It became clear in early March that celebrating Pride outdoors, with fanfare and a thrumming energy pulsing through the air as hundreds of people gathered together was not going to be an option this summer in light of public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Pride Seattle Executive Director Krystal Marx said it was clear events needed to pivot, because not having anything was not an option either. “Our community deserves a place to remember, to mourn, to celebrate,” she said. “So we wanted to provide that.”
Various Pride organizations partnered to co-create a weekend of conference-style content from June 26 through June 28. While watching and gathering over a screen removes the visceral energy of being together in a physical space, Marx said this format offers some opportunities for Seattle Pride. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, it falls under the category of a social welfare organization and can partake in lobbying and advocacy efforts.
“We exist not just to put on amazing events but also to be able to protest and engage in activism around issues related to our community,” Marx said.
This year, intentional activism has become even more important and urgent as Pride coincides with an increasing momentum in the Black Lives Matter protests. Marx points out that it is important to remember the origins of the LGBTQ movement are also rooted in resisting police brutality and in protest. The Stonewall Uprising took place June 28,1969, in New York’s Greenwhich Village, as police raid ed neighborhood bars — which was then a common occurrence — in the wee hours of the morning. Local gay and lesbian bar owners and residents resisted and started protesting the police brutality. This night started something big and is remembered as a milestone in the struggle for gay rights.
Marsha P. Johnson, who founded the Gay Liberation Front following Stonewall, advocated for and pioneered the gay rights movement. She was a Black trans woman, one of many who built and pushed the movement forward. Marx says it is important to remember that BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous and people of color) were integral to the gay rights movement.
“When we look back at what that means for our community — holding ourselves accountable too — are we still on that mission of fighting for all our rights?” she said. “We are trying to embrace what that means to really look back and how that lens can influence how we look forward.”
Organizers are well aware of the urgency that has emerged around the Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter movements. A press release from Seattle Pride states:
“The organizers of Seattle Pride wish to acknowledge and stand in solidarity with other regional LGBTQ organizations to condemn the senseless murder of George Floyd, standing together against racism in all forms. The LGBTQIA+ people know firsthand the feeling of marginalization, and the importance of compassion and standing together – especially in this time of need. As with other impactful movements, the LGBTQ movement also began with a protest. Much of Seattle Pride’s programming will be centered on matters of activism and centering black and brown voices.”
In an effort to amplify BIPOC voices, the first hour of programming on Saturday, June 27, will be a space to center these voices, including an acknowledgement that we are on land stolen from Native people. “Anything we can do to give the first and best and highest traffic part of our programming to communities of color in any way they want,” Marx said.
Each of the three days will be dedicated to Seattle’s Pride organizations: Friday is devoted to programming from Trans Pride; Saturday features Pride Fest; Sunday is Seattle Pride. Marx said the organizations have been dedicated to bringing attendees a full breadth of education, activism, memorials and celebration, aimed at including all age groups and identities.
“What’s really magical about this is we are three organizations that are clearly putting on events and activities year-round, but we haven’t really aligned or collaborated in the past,” Marx said. “We are seeing because of this virtual pivot that we have the ability to ride ongoing program year-round. We also have the ability to educate on really critical issues presented to our community.”
Because the events are online and Pride Together is committed to creating a safe, welcoming space for attendees, security safeguards are necessary. Marx said that in some ways, an online streaming event allows for more curation and security than a public event taking place in physical gathering spaces. Registration will be managed through an app, and no one can view content outside of the online portal. “We have a one-strike policy where when you sign up to register you are agreeing to treat people with respect,” Marx said. Volunteers in chat rooms will be tasked with flagging security threats and can immediately boot violators off of the platform.
The lineup features an array of programming: On Friday, Gender Justice League, which produces Trans Pride, will host talent from across the nation and workshops that address many topics for all ages, youth activities and streaming short films in partnership with Three Dollar Bill Cinema. Also included are storytelling and spoken word by Gina Stella Dell’Assunta, who reflects on living in a queer, disabled body. Black/trans/queer poet, author and educator J Mase III; trans activist and motivational speaker Blossom Brown will also be featured; and there will be a showing of “The Most Dangerous Year,” a 2018 documentary that details the stories of parents who fight for the rights of their trans children.
For the second day of Seattle Virtual Pride, PrideFest will be doing a 12-hour live-cast including a family hour, an hour dedicated to queer youth and six hours of mainstage programming with artists, community and non-profit features. Finally, a three-hour dance party will include performers such as Mary Lambert, BeautyBoiz and Ruth Soto as well as many other local artists, drag queens and kings and other performers.
The final day sees programming from Seattle Pride, which usually presents the Seattle Pride Parade and Pride in the Park. The offerings of the day will include a virtual fair of nonprofits and resources and a virtual vendor village as well. Programs include topics such as The Power of Youth Activism, the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities, multiple Drag Shows and story time for kids. Specific events look at the intersection of LGBTQ experiences and immigration, for example. Sunday will conclude with performances from musicians who would have otherwise performed beneath open skies during Pride in the Park.
While Pride weekend this year will be something it hasn’t been for its 50 years since Stonewall, a new approach could take hold in how communities can intersect and engage with LGBTQ issues and experiences. “We are more than just a party. We are more than just a parade,” Marx said. “There is nothing wrong with celebrating who we are but we are also more than that.”
For a full list of programming and registration, visit togetherforpride.org.
Kamna Shastri is a staff reporter covering narrative and investigative stories for Real Change. She has a background in community journalism. Contact her at email@example.com. Twitter: @KShastri2
Read more in the June 17-23, 2020 issue.