Pennsylvania comes together to discuss Pride celebrations in wake of COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Brian Kyed

Jason Landau Goodman, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, began working in LGBTQ advocacy when he was a teenager. After 10 years of attending every single Pride event across the state of Pennsylvania, Goodman said it was a historic moment when he saw all Pennsylvania Pride organizers came together on a conference call earlier this week to discuss what state celebrations may look like after COVID-19. 

As of today, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health recorded 577 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which brings the current confirmed cases to 13,445. For Pride celebrations to commence across the state and nation, these numbers will have to dramatically decrease. 

“Pride is our anchor community event for LGBTQ Pennsylvania,” said Goodman, “ It’s our annual moment to come together both in celebration and in a community call to action for change.” The Pennsylvania Youth Congress is the state’s leading LGBTQ youth advocacy organization and works to shape public policy so it positively reflects on Pennsylvania’s vibrant LGBTQ community. 

As the coronavirus pandemic intensified, Goodman started receiving calls at the Youth Congress from multiple Pride organizations across the state. “[The organizations] were wondering what other Prides were doing and looking for some advice and guidance,” said Goodman, “I just thought it would be more fruitful to have the Prides talk to each other.”
Years ago, Adrian Shanker,  executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown and host of Lehigh Valley Pride, helped Goodman connect Prides throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Goodman knew Shanker would be an excellent resource to help him once again unite Pride organizations across Pennsylvania. Shanker agreed to cohost the conference call. “We really wanted to start this conversation and see where it goes,” said Goodman. 

Altogether, the call included 23 Pride organizers. Of the 23, seven organizations confirmed that they are tentatively rescheduling in-person Pride celebrations for the Fall of 2020. These organizations include Philadelphia Pride, New Hope Pride, Gettysburg Pride, Doylestown Pride, Lancaster Pride, Erie Pride, and York Equality Fest. 

President of the NWPA Pride Alliance and host of Erie Pride, Alexander Sphon, said, “The statewide call is all about sharing info as a group.  It can be very helpful for groups like NWPA Pride and Washington County Pride organizers [to] share experiences. When one Pride is unsure, especially when making decisions like postponing or canceling 2020 Pride, it’s all about sharing info and helping everyone improve or even just survive the current pandemic.” Each organization is especially wary of giving definitive rescheduled dates, however. 

“There’s a significant concern that social distancing will still be in effect for the long term this year,” said Goodman, “Prides don’t really want to be the first community event that could be open to the public at large. There’s a lot of concerns about holding these events because of the public health risk. Pride organizers have always had the burden of many challenges, whether it’s the safety of participants to anti-LGBT protestors to weather concerns and folks experiencing heat stroke or dehydration. But this is a public health situation. It’s something new for them to deal with, but the Prides across Pennsylvania are very cautious and very aware of the many issues going on.”

Global Pride 2020 is a larger-scale example of many pride organizations connected across geographic divides. These organizers’ solution was to host pride virtually, as an online broadcast event. When asked if Pennsvylania Prides would follow a similar model, Goodman said, “There has been no formal discussion about Prides coming together for a virtual Pride, but I can share that that was discussed. A lot of things are still in limbo. We do have over half of the Prides in Pennsylvania either canceled or postponed.” 

October is the tentative month during which Pride celebrations are likely to be held in Pennsylvania,  subject to when quarantine and social distancing directives from Gov. Tom Wolf subside. Goodman is full of hope at the prospect of statewide Prides working together to celebrate diversity. “The meeting was very successful,” said Goodman, “and I look forward to the continued conversations of Prides across Pennsylvania. We want to be sure that LGBTQ Pennsylvanias have a robust platform to celebrate our communities but also continue to fight for justice and liberation.”

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