliy (@MxAbdulAliy) June 21, 2021
“The abrupt departure of Philly Pride Presents leadership gives LGBTQIA community members a golden opportunity to build something that represents all of us — and completely unlike what came before,” wrote journalist Ernest Owens for Philly Mag.
Many LGBTQ activism groups have also noted the lack of action from prominent, commercial, and governmentally-backed LGBTQ community leaders and organizations.
As Nic López Rodriguez, a queer Latin activist who served as the executive director of queer Latin social justice group Galaei between 2016 and 2018, said, “There is a saying in Spanish that accurately describes the silence of Philly’s LGBTQ leaders and that is: dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres — tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are. Their silence has proven exactly who they are, they have an opportunity to use their power to truly confront systemic change, and they have chosen to do nothing. They want us to forget this incident, but we’ll never forget.”