Newly reimagined PHL Pride March and Festival commemorates 50 years of Philadelphia Pride
“This year’s theme is centered around celebrating how far we’ve come, claiming and reclaiming community spaces, and happiness.”
After a couple years without a Pride event, Philadelphia will see a return to live, but “reimagined,” celebrations this year. On Sunday, June 5, “PHL Pride 50: Our Community, Our Joy” marks the 50th anniversary of Philadelphia’s first Gay Pride Day in 1972.
“[Fifty] years after the city’s first Pride, there is still much work to be done for the LGBTQ+ community,” the organization behind this year’s events, PHL Pride Collective, said in a news release. “This year’s theme is centered around celebrating how far we’ve come, claiming and reclaiming community spaces, and happiness.”
Philly Pride Presents, the former organizers of Philly’s largest LGBTQ Pride festival and parade, abruptly dissolved last year and canceled all its programming after drawing criticism from within the LGBTQ community. Taking up the mantle this year is the volunteer-run PHL Pride Collective.
“[PPP] dissolved in a moment of community accountability and created a crisis moment,” said Eric Schroeckenthaler, a volunteer representative for PHL Pride Collective. “PHL Pride Collective formed as a response to that moment, because we want to reimagine what Pride could look like for the community, and lead with transparency, openness, an open call to community.”
PHL Pride Collective, which has some 100-plus members, describes itself as the “Queer, Trans, Black, and Brown grassroots initiative.” The collective is a community program of the nonprofit social justice organization GALAEI and operates with a decentralized leadership model.
From its initial organizing, the group developed its Points of Unity as a set of guiding principles “to serve the most marginalized in our community,” according to Schroeckenthaler. The PHL Pride March and Festival are the group’s first events.
The march is organized and cohosted in collaboration with the Philly Dyke March, scheduled for Sunday, June 5 at 11 a.m. on Independence Mall in front of the Constitution Center at 5th and Arch Streets. Floats and vehicles will not be permitted, but participation is open-invite with no registration necessary.
“The floated parade in a lot of cities has become a branding opportunity for corporations and companies,” another representative of the PHL Pride Collective told The Inquirer. “This march will try to break that model, to return to the roots of earlier LGBTQ activism.”
The starting point for the march is meant to commemorate two historical moments in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ history: The Reminder Day Demonstrations held in front of Independence Hall on Chestnut Street from 1965 until 1969, to raise awareness about the bigotry experienced by the community; and the 1972 Pride Day March, which concluded at the same spot 50 years ago.
Along the route, three stops are planned to highlight diverse voices. The first is a land acknowledgment to honor the Lenni Lenape, followed by a stop featuring speakers uplifting trans folks and people of color. The third is a tribute to LGBTQ+ elders and youth at the former site of the mural for Gloria Casarez, one of the community’s most valued and powerful community leaders.
Following the PHL Pride March, the Pride Festival pops off at noon in the Gayborhood. Open to the public and free of charge, the festival includes a number of entertainment stages, among other attractions. The festival “is built with deep intention around the reimagining of Pride and uplifting the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community,” according to the new release, citing groups like The Attic Youth Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence, galaei’s SPLAT program, Philly Family Pride, and the William Way LGBT Community Center among the community partners.
Programming includes family-friendly spaces, “Food Truck Way,” and a “relaxation zone” with seating, accessible bathrooms, a cooling station, and more. Another space, Kiki Alley, celebrates the city’s rich ballroom culture, while the Philadelphia Muses Stage will feature a lineup of local performers and producers curated by Sway Philly and Boys of Summer.
Medical services will be provided throughout by Bebashi and Mazzoni Center, while PHL Pride Collective will employ a community safety model that includes mental wellness services, social workers, trained private security, and de-escalation specialists.