The organization behind Philadelphia’s Pride Parade and Festival, Philly Pride Presents, has decided to disband, according to two independent sources close to the organization. Sources also said the organization has cancelled its September 4 “Pride-Lite” event at Penn’s Landing. A representative from the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation confirmed the cancellation.
Philly Pride Presents had recently been under intense scrutiny, starting with backlash from a June 10 Facebook post about the history of the Stonewall Riots which contained language including “those dressed as women,” and which centered the story around the police officers who raided the Stonewall Inn rather than the LGBTQ people who were subject to police abuse. The post was deleted shortly after it first appeared.
On June 11, a speak out event called “Take Back Pride!! PHILLY PRIDE PRESENTS MUST GO!!!!!” was scheduled for June 25th, hosted by Disrupt Philadelphia, ACT UP Philadelphia, and the Philly Trans March.
The event’s description read in part: “From toxic political ties to cops being centered at Pride, PPP has demonstrated that their values do not reflect that of the community. With there being no Philly Pride Presents events happening this month, NOW is the time for [the] community to stand up, speak out, reclaim, organize, and take back what Pride should really be centered and focused on, what it means, and what we as a community demand for it.”
Following the problematic post about the Stonewall Riots, a representative from a community organization who had previously participated in Philly Pride events told a PGN staff member that they were under pressure to cut ties with Philly Pride Presents.
A few days after the initial post on Stonewall, Philly Pride Presents posted an apology on their Facebook page and stated that the senior advisor responsible for the Stonewall post would be stepping down. Shortly after that apology, the organization took down their entire Facebook page. At the time of this article’s posting, the Philly Pride Presents website and Instagram account remain active.
LGBTQ community leader Kendall Stephens told PGN in a written statement: “The disbandment of PPP robbed the QTBIPOC community of an opportunity to be properly honored and represented in Pride Month festivities and disallowed a smooth transition of power and responsibility over Philly pride events to transpire. This decision was a craven response to community pressure that dismissed and further harmed the voices of the most vulnerable in our community. Instead of facing the community with the pride that this month represents by addressing the concerns of those in our community who feel underrepresented and underserved in pride events, PPP chose to systematically silence those voices once again in one last act of profound disinterest and unwillingness to transform pride into a more inclusive and equitable space for everyone in our community. I am saddened by this decision and what this may mean for the rest of Pride Month.”
Stephens also said that underlying issues involving Pride need to be addressed.
“You think about what Pride has become in Philadelphia for instance – the streets are being flooded with alcohol or corporate sponsorships, and over-the-top performances,” Stephens wrote. “This is all a facade that is hiding a lot of pain that our community is still dealing with. While we party, some people can’t even afford to get into the events. While we’re partying and celebrating, there are people who are living at or under the poverty line, who are suffering with all sorts of inequities in every key area of our lives. That’s a problem, and we’re not addressing that in a way that I and other people are deeming appropriate.”
PGN will report more on this story as it develops.