Since the Stonewall riots in 1969, LGBTQ community members have celebrated June as Pride month. We have observed the month by celebrating the feeling of comfort with being able to “live our truths.” But when the music stops playing and the rainbow feather boas are put away, we adjourn the festivals and go back to our daily lives. For many, it’s an existence that includes many barriers, challenges, and lack of access to resources that promote a good quality of life.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as news emerged that Philly Pride Presents, the organization behind Philadelphia’s largest annual LGBTQ Pride parade and festival for almost three decades, disbanded following community backlash over a Facebook post.
Philly Pride Presents may have disbanded its organization after being called out for its ignorant posts on social media, but the organization’s lack of transparency, inclusion, and overall accountability had been criticized for years by some members of the community.
It was time for a change. The leadership of this organization continued to cause harm to the community up until its final week. However, I believe that dissolution was an easy cop-out. It was the final way of silencing community members who demanded answers one last time. Instead of disbanding, there should have been an opportunity for a transition in leadership, to preserve the organization and evolve it to truly serve the community.
Now, community members are thinking about ways to move forward with a new vision for our city’s Pride celebrations. We should not allow the dissolving of Philly Pride Presents to discourage us as community members from celebrating our Pride in Philadelphia.
The movement to #TakeBackPride isn’t new. For several years, actions have been happening in places like Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and even in New York City to reclaim a Pride that is rooted in liberation from the capitalistic systems that continue to profit off of LGBTQ trauma, hawking Pride products, for example, that earn companies money but do nothing to support LGBTQ individuals in need.
The LGBTQ community should use this opportunity to celebrate our pride in a way that honors our history, respects the present, and promotes a future for LGBTQ-identified individuals in Philadelphia and throughout the nation.
As far as what comes next for us, we must organize as a community, with a common goal of continuing to dismantle oppressive systems rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. Philly Pride should not be solely about a festival; it must be about the investment in our community, the need for complete transparency and accountability, and the willingness to allow collective input to produce tangible results for the community.
As far as a festival is concerned, I believe that we have an opportunity to create the same, if not better — a celebration that encompasses our pride and our resilience as LGBTQ people. We should strive for a festival that is not corporate-dominated and uplifts the changemakers who continue to give their all for the community.
What’s next is what we have been waiting for for over 50 years: liberation.
Naiymah Sanchez is a trans Philadelphian and a community activist.