As we’ve said plenty in this column, no Pride celebration is perfect. There is no perfect event, perfect theme or perfect schedule. And there is not a perfect location for Pride. This year’s Pride celebration is scheduled to take place in the Gayborhood on June 5 at noon. It’ll be nearly three years since Philadelphia had an in-person Pride celebration.
Some in the community have expressed disappointment that the festival will be held in the Gayborhood this year, due to racist incidents in the past and, most recently, the death of Eric Pope in April. But what neighborhood in this city is immune to issues or controversy? It’s safe to say the answer is none.
Here’s another question: What location would be better for Pride than the Gayborhood? The 1978 festival was held at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, which was incredibly cumbersome to reach for anyone without a car. Tanney Park at 24th and Spruce was used in 1982, but that event was sparsely attended for many reasons, including the lack of businesses near the area. There was one year where the festival was held at the empty lot on Broad and Washington, which was convenient to the Broad Street Line but not much else. Rittenhouse Square, which was also used for Pride festivals in the past, is incredibly expensive to rent out.
Even Penn’s Landing, where Pride had been for many years prior to this year’s revamp, had major issues as a location. The central plaza’s lack of shade made it brutally hot most years. The layout made it confusing to find specific tables, so if you wanted to visit a specific business or nonprofit, unless you knew their table number and had a map, it would be difficult to find them. And there wasn’t much to do around Penn’s Landing, so if you wanted to get food or drink other than the limited options at the festival, you had to walk a fair distance away.
Every location has drawbacks, so why not choose one that has as few of them as possible?
One important facet of any Pride celebration is that it happens in a location that many people can get to. From a transportation standpoint, having Pride in the Gayborhood makes sense. It’s central to both subway lines, regional rail lines, and numerous bus lines. Another important factor is being near other local businesses to handle overflow crowds or people who want to temporarily leave the festival. If Pride is in an area isolated from other businesses or attractions, people will be less likely to attend. There are plenty of things to do near the Gayborhood for people who leave the festival or just want to escape for an hour; that includes proximity to other Philadelphia LGBTQ landmarks for those who want to take in a little history. And the area has plenty of food and drink options for those who don’t want to partake in this year’s new Food Truck space at the festival.
From a business standpoint, the Gayborhood is home to many LGBTQ-owned businesses, including Black gay-owned businesses, who will benefit from the (hopefully) surplus of people attending the festival. Local businesses are still reeling from the last two years of the pandemic, so the influx of patronage will be important to help keep them afloat and keep the city vibrant. There are also important community organizations in the Gayborhood, such as the William Way Community Center, that will see an increase in foot traffic and, hopefully, greater participation as a result.
One thing that PHL Pride Collective has been touting is that they are working with people who previously felt alienated from the Gayborhood and are hoping to bring those people back to the neighborhood this year. That is a great thing. We’ve written about the history of racist incidents in the Gayborhood. Steps have been taken to address it, and it will be an ongoing issue that people will have to be aware of. But every city neighborhood has to deal with such realities.
There is an understandable unease that some people might have in the wake of the assault on Eric Pope in front of Tabu. But the bouncer was the one responsible for that incident, not the neighborhood. PHL Pride Collective has said that the security company involved in that incident, Mainline Security, will not be used during the festival.
Some may have other issues with certain individual businesses in the Gayborhood — if they had a bad experience there, for example — but that doesn’t mean the entire neighborhood should be shunned. One person or one business does not define the hundreds that exist around it.
Pride is about bringing as many people as possible together, and for all the reasons mentioned above, the Gayborhood is the best location to do that.