With the recent overturn of DOMA and Proposition 8 Americans especially the LGBT community has a lot to celebrate. The extra bonus is that this is Pride weekend and for those in Harlem they don’t have to go far to celebrate as Harlem Pride is this weekend, June 28th-30that venues around the city and Harlem. From a launch party to a festive gathering there are many choices to choose from and it’s in many backyards.
Being a Harlemite I can say there used to be a time when you wanted to show your gay pride you had to travel to other boroughs or make a trip downtown. Started in 2010 Harlem Pride has filled a need that was sorely lacking uptown. The fact that over 3,000 people attended events thrown by the group shows the need and the achievement of the group as well as showing the growing community of the LGBT community in Harlem. I know for myself I have seen the changes in the last few years. It used to be that Harlem was never like Chelsea where you saw openly LGBT express themselves. In Harlem at the time it was a silent code where your Gaydar worked overtime for find others like you. Honestly for me I felt that it was still a stigma to be gay and not full accepted in the community I called home.
Now there has been a shift and a wave of acceptance has followed and Harlem Pride continues to be a reflection of that change. The great thing about Harlem Pride is that it’s not for just one community. In other words it’s not just for blacks, Latinos, gay or those who reside in the Harlem zip codes, it’s for everyone. This is seen by the crowds who have attended, and like the diverse place of Harlem you also witness it at their big gathering. And no knock to the huge Pride that happens downtown but Harlem Pride is ideal for families as it’s held in a spacious park, Jackie Robinson Park, which has additional facilities for families to enjoy.
I went last year and loved seeing the reflection of the colorful rainbow. Like other Prides there’s health booths and agency/business information but what’s different is the energy. Okay I’ll say it, it has flayva! As I walked around last year you couldn’t help to be drawn in by the music and the rhythm of the day. But Harlem Pride is not just for one day as according to their 2013 schedule they kick off events at the Aloft Harlem, the newest hotel to land in Harlem. This is a VIP Launch Party with special guest performers and local celebrities in attendance. For those who may have plans for the weekend and unable to attend the Saturday event in the park this can be a great alternative. Tickets for the VIP launch party are $50 dollars and include food and drinks plus you can’t beat the fact they will have an auction, free give ways and a raffle! The Pride celebration in the park is free for all to attend.
But I know I’m sounding like a walking billboard and need to explain the reason for my excitement. In past Pride celebrations, people of color have sometimes been an afterthought and often not fully included in the planning process or the day itself. It was like we were welcomed to hang out on the fringe but not welcomed to eat at the big table. This was the reason many Black prides were created to bring about that visibility. Yet one can look at those organizations and although understand the need for a separate entity, it still creates segregation in the community. So knowing that, Harlem Pride takes into account the histories of Pride and creates a unified event for all which is a great thing.
My second reason for wishing them success is that I once was on the organizing committee for a black pride event in Minnesota called Soul Essence. I can tell you that it’s hard work that people don’t fully recognize. It was great as we were successful in having events that were well attended and with no or low entry fee. We created a weekend of events with no funding and the only monies came from donations and our own pockets. The people in attendance had no idea what we had to endure to make the events happen. Behind the scenes we ran all over the city to get supplies, rushed to make press deadlines, scurried to collect funds to pay for permits all while trying to manage our full time job and our home lives.
It’s this hard work that I’m sure the members of Harlem Pride can relate to. I’ll even go as far as to speak for them when I say that for us it was the passion of creating something for the community by the community, reflecting the community that drove us. We were lucky in that we didn’t have people to sit on our board simply to sit on our board and make decisions. Everyone involved from the board members to the volunteers rolled up their sleeve, reached in their pockets and did whatever they needed to do to make the Pride a success. This energy is reflected as they hold events all through the year and not just in the month of June.
It takes community to make Pride happen and the celebrations this weekend are reflective of that. So please show your support and your Pride especially if you live in Harlem. For more information go to https://harlempride.org/. Let’s come together and make music with our spirit as we celebrate recent victories in our ‘hood. So taking a new phrase, It’s not WeHa, it’s not SoHa, it’s Harlem Pride. See ya there!