April 1, 2021 at 8:35 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
U.S. Pride organizers debate in-person vs. virtual events for 2021
Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

It’s unlikely we’ll see crowds like these at Pride for some time. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Like LGBTQ Pride organizations in several of the nation’s largest cities, D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance is planning to hold several virtual Pride events during the traditional Pride month of June and is considering at least one in-person event for October — a smaller Pride parade.

Also like other cities, the traditional June Capital Pride Parade and Festival, which have attracted more than 250,000 participants and spectators in past years, have been cancelled this year following last year’s cancellation, according to Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos.

Bos said a “reimagined” parade called Paint the Town With Pride is being planned for June 12 that will consist only of asking LGBTQ residents and supporters to decorate their homes or businesses with creative outdoor displays or signs with LGBTQ Pride messages. He said the locations of the displays will be released by Capital Pride so people can visit the sites while complying with COVID safe-distancing rules.

Bos said Capital Pride will organize a possible Pride Brigade of peoples’ vehicles to travel together across the city to view the displays on June 12. He said the displays are planned to be in place through the month of June to enable people to visit the sites when convenient for them. Detailed plans for D.C.’s Pride events can be viewed at capitalpride.org.

D.C.’s two main Black Pride events — a conference and outdoor festival that have drawn more than 3,000 participants up until 2019 and that traditionally take place during Memorial Day weekend — have been cancelled this year for the second year in a row.

According to Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the D.C.-based LGBTQ organization Center for Black Equity, which coordinates Black Pride events in about 45 cities across the country, D.C.’s Black Pride will hold several virtual events over Memorial Day weekend, with details available on its Facebook page.

He said some in-person Black Pride events have already been held and others are scheduled to take place in states that have relaxed COVID restrictions. Among them was an outdoor Pride event in St. Petersburg, Fla., that took place in January.

On the other side of the country, Christopher Street West-Los Angeles Pride, which has organized one of the nation’s largest Pride celebrations each year since the early 1970s, states on its website that it will hold this year’s celebration June 11-13. But like several other large U.S. cities, it has yet to announce what type of events it will offer.

“Stay tuned for announcements about what we’re [safely] planning,” the website statement says.

L.A. Pride spokesperson Chris Prouty, similar to officials with Pride organizations in other cities, told the Blade that L.A. Pride organizers are carefully watching the unfolding developments associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to determine what type of events might be possible in June.

“As the pandemic continues to affect the way all organizations plan for events, CSW/LA Pride is committed to producing a safe but impactful Pride 2021 for the communities we serve,” Prouty said. “We’re developing a variety of programming that will be announced soon and will continue to include input from local health officials, community-based organizations and non-profits,” he said. “We encourage other Prides across the country to do the same.”

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration organization announced on March 24 that it will hold several smaller in-person events throughout the month of June. But similar to last year, its traditional Pride Parade and celebration at the city’s Civic Center, which in past years have drawn thousands of participants, were cancelled this year.

“Knowing how deeply people miss being together, we’ve worked tirelessly with our partners at City Hall, public health, and elsewhere to ensure a number of incredible, safe experiences,” said San Francisco Pride Executive Director Fred Lopez. Among the outdoor in-person events planned are two evenings of film screenings on June 11-12 at the San Francisco Giants baseball stadium.

In a break from its Pride events in past years, in which thousands of LGBTQ visitors from other cities and states attended San Francisco Pride, organizers this year have bluntly asked people from outside the Bay Area to stay away.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not yet recommend leisure travel, and the organization’s leadership respectfully asks visitors from outside the region to reconsider their attendance,” San Francisco Pride organizers said in a statement.

Heritage of Pride, the group that organizes most but not all of New York City’s LGBTQ Pride events, has announced several Pride events throughout the month of June, including a virtual Pride March on June 27 with “to be determined in-person elements.” In years prior to COVID restrictions, the New York City Pride March has drawn many thousands of participants.

The organization’s traditional Pride Rally will take place virtually on June 25 featuring prominent LGBTQ speakers, according to a statement released by Heritage of Pride. Its traditional PrideFest and Pride Island events “will also return on June 27, with further details to be revealed at a later time,” the statement says. It says at least three other events, including a Human Rights Conference, will be held virtually.

Reclaim Pride Coalition, a separate New York City organization, announced it will hold its 3rd Annual Queer Liberation March for Pride on Sunday, June 27. The in-person march will include safety precautions, mask distribution for those who don’t have a mask, and other risk reduction strategies, organizers said in a statement.

“The struggle for Queer Liberation cannot wait for the passing of the pandemic, as COVID-19 has made surviving even more difficult for far too many of our most marginalized community members,” one of the organizers said in the statement.

The Baltimore-based Pride Center of Maryland has announced the 45th Annual Baltimore Pride Festival will take place over the weekend of June 18. The announcement says the event will consist of an “innovative Pride celebration that will incorporate virtual and social-distance considerate, intimate in-person experiences to make Baltimore proud,” but no further details were given.

Annapolis Pride, Inc. announced in early March that its second annual Annapolis, Md., Pride Parade and Festival was scheduled to take place Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The group indicated that as of March, the two events would take place outdoors and in-person rather than virtually.

Delaware Pride, the organization that puts on that state’s main Pride events in the state capital in Dover, announced in March that it decided to reschedule its traditional June Pride event until Saturday, Oct. 2. The main Pride event has traditionally been held on the grounds of Legislative Hall at the state capital building.

David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center and advocacy group in Rehoboth Beach, Del. said there were no current plans for a Pride event in Rehoboth. He said many of Rehoboth’s large number of LGBTQ residents and visitors usually attend the Delaware Pride events in Dover.

In Virginia, the Fairfax County Pride event held in past years called NOVA Pride, which has drawn crowds from the D.C. Northern Virginia area, will not take place this year due to COVID restrictions, according to Bruce Hightower, president of the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, who said he spoke with one of NOVA Pride’s lead organizers.

A spokesperson for the annual Virginia Pride event held in Richmond could not immediately be reached to obtain plans for the Richmond Pride.

A spokesperson for Chicago’s Pride Fest 2021 said the annual two-day street festival held in the city’s well known LGBTQ neighborhood of Boys Town had been scheduled for June 19-20 but has been postponed due to city COVID restrictions. The spokesperson, Esmeralda Bravo, said organizers are working closely with city officials to determine the best date to reschedule the event, which could be in August or September.

In Florida, statements released by organizers of Miami Beach Pride and the Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival in Wilton Manors, the small LGBTQ-friendly city located just outside Fort Lauderdale, say both will be in-person events. The Wilton Manors parade and festival are scheduled for June 19. Miami Beach Pride says it will hold several events from Sept. 10-19, with the largest being a festival in Lummus Park that’s expected to draw 125,000 participants.

However, organizers of the Miami Beach Pride say a “contingency hybrid event plan is also in place should the planned [festival] event be disrupted by unknowns due to COVID-19.” The contingency plan calls for a significantly reduced number of attendees for the festival and other possible restrictions required by Miami Beach officials.

Boston Pride, the organization that had hoped to host Boston’s 50th anniversary Pride events in June, announced the events in June had to be postponed due to COIVD restrictions. The group said in a statement that it was working with city officials to reschedule the Pride events, which include a parade and festival, for the fall “if all conditions are in place for such events.”

For the second year in a row, Seattle Pride has renamed itself “Virtual Pride 2021” due to COVID restriction on large gatherings, organizers said on the group’s website. It is scheduled to take place online with several events, including entertainment performances, scheduled for June 26-27.

“While we are all missing the Parade, Virtual Pride is our opportunity to commemorate the past, celebrate new wins for equality, and get encouragement for the work yet to come, and quite frankly it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun,” organizers said on the event’s website. “Stay tuned for your link to register for this FREE event,” the organizers said.

InterPride, a coalition of LGBTQ Pride organizations in the U.S. and in other countries, is in the process of compiling a comprehensive list of virtual and in-person LGBTQ Pride events in 2021 that’s expected to be completed in a few weeks. Julian Sanjivan, the group’s co-president, said the list will be available on the website: interpride.org.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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