July 28, 2015 at 6:00 am EDT | by Steve Charing
Thousands celebrate Baltimore Pride
Baltimore Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

Baltimore Pride’s 40th anniversary festivities returned to the gayborhood. (Washington Blade photo by Antwan J. Thompson)

Any concerns about the shift of dates for Baltimore Pride from its customary June event to the weekend of July 25-26 were put to rest as thousands descended on Mount Vernon on a sun-baked Saturday to cheer on the Pride parade and celebrate at the block party.

Baltimore Pride’s 40th anniversary festivities returned to the gayborhood following an unpopular move in 2014 to the Mount Royal area. Pride is run by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB).

The new dates deep into July and a revised location for the annual parade as well as a new venue for the block party did not deter visitors from all over Maryland, D.C. and beyond to partake in the celebrations.

For many in Baltimore’s LGBT community, it was a bittersweet event as it marked the last time Club Hippo would take part as it is scheduled to close its doors later in the year after more than four decades.

“This is my last Pride as owner of the Hippo,” Chuck Bowers, who was selected to serve as the grand marshal at this year’s parade, told the Blade. “But it’s not my last Pride.”

The parade included a record 82 units and proceeded up Cathedral Street from Monument Street. It ended on Chase Street several blocks north.

A contingent from BlackOutPrideBmore, including transgender activists led the parade under the banner #BaltimoreTRANSUPrising. They highlighted racism within the LGBT community and called attention to the dangers facing many trans Baltimoreans. Marchers also carried signs proclaiming Black Lives Matter.    

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis marched as did Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Other political figures included Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen who are seeking to succeed the retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Local advocacy and health organizations participated, such as FreeState Legal, Chase Brexton Health Services and Johns Hopkins Medicine. Bars past and present were represented including the Hippo, the Lodge from Boonsboro, Md., and a sizable contingent standing on a flatbed from the Baltimore Eagle, which has been closed since 2012 but which supporters are hoping to reopen.

The block party following the parade became so crowded it spilled onto surrounding streets. Newly elected president of the GLCCB board of directors, Jabari Lyles, spoke from the main stage and emphasized the role of people of color in the movement.

“We’re not free unless all of us are free,” he cautioned.

Headliners Cazwell, Ts Madison and Martha Wash and other performers entertained on the stage throughout the evening.

The Sunday event, more laid back than the frenetic block party, took place in Druid Hill Park. Many performers appeared on the main atage and the Lady Lisa Memorial Drag Stage.  Popular gay country singer Steve Grand was Sunday’s headliner.

Paul Liller, deputy director of the GLCCB and the person who oversaw Pride, was pleased with the weekend’s festivities.

“We at the GLCCB are very excited about how Pride 2015 went,” Liller told the Blade.  “We feel it was a great way to honor 40 years of LGBT activism and civil rights.”

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