Activist community

Boston Pride returns to the community

The Boston Pop-Up Pride was Sunday. (Photo: Edie Bresler)

Boston Pop-Up Pride took place on Sunday, to the surprise and delight of crowds of revelers who gathered on Boston Common. When Boston Pride was disbanded last July, a coalition of activists and groups from the LGBTQ+ community stepped up and got busy. They’ve reimagined a new Boston Pride organization in which long-ignored marginalized groups—especially Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities—become vital players in its new chapter.

” I can not believe it. There are many more people of color at this Pride than any I have attended since arriving in Boston in 2012,” said Chicago native Jason Wong.

Although Pop-Up Pride was a unique, community-organized and community-focused event, it laid a solid foundation for future Pride events serving Greater Boston: a gathering featuring various community speakers, local artists, musicians, interpreters, community tables, food vendors, a family space, an LGBTQ+ youth space and the support of associations.

“I like diversity. I feel like I came to see local talent, at a community event,” said Cassi Braithwaite, of Walpole, praising the event as “more accessible, and it doesn’t feel like a marketing event.”

For some in the community, Boston Pride had become a vast business and commercial extravaganza in which fringe groups were not essential except for photo ops showcasing diversity. They saw the parade floats sell the soul of the movement’s popular message to enter the mainstream, instead of changing the mainstream. Other members of the community welcome corporate sponsors, seeing them as vital to the financial cost and continuation of Boston Pride and affirming LGBTQ+ issues and their employees.

With this year’s Pride events happening across the state and in various cities, these grassroots community events feel authentic, appropriate and empowering. They decentralized Boston Pride’s hold and power over the entire state and much of New England for nearly 50 years. With greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ Americans, many activists believe that local Pride events across Massachusetts hold communities, cities, local officials, and politicians accountable to its LGBTQ+ residents, especially in the fight against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation seen in over 300 bills in 28 states so far this year.

“It’s a pride by the people, for the people,” said Rebekah Levit of Natick.

Braithwaite said: “No band owns it. No group makes the decisions.

For example, DignityUSA, the nation’s largest faith-based LGBTQ organization based in Boston, kicked off Pride Month by hosting an online prayer service. The event celebrated Pride and was a form of pastoral care needed during this ongoing pandemic. “True blessings do not come from hierarchies of power; they come from communities of care, love and solidarity,” according to the website.

Trans Resistance MA, an outspoken critic of transmisogyny and racism on the board of Boston Pride, will hold its pride march from Nubian Square in Roxbury to the Franklin Park Playstead on June 25 and a festival.

“Our black communities need to see us too, like the rest of Boston,” Jamal Jones said. “It’s not like they don’t know we’re here.”

Over-policing is a problem for communities of people of color, especially its transgender community. Like last year’s march, Trans Resistance MA’s statement on policing is the same: “We expect to have minimal, if any, contact with law enforcement. Police officers will not be invited to the event or asked to secure the march route.

In 2020, the murder of George Floyd raised additional fear for LGBTQ+ people of color regarding the police. The Boston Pride Board of Directors’ refusal to publicly endorse the LGBTQ+ community of color’s position statement on policing has only further underscored the decades-long racial strife between us.

“I miss the parade,” said Jake Green of Somerville. “It highlights the disagreement. Without parade, Pride is bittersweet.

Boston Pride had an inauspicious start, consisting of a small, ragtag group of LGBTQ+ activists who marched to a protest in Vietnam from Cambridge Common to Boston Common in June 1970. The group held a rally on Boston Common, commemorating previous Stonewall riots. Boston Pride has evolved into a week-long series of events, one of the largest public and money-making events in the city. Its parade, the flagship event, drew nearly a million cheering spectators across New England and beyond in its early years – with rowdies along an uncrowded parade route.

“It’s an impressive crowd of people today, for the first time, without the parade and the corporate voices and advertisements,” said one of the Pop-up Pride organizers.

Pop-Up Pride was vital, and many local LGBTQ+ communities agree.

I agree. But I also miss the parade.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a lecturer, theologian and syndicated columnist. She does a segment called “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM) on Boston Public Radio and a segment called “What’s Up?” Fridays on New England Channel News.