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‘Stonewall 50’ expected to draw millions to NYC

Marches, rallies, celebrities to commemorate 50th anniversary of riots

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World Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge is among the entertainers scheduled to perform at the World Pride Closing Ceremony on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Concord Media)

Organizers of the many events this weekend in New York City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, credited with launching the modern LGBT rights movement, say an expected turnout of 4.5 million people will make it the world’s largest ever LGBT Pride celebration.

In addition to the larger turnout expected from people from throughout the U.S., New York City Pride this year is the official host of World Pride, an international LGBT Pride event originally started in Europe that will take place for the first time this year in the United States.

Heritage of Pride, the group that has organized New York City’s LGBT Pride events for more than 20 years, has said more than 4 million people were expected to turn out for the official New York Pride March on Sunday, June 30. The group says about 115,000 people were expected to march in over 100 contingents and the remainder of the crowds would be lining the streets as spectators.

A spokesperson for Heritage of Pride said a large number of march contingents would be comprised of LGBT people and their supporters from other countries who were coming to New York to participate in World Pride events that began earlier this week.

Among the Heritage of Pride, or HOP, events planned for June 30 is the official World Pride Closing Ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. in New York’s Times Square, which will include “a slate of influential speakers” and big name entertainers. Among the entertainers scheduled to perform are Melissa Etheridge, Deborah Cox, Jake Shears, MNEK, and The Prom Musical. Lesbian comedian Margaret Cho will host the event.

The official New York City Pride March, organized by Heritage of Pride, is scheduled to kick off on Sunday at noon at 26th Street and 5th Avenue. It will travel past the Stonewall Inn gay bar in Greenwich Village, the site of the Stonewall riots, which has been designated a U.S. Historic Landmark.

The march will end in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Organizers and longtime activists in New York say in recent past years the march has lasted as long as eight hours or more and this year’s march could last even longer.

For the first time this year a dissident group in New York City, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, has organized a separate Queer Liberation March set to take place the same day as the official New York City Pride March on June 30.

But the Queer Liberation March is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., at the site of the Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village. It will travel from its starting point at Sheridan Square in front of the Stonewall along 7th Avenue to 10th Street where it will turn onto 6th Avenue and travel to Central Park, where a rally will take place.

“The Queer Liberation March is a people’s political march – there will be no corporate floats, and no police in our march,” according to a statement released by the Reclaim Pride Coalition. “Our march is a truly grassroots action that will mobilize the community to address the many social and political battles that continue to be fought locally, nationally, and globally,” the statement says.

Although not as large as the World Pride closing ceremony in Times Square organized by Heritage of Pride, the Queer Liberation March Rally, set to take place on Central Park’s Great Lawn, will include speakers and performers. Among them will be nationally acclaimed playwright and co-founder of the AIDS protest group ACT UP, Larry Kramer.  

Among those scheduled to perform at the rally are Kevin Aviance and the lesbian singing group Betty.

Activists in New York who have been following the plans for the two marches say many plan to participate in both since the Queer Liberation March will likely end before the New York Pride March begins at noon.

James Fallarino, a spokesperson for Heritage of Pride, has said that while corporate floats will take part in the New York City Pride March in their role as corporate sponsors, such floats will be far outnumbered by contingents made up of nonprofit LGBT or LGBT supportive organizations.

However, the New York City Pride website says that due to the large number of participants in the march, individuals interested in marching must be part of a group or contingent that has registered in advance to join the march. An individual that shows up on the day of the march won’t be allowed to join the march if he or she isn’t part of a preregistered contingent, although they will be allowed to watch the march on the sidelines, which will be fenced off from the street by security barriers set up by the New York City Police Department.

Ann Northrop, one of the lead organizers of the Queer Liberation March, said that march will allow anyone to join its ranks at any location along its route.

Northrop said for people unable to come to New York for the weekend events, organizers will be livestreaming the Queer Liberation March and rally on its website, reclaimpridenyc.org.

The New York City Pride March will be broadcast live from noon to 4 p.m. on WABC TV Channel 7, the ABC Television Network’s New York City affiliate station. It couldn’t immediately be determined whether out of town viewers could see the ABC7 broadcast through a livestreaming on the station’s website.

The following are some of the main events scheduled for this weekend by New York City Pride and the Reclaim Pride Coalition:

• Stonewall 50 Commemoration Rally—Friday, June 28, 6 p.m. at Christopher Street and Waverly Place in Greenwich Village

• Youth Pride—Saturday, June 29, 12 p.m. at Summer Stage in Central Park

• Pride Island Celebration—Saturday, June 29, 2 p.m.; Hudson River Park’s Pier 97. The event will feature big name entertainers, including legendary singer Grace Jones, Teyana Taylor, Kim Petras, Pabllo Vittar, and Amara La Negra.

• PrideFest street fair—Sunday, June 30; 11 a.m.; 4th Avenue between Union Square and Astor Place. The event includes exhibitors, entertainers and fun activities.

• Queer Liberation March—Sunday, June 30, 9:30 a.m., begins at Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village outside the Stonewall Inn. The march ends in Central Park, where a rally will be held.

• New York City Pride March—Sunday, June 30; 12 p.m.; begins at 26th Street and 5th Avenue. Grand marshals include the cast of “Pose,” Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Gay Liberation Front members, the Trevor Project, and Monica Helms.

• World Pride Closing Ceremony—Sunday, June 30; 7 p.m. in Times Square; Melissa Etheridge is among the entertainers scheduled to perform.

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PHOTOS: Superstar Drag Review

Bombalicious Eklaver leads the show at Selina Rooftop

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Superstar Drag Review (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bombalicious Eklaver held a Superstar Drag Review at the Selina Hotel Rooftop on Friday, Nov. 25. DJ Juba provided the music.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

Memoir reveals gay writer’s struggle with homelessness, rape

‘Place Called Home’ a powerful indictment of foster care system

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(Book cover image courtesy Legacy Lit/Hachette)

A Place Called Home: A Memoir
By David Ambroz
c. 2022, Legacy Lit/Hachette
$30/384 pages

For David Ambroz, 42, author of the stunning new memoir “A Place Called Home,” one of his childhood recollections is of himself and his siblings walking with Mary, their mother, on a freezing Christmas morning in New York City.

Today, Ambroz, who is gay and a foster parent, is a poverty and child welfare expert and the head of Community Engagement (West) for Amazon.

But, on that morning, Ambroz remembers, when he was five, he and his seven-year-old sister Jessica and six-year-old brother Alex were freezing. Mary, their mother was severely mentally ill. They were homeless.

Ambroz draws you into his searing memoir with his first sentence. “I’m hungry,” he writes in the simple, frightened, perceptive voice of a malnourished, shivering little boy.

As it got dark and colder, Ambroz recalls, he walked with his family, wearing “clownishly large” sneakers “plucked from the trash.” 

Five-year-old Ambroz remembers that the night before his family got lucky. They had dinner (mac and cheese) at a church “with a sermon on the side.”  

“We heard the story of the three kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus,” Ambroz writes.

But the next day they’re still homeless and hungry. Talk about no room at the inn.

Young Ambroz doesn’t know the word “death,” but he (literally) worries that he and his family will die. Frozen, hungry and invisible to uncaring passersby.

Ambroz’s mom, a nurse, is occasionally employed and able to house her family in dilapidated apartments. But she’s soon ensnared by her mental illness, unable to work. Then, her family is homeless again.

Until, he was 12, Ambroz and his siblings were abused and neglected by their mother.

Ambroz doesn’t know as a young boy that he’s gay. But, he can tell he’s different. Instead of playing street games with the other kids, Ambroz likes to play “doctor” with another boy in the neighborhood.

Mary tells him being gay is sinful and that you’ll die from AIDS if you’re queer.

His mother, having decided that he’s Jewish, makes Ambroz undergo a badly botched circumcision. At one point, she beats him so badly that he falls down a flight of stairs.

At 12, Ambroz reports this abuse to the authorities and he’s placed into the foster care system.

If you think this country’s foster care system is a safe haven for our nation’s 450,000 kids in foster care, Ambroz will swiftly cut through that misperception.

From ages 12 to 17, Ambroz is ricocheted through a series of abusive, homophobic foster placements.

One set of foster parents try to make him more “macho,” rent him out to work for free for their friends and withhold food from him. At another placement, a counselor watches and does nothing as other kids beat him while hurling gay slurs.

Thankfully, Ambroz meets Holly and Steve who become fabulous foster parents. Ambroz has been abused and hungry for so long he finds it hard to understand that he can eat whatever he wants at their home.

Through grit, hard work and his intelligence, Ambroz earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, was an intern at the White House and graduated from the UCLA School of Law. Before obtaining his position at Amazon, he led Corporate Social Responsibility for Walt Disney Television.

But none of this came easily for him. Coming out was hard for many LGBTQ people in the 1990s. It was particularly difficult for Ambroz.

In college, Ambroz is deeply closeted. He’s ashamed to reveal anything about his past (growing up homeless and in foster care) and his sexuality. 

At one point, he’s watching TV, along with other appalled students, as the news comes on about Matthew Shepard being murdered because he was gay. Ambroz can see that everyone is enraged and terrified by this hate crime. Yet, he’s too ashamed to reveal anything of his sexuality.

Over Christmas vacation, Ambroz decides it’s time to explore his sexuality.

Telling no one, Ambroz takes a train to Miami. There, he goes home with a man (who he meets on a bus) who rapes him.

“I run in no particular direction just away from this monster,” he recalls. “When I get back to my hotel room, I’m bleeding…I order food delivered but can’t eat any of it.”

“A Place Called Home” has the power of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

Ambroz’s writing becomes less powerful when he delves into the weeds of policy. But this is a minor quibble.

Ambroz is a superb storyteller. Unless you lack a heartbeat, you can’t read “A Place Called Home” without wanting to do something to change our foster care system. 

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Books

New book explores impact of family secrets

Her father was hiding his sexual orientation

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(Book cover image courtesy HarperOne)

The Family Outing: A Memoir
By Jessi Hempel
c. 2022, HarperOne
$27.99/320 pages

Don’t tell the children.

For most families in America in the last century, that was the maxim to live by: the kids are on a need-to-know basis and since they’re kids, they don’t need to know. And so what did you miss? Did you know about familial philanthropy, rebellion, embarrassment, poverty? As in the new memoir, “The Family Outing” by Jessi Hempel, did secrets between parent and child run both ways?

“What happened to me?”

That’s the big question Jessi Hampel had after many therapy sessions to rid herself of a recurring nightmare. She had plenty of good memories. Her recollection of growing up in a secure family with two siblings was sharp, wasn’t it?

She thought so – until she started what she called “The Project.”

With permission from her parents and siblings, Hempel set up Skype and Zoom sessions and did one-on-one interviews with her family, to try to understand why her parents divorced, why her brother kept mostly to himself, how the family dynamics went awry, why her sister kept her distance, and how secrets messed everything up.

Hempel’s father had an inkling as a young man that he was gay, but his own father counseled him to hide it. When he met the woman who would eventually be his wife, he was delighted to become a husband and father, as long as he could sustain it.

Years before, Hempel’s mother was your typical 1960s teenager with a job at a local store, a crush on a slightly older co-worker and, coincidentally, a serial killer loose near her Michigan neighborhood. Just after the killer was caught, she realized that the co-worker she’d innocently flirted with might’ve been the killer’s accomplice.

For nearly the rest of her life, she watched her back.

One secret, one we-don’t-discuss-it, and a young-adult Hempel was holding something close herself. What else didn’t she know? Why did she and her siblings feel the need for distance? She was trying to figure things out when the family imploded.

Ever had a dream that won’t stop visiting every night? That’s where author Jessi Hempel starts this memoir, and it’s the perfect launching point for “The Family Outing.”

Just prepare yourself. The next step has Hempel telling her mother’s tale for which, at the risk of being a spoiler, you’ll want to leave the lights on. This account will leave readers good and well hooked, and ready for the rest of what turns out to be quite a detective story.

And yet, it’s a ways away from the Sherlockian. Readers know what’s ahead, we know the score before we get there, but the entwining of five separate lives in a fact-finding mission makes this book feel as though it has a surprise at every turn.

Sometimes, it’s a good surprise. Sometimes, it’s a bad one.

A happily minimized amount of profanity and a total lack of overtness make “The Family Outing” a book you can share with almost anyone, adult, or ally. Read it, and you’ll be wanting to tell everyone.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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