Center City Philadelphia was awash with rainbow flags, as a sea of people turned out to celebrate the city’s 50th Pride march on June 5. This year’s event, with new organizers PHL Pride Collective and the Philly Dyke March, will go down as one of the most diverse events in Philly Pride history. Crowd estimates were in the thousands, with more people joining in along the march route.
This year, Philly Pride was held as a march instead of a parade, to emphasize the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights. The event kicked off with a rally outside the National Constitution Center, followed by a stop at the Federal Detention Center.
At 12th and Locust streets, demonstrators stopped to hang a fabric replica honoring Gloria Casarez, a Latinx founding member of the Philly Dyke March. After Casarez died in 2008, a mural of her was painted on the 12th Street Gym, but it was later covered over by developers, despite community protests. The march ended in the Gayborhood around Walnut and 12th Streets with a street fair — free for all to attend for the first time in 30 years.
A key issue for organizers was the hundreds of bills introduced around the U.S. aimed at banning gender-affirming health care for LGBTQ+ youth and keeping trans kids out of school sports. There was also a broader focus on confronting racism in policing. A platform point of the new organizers was to not communicate, collaborate or coordinate with the police.
For the first time, Philadelphia Pride organizers are mostly Black and Brown activists dedicated to creating an event that reflects the demographics of this majority people-of-color city. The organizers stressed the inclusion of trans people, fat people, immigrants, Indigenous people, Muslims, people with HIV, Black women/femmes, people with disabilities and sex workers, and to create a space for youth and elders. More on the platform of PHL Pride Collective can be found on their website: phlpridecollective.org/.
It was clear from who turned out that their message was heard and well received.
This welcoming atmosphere was reflected in the diversity of contingents, including Philadelphia Asian & Queers, UNITE HERE, UFCW Local 1776, The Attic Youth Center and more. Many parents brought young children.
Groups leading the march included a contingent of motorcyclists, one wearing a shirt that read: “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.” Contrary to prior years there were no corporate sponsors. There was no viewing grandstand to determine a “parade participating float winner.”
Cops, racists, transphobes – not welcome here
For decades until 2021, Philly Pride Presents ran the city’s LGBTQ+ Pride events. It suddenly disbanded in June 2021 following accusations of racism and transphobia, after the group ran a Facebook post that included a Blue Lives Matter symbol. In 2016, the group offered the title of parade grand marshal to a group of LGBTQ+ police officers. They had to back down following a backlash from LGBTQ+ people of color.
Philly Pride Presents also held their events on the same day as the Odunde Festival — the largest and longest-running African American street festival in the U.S. Organizers were justly criticized for being too centered on the white, cisgender gay male experience. The final straw was a post from the group that referred to the fierce trans women who led the Stonewall Rebellion as “those dressed as women,” implying that trans women are not actually women.
With PHL Pride Collective in the lead — with their many organizers who have deep roots in ongoing community struggles — there is the possibility that Philly Pride will not just be a one-day-a-year event.
Smash racism! Smash transphobia! No to police brutality! Stonewall means fight back!