Founder and Executive Director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center Adrian Shanker, wants everyone to know that Allentown’s “Pride is not canceled; Pride is virtual.” Though the decision was a challenging one, said Shanker, it was made in order to keep the Lehigh Valley community safe in the midst of COVID-19. As a proud member of Interpride, the International Association of Pride Organizers, the Bradbury-Sullivan Center took a cue from Global Pride 2020, which will be entirely virtual and decided to host their own virtual celebration with both national and local acts.
Allentown’s mayor, Ray O’Connell, said, “Pride is more than a one-day event, Pride is celebrated all year long in the City of Allentown. We are a community. Diversity is strength. And I look forward to attending Lehigh Valley Pride virtually this year, and in-person in 2021.”
“This is not our first virus, and LGBT people know about how to survive a plague,” said Shanker, “We know how important it is to listen to public health information and to adapt our programs to meet the current need. We also know how important Lehigh Valley Pride is to our community — and the virtual event this year will be exciting and engaging. It will still be a celebration of LGBT arts, culture and community. It will still be a platform to demand equity. It will still be pride. Just in a different format.”
“This is not a decision we take lightly,” said Patrick Fligge, board chair of the Bradbury-Sullivan Center, “At the end of the day, our number one goal is the health and safety of our community. We are confident that the diversity of virtual programs offered by the center — now to include a virtual pride festival — will provide meaningful ways for our community to connect with one another. We can’t wait to resume in-person programs in the future.”
Ariel Torres, the Pride programs director at the Bradbury-Sullivan Center, said that moving onto a virtual platform may look very different than an in-person Pride, but that they’re exploring ways to creatively engage the community. Live-streamed events will consist of Pride costuming and drag performances, as well as live acoustical acts. Shanker was quick to note that while offering national performances, he also wants to include community spotlights and acts from the Lehigh Valley as well.
While a full lineup is not yet available, many artists have signed on for Allentown Pride 2020: Drag headliners include Jujubee and Sonique of Rupaul’s Drag Race, Season 2. The musical headliner will be Holly Near with additional musical performances from Crys Matthews and Regina Sayles.
“Every year, thousands of community members attend Lehigh Valley Pride celebrate LGBTQ+ arts, culture, and community and to take action for equal rights and equal justice for LGBT people,” said Pennsylvania State Rep. Susan Wild, “As Lehigh Valley Pride transitions to a virtual event, we still need to seek equal justice in this community — I am proud to be your advocate in this work at the federal level. Pride is not canceled. The fight for equal justice is not canceled. From the safety of our homes, we can participate virtually this year, and I look forward to celebrating with you.”
The Bradbury-Sullivan Center will also be postponing the Fall Gala and LGBT Community Leadership Awards, which were originally scheduled for October 28, to the spring of 2021. However, the Bradbury-Sullivan Center will continue to offer virtual programmings such as queer book talks and support services through the months of May, June and July.