Philly Pride goes virtual in wake of COVID-19

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Action Wellness’ virtual Pride submission

In line with COVID-19 safety procedures, Philadelphia’s Pride march and associated celebrations were canceled this year. In lieu of in-person events, Philly Pride Presents (PPP) assembled a virtual Pride celebration, which can be found via a link on PPP’s Instagram and Facebook pages. 

Virtual Pride manifested in the form of two videos with overlapping content –– one was a partial collection of video clips submitted by community members and organizations expressing their support of Pride and solidarity with Black Lives Matter, which is being broadcast on a loop on 6abc.com/prideday2020. 

The other, “Philly Pride Day Virtual Pride,” is a half-hour digital collage comprised of video and photo clips from community members standing up for Black lives, interspersed with a drag performance by Tina Montgomery, a song performed by Donna Summer tribute artist Rainere Martin, a musical selection from the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus and opening remarks by PPP Executive Director Franny Price thanking the vendors and supporters of Pride, and expressing PPP’s alliance with Black Lives Matter. 

“Overall, I got a lot of emails of people happy, especially people that saw themselves,” Price told PGN. “We’re pretty happy with it because it was our first time.” PPP will also participate in Global Pride 2020 on June 27. 

Tina Montgomery, Miss Philly Pride 2017 via instagram.com/phillygaypride

The Attic Youth Center, Action Wellness, Philly’s Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Celena Morrison, Keeya Branson Davis of Peco, drag queen Brittany Lynn, Philadelphia Voices of Pride, Henri David, Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, Cheer Philadelphia, Tina Montgomery (Miss Philly Pride 2017) and members of PPP’s board are among the organizations and individuals who submitted clips in support of Pride and Black lives. 

“Pride began as a protest march after the Stonewall riots, slowly becoming a celebration of LGBTQ life,” Morrison said in her video clip. “This year, Pride is about elevating Black voices, especially those who are trans and gender nonconforming.”

Another person of color who contributed a video for Virtual Pride said, “As of right now, the Black queer community needs your support now more than ever. Our battle against police brutality can’t lose momentum now when change is around the corner. So, let’s fight for beautiful Black lives and continue to celebrate equality and love.” 

As part of her virtual Pride contribution, Brittany Lynn said, “Hug your LGBTQIA brothers and sisters a little closer this year of 2020, especially our Black and Brown and trans brothers and sisters. I see you, and I see your struggle. I stand by you, and I’ve marched by your side since 1993.”  

Celena Morrison in her Pride video clip via instagram.com/phillygaypride

In response to one of PPP’s Facebook posts calling for video submissions in support of Black Lives Matter, some community members expressed  their anger and frustration at PPP’s reluctance to fully engage with the queer community of color and take action in the fight for Black lives. 

One community member commented, “This is what you come up with? Our queer ancestors would be disappointed by this and you. We have Pride because of Black trans women, and you can’t even stand up for our brothers and sisters and even do a solidarity march?” In the same thread, other individuals were calling for PPP to team up with community leaders of color to organize a solidarity march in support of Black lives. 

On Sunday, June 21, Philly Queer March For Black Lives will begin in Love Park. The event, organized by community members and organizations rather than PPP, will have Philadelphia Black Pride, GALAEI, Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club, ACT UP, Mazzoni Center, William Way and others marching for Black lives. The Facebook event description reads in part, “Black people across Philadelphia and throughout America –– many of whom are LGBTQ+ –– are systematically oppressed. Even more so, our Black Queer and Trans siblings are often erased from the narrative. Here in Philadelphia’s own LGBTQ+ community, we can not deny that anti-Blackness and racism persists. In the spirit of leaders like Marsha P. Johnson, the movement for long-overdue social change in America is being led by communities of color.” 

Leading up to virtual Pride, PPP staff published a Facebook post announcing that this year’s Miss Philly Pride Pageant would be postponed due to the fact that zero Black performers signed up to participate. The post read in part: “In all fairness to our Black performers in the Philadelphia area, we didn’t have any contestants of color to continue doing this pageant. Sorry.” 

“I don’t know why because every year most of our contestants are people of color,” Price said. She hopes to hold the pageant in conjunction with Outfest if the event is permitted to take place this year. 

PPP’s Facebook announcement postponing the pageant was also met with substantial backlash. One Facebook comment reads, “Maybe no Black performers signed up because this organization has failed to meaningfully acknowledge and show solidarity with BLM and the current anti-racism movement. Maybe no Black performers signed up because the Philly queer community has issues with racism and the organization that claims to celebrate diversity has failed to stand up for Black and Brown members of the community or take any kind of action.” 

In response to community members’ collective comments, Price told PGN, “I didn’t see a lot of comments because I was working on virtual Pride.” When informed of the nature of the comments, which called for PPP to do better and take action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Price said, “We did do better –– we canceled [the pageant] right away. We always pride ourselves that our event is very very diverse. We welcome anybody.” 

“As far as postponing the pageant, I think it was absolutely appropriate,” said Carl Michaels, who has worked with Price for a long time and designed this year’s virtual Pride video. “Making sure that the pageant is equitable for everyone is important. We did the normal process this year, but it’s important to represent the entire community.” 

As of press time, Price did not respond to an email asking if PPP would be involved in organizing a Black Lives Matter solidarity march.