At Philadelphia’s annual Pride celebration, Celena Morrison can typically be spotted coordinating volunteers and orchestrating tabling for the William Way LGBT Community Center.
This year, she’ll take on a different role. Morrison is one of nine people that Philly Pride Presents, the organizer of the city’s Pride, has announced as Grand Marshals for PrideDay 2019.
“This is going to be a whole new experience,” said Morrison, William Way’s director of programs, adding she has always been curious about the role of a grand marshall.
Others receiving the honor include State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta; former Pennsylvania governor Edward Rendell; Tatyana Woodard, the community health engagement coordinator at Mazzoni Center; and Julia Fahl, the first out mayor of Lambertville, N.J.
During Rendell’s eight-year stint as governor and more-than 30-year career in public office, he was committed to passing nondiscrimination legislation and employing out staffers.
Kenyatta is a North Philadelphia native and Pennsylvania’s first out state legislator of color.
“It’s an honor to lead off a celebration that marks the proud history of LGBTQ people in Philadelphia, and acknowledge the accomplishments we have made in every aspect of society — government, business, sports and culture and more,” Rep. Kenyatta wrote in an email to PGN. “Being an elected official, it is also an opportunity to celebrate some of the rights we have fought so hard to acquire in housing, employment, healthcare and more. The Pride Parade is always a highlight among social events in Philadelphia, and I’m so pleased to be a part of it.”
Philly Pride Presents named Tommy Scott and Summer Janik as youth grand marshals. The organization also dubbed Hannibal Lickher as Mr. Philly Pride 2019 and Karen Vonsay as Miss Philly Pride 2019.
For Fahl, being named a grand marshall is an “incredible honor.” With Lambertville Pride taking place this weekend in conjunction with its sister town New Hope, Pennsylvania, Fahl said she’s excited for Philadelphia’s event because she knows the hard work that goes into it.
“I always like to remind folks that Pride isn’t just a celebration, that it started as a riot,” said Fahl, who has regularly attended Philadelphia’s Pride celebration since 2008. Philadelphia Pride has a party vibe that allows participants to get something different out of the experience every year, she added.
Morrison, who hails from North Carolina, said she is “at a loss for words” over the honor. “As far as the [LGBTQ] community is concerned, it’s like a world away from what I’m used to, so it means a lot,” she said.
Philadelphia’s LGBT Pride Parade and Festival will take place on June 9. The parade will kick off in the Gayborhood at 11 a.m. and conclude with a festival at Penn’s Landing running until 6 p.m. PrideDay 2019 will feature a “Stonewall 50” theme in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and the launch of the LGBTQ rights movement.
Morrison said she hopes this year’s Pride spectators will leave the event feeling a sense of unity.
“In the past, there has been a lot of separation within our community as far as class, race,” she added. “I’d like to see more unity and more unified celebrating coming this Pride season.”