Luanda Morris, of the city’s Frankford section, made the trek to last weekend’s Pride with her 14-year-old daughter, a lesbian.
She wanted the event to serve as a living lesson — one that made her child feel accepted and respected while teaching others about love, acceptance and unity.
“Love is love, and I see that reflected in a lot of T-shirts and messages from the artists,” Morris said. “The experience here is that people are very loving and accepting of each other.”
The 31st iteration of the Philly Pride Parade and Festival — the largest ever, with more than 140 participating groups — took over streets from the Gayborhood to Penn’s Landing during an iconic milestone.
The parade, complete with the trailblazing “Philadelphia Pioneers On The Road To Stonewall” float that honored the 50th anniversary of the New York riots, kicked off at 11 a.m. Sunday at 13th and Locust streets.
Thousands of participants snaked through the Historic District before converging at the festival at Penn’s Landing, where Stonewall activists and Pennsylvania politicians gathered to reflect on LGBTQ civil-rights history.
Officials also honored Stonewall activists Paul Kuntzler, one of the first to demonstrate at the White House; Randy Wicker, one of the first LGBTQ-rights picketers in the country; John James, who participated in Philadelphia’s Annual Reminders from 1965-69; Susan Silverman, part of original LGBTQ-rights group Gay Liberation Front; and Mark Segal, also an original member of GLF, president of local LGBTQ philanthropy group dmhFUND and Philadelphia Gay News publisher. The Pennsylvania Senate formally recognized Segal for his community activism spanning back to Stonewall.
“It is because of the fierce advocates, the brave advocates seen at Stonewall … that we are a more inclusive, diverse and resilient city,” Mayor Jim Kenney told the crowd at Penn’s Landing. “Philadelphia celebrates its diversity and we’re proud to stand with our LGBTQ communities. We’ll continue to fly Philly’s own more-color Pride flag and advocate for everyone, especially those who have been marginalized.”
Kenney then took a strike at national leaders, which was greeted with cheers. He said the progress of the last 50 years is “in jeopardy because of the crackpot in the White House and his homophobic vice president [trying] to turn back the clock to the days before the ’60s.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also addressed the festival crowd. “Today is a day about love and about affirmation, and today we affirm loud and clear that love is love,” he said.
Gov. Tom Wolf said that while he’s proud of Pennsylvania’s progress on LGBTQ rights, more is left to accomplish.
“It is so wrong that Pennsylvania, a place founded on tolerance, inclusion and fairness, should be one of the states without nondiscrimination,” he told festival attendees. “Let us finish the work [the LGBTQ pioneers] started and bring those bills across the finish line.”
Awards were presented to various 2019 PrideDay Parade winners, including GALAEI for Best Nonprofit Group, Refuse Fascism for Best Statement, Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus for Best Performance, Hard Rock Cafe for Best Float and the Road to Stonewall float as winner in the Best Stonewall 50 category.
The annual event drew crowds from throughout the region and of varying identities and orientations.
This was the second consecutive Pride for North Philadelphian Skye Wilson, 21, who identifies as bisexual. She said she’s at her “strongest and my gayest during this month” and especially during the public celebration.
“We go through so much 365 days out of the year, but then this is one day where everybody can feel comfortable and feel like they’re among their own people,” Wilson said. “So many times people just go to work, they don’t really tell anybody about their life, friends or family, and then they come here and they can really be who they are. It’s definitely important to have that one day.”
For Hanover resident Levi Ginter, a 24-year-old transman, the highlight of Pride is seeing how it becomes ever more inclusive.
The event is especially valuable because it supports younger members of the LGBTQ community, he added.
“[It’s] continuing to let youth know as they grow up, and even those who are older who spent their lives being told otherwise, that there are people out there that are supportive and there are options. There’s healthcare, there’s everything available to you. You just have to look in the right places.”
For Liz Sweeney, 27, Pride took on a new significance this year: It was her first since she came out as trans.
“It’s my first one since I’ve been out and on estrogen and actually finally living how I want to,” the South Jersey resident said. “It’s nice to finally just be out and enjoy being around everyone and being around people who support you and don’t care who you want to sleep with or who you identify as.”
Sweeney’s friend, Brittany Howell, 28, added that orientation or identity shouldn’t be an issue.
“We’re all humans,” she said. “We’re all the same people, and it should just continue to be that way.”
Photo credit: Kelly Burkhardt
Updated 6/13/19 1:33 p.m.