Pride month begins in a time of unease this year. As of June 1, there have been 252 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 22,881. The city has also erupted in protest over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade. Due to these present risks, all public gatherings have been postponed by the City until at least the first week of September. Many were disappointed to learn that, as of last Wednesday’s announcement from Philly Pride Presents, an in-person Pride event is canceled for this year. Pride was scheduled for June 14, 2020, so organizers decided to hold virtual celebrations on the same date and hope that public gathering bans lift in time for Outfest later this fall.
“Our inability to gather in-person this year is devastating,” said Philly’s Executive Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs Celena Morrison, “At a time when our community — and our entire country — is suffering such great pain in the wake of COVID-19, the economic devastation caused by the virus, and nationwide protests over the killing of unarmed Black people, the loss of a celebration like Pride stings even more. But I know our community will come out of this stronger.”
This year’s Pride is also a historic one, marking the 50th anniversary of the first Pride in New York City. The first Pride parade was staged in 1970 by the Gay Liberation Front, one year after, and in honor of, the Stonewall riots. Two years later, Philadelphia celebrated its first unofficial Pride parade. Yet, it wasn’t until 1988 that the first official Philadelphia Pride parade was held. It began as an impromptu gathering of folks in Love Park who were there to rally with the Lesbian and Gay Task Force. This event drew such a crowd that a new committee was formed — the Lesbian and Gay Pride of the Delaware Vally, Inc. — which convened with the purpose of producing an annual rally and parade to both raise awareness around and celebrate LGBTQ civil rights. This group evolved into Philly Pride Presents, which organizes Pride to this day. Philly celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018, making this year’s celebrations the 32nd annual Philly Pride.
The decision to cancel or to postpone Philly Pride this year was determined by the city’s ruling on whether or not public events could be held. According to Executive Director of Philly Pride Presents Franny Price, the city kept pushing events back two weeks at a time until finally deciding on early fall as a tentative timeline for rescheduled events. “It was very frustrating,” said Price, “because these events take a lot of planning beforehand.”
Philly Pride will follow a sweeping trend in online celebrations. Many LGBTQ organizations that belong to Interpride, an international association of Pride organizers, have decided to celebrate virtually. The Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, itself a member of Interpride, recently announced that the Allentown Pride celebration will be held virtually as well. LGBTQ organizations worldwide have elected to celebrate virtually via an event called Global Pride 2020, which will be a live-streamed event on Saturday, June 27. It will feature LGBTQ speakers and entertainment acts from nearly 60 regions across the world.
More locally, there are many ways to celebrate virtual Philly Pride. Philly Pride Presents will be broadcasting events on Sunday, June 14, 2020. PrideDay will begin at 10 a.m. with the 5K Fun Run. At 4 p.m., Philly Pride Presents will broadcast LGBTQ acts and speakers, and end with Miss Philly LGBT Pride.
To supplement programming from Philly Pride Presents, 6ABC will offer Pride programming both via television broadcast and online streaming at 1 p.m. on June 14. Additionally, the National Liberty Museum will offer numerous LGBTQ virtual activities via [email protected] such as burlesque performances and comedy acts. [email protected] will culminate with a panel discussion on June 24, at 8:00 p.m. called Dear Straight People: A Panel on the LGBTQ+ Experience.
Price maintains hope that Outfest will still happen since it is scheduled for October 11 of this year. If people are registered for Pride Day, they will be admitted to Outfest free of charge. If people are only registered for the parade, they will be admitted to the 2021 parade free of charge. Additionally, vendors registered for both PrideDay and Outfest will be admitted freely to PrideDay 2021.