Boston Pride returns to the community
Boston Pop-Up Pride was Sunday, to the surprise and joy of the throngs of revelers who gathered on Boston Common. When Boston Pride was dismantled last July, a coalition of LGBTQ+ community activists and groups stepped up and got busy. They reimagined a new Boston Pride organization in which long-ignored marginalized groups – especially communities of Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and people of color – become essential actors in its new chapter.
“I can’t believe my eyes. There are a lot more people of color at this Pride than any I’ve attended since coming to Boston in 2012,” said Jason Wong, who’s originally from Chicago.
Although Pop-Up Pride was a grassroots, community-organized, community-centered, one-time event, it has laid a solid foundation for future Pride events serving Greater Boston: a rally with diverse community speakers, local artists, musicians, performers, community tables, food vendors, a family area, an LGBTQ+ youth area and support from nonprofits.
“I like the diversity. It feels I’ve come out to see local talent, to a community event,” said Cassi Braithwaite, of Walpole, praising the event as “more accessible, and it doesn’t feel like a marketing event.”
For some in the community, Boston Pride had become a vast corporate and commercialized extravaganza at which marginal groups were nonessentials except for photo-ops highlighting diversity. They saw the floats in the parade as selling the soul of the movement’s grassroots message for entry into the mainstream, instead of changing the mainstream. Others in the community welcome corporate sponsors, viewing it as vital for the financial cost and continuation of Boston Pride and affirming LGBTQ+ issues and their employees.
With this year’s Pride events occurring across the state and in various cities, these community-based grassroots events feel authentic, appropriate and empowering. They decentralized the behemothlike hold and power Boston Pride had over the entire state and much of New England for nearly 50 years. With more acceptance of LGBTQ+ Americans, many activists feel that local Pride events throughout Massachusetts hold communities, towns, local officials and politicians accountable to its LGBTQ+denizens, especially in the drive to combat anti-LGBTQ+ legislation seen in more than 300 bills in 28 states so far this year.
“This is a Pride by the people, for the people,” Rebekah Levit of Natick said.
Braithwaite said, “No one group owns it. No one group calls the shots.”
For example, DignityUSA, the largest LGBTQ faith organization in the country based in Boston, kicked off Pride Month by hosting an online prayer service. The event celebrated Pride and was a form of pastoral care needed during this ongoing pandemic. “True blessings don’t come from hierarchies of power; they come from communities of care, love and solidarity,” according to the website.
Trans Resistance MA, an outspoken critic of the Boston Pride board’s transmisogyny and racism, will have its Pride march from Nubian Square in Roxbury to the Franklin Park Playstead June 25, and a festival.
“Our black communities need to see us too, like the rest of Boston does,” Jamal Jones said. “It ain’t like they don’t know we’re here.”
Over-policing is an issue for communities of people of color, especially its transgender community. Like last year’s march, Trans Resistance MA’s statement on policing is the same: “We plan to have minimal, if any, contact with law enforcement. Police officers will not be invited to the event or asked to secure the march route.”
In 2020, the murder of George Floyd raised additional fear for LGBTQ+ people of color concerning the police. The refusal of Boston Pride’s board to publicly support the LGBTQ+ community of color position statement on policing simply further highlighted the decadeslong racial strife among us.
“I miss the parade,” Jake Green of Somerville said. “It does highlight the disagreement. With no parade, Pride is bittersweet.”
Boston Pride had an inauspicious beginning, made up of a small, motley group of LGBTQ+ activists who marched to a Vietnam protest from Cambridge Common to Boston Common in June 1970. The group held a rally on Boston Common, commemorating the previous Stonewall Riots. Boston Pride evolved into a series of weeklong events, one of the city’s largest public and money-making events. Its parade, the flagship event, drew cheering spectators of nearly 1 million throughout New England and beyond in its early years – with hecklers along a sparsely attended parade route.
“It’s an impressive crowd of folks today, as a first, without the parade and rainbow-washing voices and advertisements of corporations,” one of the Pop-up Pride organizers said.
Pop-Up Pride was vital, and many local LGBTQ+ communities agree.
I agree. But, I miss the parade, too.
The Rev. Irene Monroe is a speaker, theologian and syndicated columnist. She does a segment called “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM) on Boston Public Radio and a segment called “What’s Up?” Fridays on New England Channel News.