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U.S. cities think outside the box for Pride 2020 amidst pandemic

Most cities planning some virtual component; some have bumped to fall

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Pride 2020, gay news, Washington Blade
A scene from the review stand of a past New York City Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pride festivals around the U.S. have been moved to virtual platforms, postponed or canceled altogether due to the coronavirus and social distancing requirements. Because many events are being moved online, LGBT people and allies now have the option to attend Pride events all over the country. 

Some organizations have opted for an extensive list of events for the entire month of June — such as Houston, Seattle and Los Angeles — while others have postponed the festivities or completely canceled events for the year, like Phoenix and Philadelphia. 

New York City: The “NYC Pride Special Broadcast Event” is Sunday, June 28, from noon-2 p.m. EST. This broadcast on ABC7 will feature performances by Janelle Monáe, Deborah Cox, Billy Porter, Luísa Sonza and others. The grand marshals of this year’s NYC Pride include writer and producer Dan Levy, The Ali Forney Center and LGBT activists Yanzi Peng and Victoria Cruz. This year, NYC Pride “is committed to saluting front-line workers.” For more information, visit nycpride.org

Los Angeles: The “L.A. Pride 50th Anniversary Celebration” is Saturday, June 13, from 7:30-9 p.m. PST to be broadcast on ABC7, iHeartRadio social platforms and local radio stations. iHeart Radio will also broadcast daily episodes throughout June featuring LGBT artists and activists and other Pride-related programming. 

iHeartRadio Los Angeles and the L.A. Pride association will also launch the “L.A. Pridecast” podcast in June, which will cover LGBT topics and feature a different member of the Los Angeles LGBT community each episode. Learn more about L.A. Pride at lapride.org

San Francisco: The “S.F. Pride 2020 Online Celebration” will be held on Saturday, June 27 from 1-9 p.m., and Sunday, June 28 from 2-7 p.m. PST. The virtual event will include performances from celebrities, speeches from LGBT activists, DJ sets and drag performances. Learn more at sfpride.org.

Phoenix: The “40th Annual Phoenix Pride Festival” has been delayed to be celebrated in-person on Nov. 7-8. The festival is expected to have 150 entertainment performances and over 300 exhibitors displaying food, shopping and community resources. Learn more at phoenixpride.org.  

Dallas: The “Dallas Pride 2020” board of directors has announced the event is going virtual and programming and dates are to be determined. Learn more at dallaspride.org

Houston: The “2020 Houston LGBT+ Pride Celebration” in-person events have been moved to fall with dates to be announced. But there are several virtual events throughout the month of June, such as a Pride film festival on June 20 at noon, the “Rights of Human” conference with breakout sessions and presentations focused on transgender rights, immigration rights and more, “Pride Stars,” an LGBT talent competition and many other digital functions. Learn more at pridehouston.org.  

Philadelphia: “Philly Pride” organizers have canceled the PrideDay Parade and Festival, and no virtual events have been scheduled. “OutFest,” an LGBT film festival scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 11, is still tentative. Learn more at phillygaypride.org

Chicago: The Northalsted Business Alliance will host “Boystown’s Virtual Chicago Pride Fest” on June 20-21 from 7-9 p.m. CST streaming on the platform Twitch. The event will feature a lineup of entertainment and speeches from LGBT activists. The event is free but will be accepting donations benefitting the Center on Halsted, an LGBT community center, and Howard Brown Health, and LGBT health services center. Learn more at northalsted.com/pridefest

Seattle: Seattle Pride has a series of events planned throughout June, like Pride book clubs in partnership with the Museum of Pop Culture and “Sans Bar Where You Are” hosted by DRY Soda & Sans Bar on June 19 at 5 p.m. PST on Facebook Live featuring drag queen karaoke and a panel discussion on the issues of sobriety in the LGBT community. There are also events for a younger crowd: “Youth Pink Prom & Pride 2020” hosted by Lambert House on Saturday, June 27 from 5-11 p.m. is specifically for ages 13-22 on the gaming platforms Minecraft Java Edition and Discord. Learn more at seattlepride.org.  

“Trans Pride Seattle” organizers have scheduled virtual events for June 26-28, featuring live performances, workshops and film screenings with more details to be announced. Learn more at transprideseattle.org.  

Portland: Portland Pride has scheduled virtual events throughout June. The Portland Pride Virtual Festival will take place on Saturday, June 13 from 4-6:30 p.m, featuring performances from local artists, speeches from elected officials and local LGBT organizations. Organizers will stream a recording of the 1999 Portland Pride Parade on Sunday, June 14 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m in “Parade Like it’s 1999!” Other events include karaoke events and performances from local drag queens. Learn more at portlandpride.org.

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Photos

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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