Pre-Pride: The Way to Go

As New York City gears up for Pride, taking place this year from June 14-24, one anticipates thousands upon thousands of people marching and congregating on the streets, attending plugged events, and milling inside and outside bars and restaurants close to Pride activities. Pride is delighted to offer the city and international patrons what will be a swarm of celebration. 

Bushwick, Brooklyn.

If the weather is as hot as it has been lately, parades and street life will ensure that water vendors will make a fortune, that air-conditioned restaurants and bars will become even more crowded, and that heat stroke might be a natural adjunct to the ten days of celebration. If the weather has been as cold and rainy as it has been lately, too, vendors selling umbrellas could stand to rake in thousands.

The thought of taking to the streets, arms and flags raised, and participating in a  mammoth event that draws attention to human rights, is exciting. In the city where Stonewall drew attention to the suppression of the gay community and where the same community demanded respect and equal rights, it is appropriate that a crowd which, perhaps, is larger than any crowd that could be found opposing these freedoms, is revelatory. It is the coming together of like-minded people that, historically, has sparked change and stood steadfast, refusing to accept governmental and legal oppression, as well as the hate of ignorance.

However, even with these realizations in mind, I would promote pre-Pride just as strongly as Pride itself. 

On Saturday, June 2, I attended the Bushwick Collective Party. This was not a formal pre-Pride affair. Itwas a celebration of the arts and community and highlighted the numerous, grand murals that deck the streets and give Bushwick its original edge. There were lineups of music, food, and free offerings, such as body-painting and haircuts. However, the anticipation of Pride bubbled. I was one of a number of people who chose Pride symbols to be painted on my body, and glamorous drag queens ornamented the streets along with vibrant paintings. People were talking of upcoming Pride.

Pink triangle on my arm, I headed off to the Brooklyn Museum with friends sporting rainbows on their cheeks. The museum had dedicated the evening to events boasting LGBT rights and talents, and it began with the Gay Men’s Chorus performing some of David Bowie’s masterpieces. Out of the numerous following events, we then chose to attend a screening of The Revival: Women and the Word, a documentary produced by Sekiya Dorsett in 2016. This traced the journey of black lesbian wordsmiths touring their collective performance in a number of U.S. cities and towns. Although we entered the theatre late, the three of us found seats and relaxed in the air-conditioned space to share in a production espousing human rights.

Just how do these anecdotes support the argument that participating in pre-Pride might be as enjoyable and important as taking part in Pride activities themselves?

Here are five reflections:

5) Most notably, the comfort level in attending pre-Pride events is higher than attending Pride events themselves. Though the crowds were heavy in Bushwick, and though the museum’s events indicated strong interest and support, I was still able to move through streets in the popular Brooklyn borough and, at the museum, to have the comfort of cool air and a seat. There will be floods of people coming in from other cities and countries to NYC shortly, and the venues will be blocked. Pre-Pride, therefore, offers a certain kind of unparalleled luxury.

4) For those who have children or animals, pre-Pride offers a greater opportunity for those who are caretakers. With events less crowded, it is possible to more easily escape events and move through the throngs when children and animals made jittery or over-heated by events need a quick exit. It is also more likely that one will be able to find a washroom or much-needed drink of water and food. As well, thinner crowds are less intimidating, and it is possible to stay longer with little loved ones in tow. 

3) For international guests, attending pre-Pride events is more affordable. International flights are blocked and, if possible to get still, incredibly expensive. Moreover, last-minute decisions to come to NYC might not be an option with limited seats left. The price of hotels for a weekend during Pride will soar, too, as accommodations become scarcer. Hotels in NYC are inflated already, and booking a room during formal Pride might be financially prohibitive.

2 ) Pre-Pride also increases the visibility of Pride. It tacks on over a week to the already existing ten days of Pride and, thus, underscores the movement to a greater extent. Almost one month in one of the greatest cities in the world is taken over by LBGT interests. Try ignoring that! 

1) More than anything, Pre-Pride is anticipation. It functions like the weeks before national and religious holidays and creates a buzz. The incremental nature of pre-Pride in its role of advance advertising cannot be underestimated. I have significant experience, for example, with running and promoting arts festivals, akin, in some ways, to Pride celebrations. One requires to get the word out, and an audience is needed. It is unmistakable that word-of-mouth promotion spurred on by actual conversations between people, and not the typical social media talk, is the best marketing of all. I am an advocate of in-person human exchange, a belief that manifests itself during Pride, too, as people leave computers, Facebook, twitter, instagram, and emails and actually march and commune together. The anticipatory pre-Pride days reveal the power of coming together in real and physical time—what is essential for revolution. Bodies, both personal and communal, grow and expand before the public’s eye. As trickles of people become massive crowds, they parallel the manner in which LGBT rights have grown with small cores of the committed becoming international sweeping bodies. The awareness that people and the movement are not going away is inescapable.

Pre-Pride, mixed with Pride, reveals the growth of a movement. The LGBT community refuses to accept anything other than basic human rights. Perhaps, if more take advantage of the comfort and affordability of pre-Pride, pre-Pride will grow like Pride itself and create a need for pre pre-Pride. If pre pre-Pride grows . . . 

What lies underneath the veneer of recognizing that pre-Pride provides greater comfort is a greater comment: the fight for human rights has to be a 365-day fight. If both pre-Pride and Pride can, through their specific aims, underscore the need for consistent fights for equality, then a Pride as large as possible might be able to help advertise fights for human rights in other areas and shaped by other demands. 

The fight for human rights is, as the phrase suggests, a human need. Human needs are not privileges. They should extend to all. 

Hopefully LGBT movements will continue to grow and expand. With that, and more importantly, one could only hope that Pride will grow the larger recognition that all humans are deserving of dignity, shelter, food, clean water, political and religious freedoms and love.

See the following links for events taking place before the formal beginning of Pride: 

(note: even though there are fewer listed pre-Pride events at the Brooklyn Museum, they are to be found and are of high caliber)