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How to celebrate Pride in 2020: Pride marches on

May 2020

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on plans for Pride in 2020, with over 250 Pride parades in the UK and US affected. But this has only galvanised Pride organisations, large and small, to continue their vital work in the community and to rise to the challenge.

Fora and LBTQWomen hosted a historic meeting of Pride leaders from Stonewall UK, NYC Pride, UK Black Pride and Pride in London. Ben Hunte, the BBC’s first LGBT correspondent, hosted the panel: “For some Pride is a protest; for some it’s a party; for some it’s an opportunity to be themselves,” he said. He began by asking the panel of community leaders and activists:

 

What does Pride mean to you?

For Alison Camps, Co-Chair of Pride in London, the event always reminds her of her first Pride in Brighton. “Pride is symbolic not just of coming out but of being able to be my true self,” said Ali. For Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Co-Founder of UK Black Pride, her memories included the first UK Black Pride in Southend 15 years ago. She remembered, “It felt like you weren’t alone. It was a party but it was also a protest, for us to say we are here and we deserve to be heard.”

David Correa, New York City Pride’s Interim Executive Director, shared how he told his mother he was going to a church retreat when he went to his first NYC Pride in 2000. David described how, even in recent years, “my husband and I knew it was the one time of year when we could hold hands in public and not be afraid – even in New York City. Pride is a safe space where people can live out loud.”

The first Pride memory of Jan Gooding, Stonewall UK trustee and former Chair, also highlighted why Pride parades are so important to so many people. She saw a small group holding a sign saying ‘We’re so happy to be here because we can’t do this in Istanbul’. “How fortunate we are able to take to our streets,” said Jan. “We’re there for all those who can’t be.”

 

What’s the impact of the 2020 cancellations?

The loss of the parades themselves is, of course, heartbreaking. “Last year was incredible,” said David. “We had five million people in New York celebrating Pride”. There were 10,000 people in Central Park for Youth Pride. “We would have expected about 1.5 million people in London,” said Ali. “We would have been marking the 50th anniversary or the Gay Liberation Front and honouring our elders.” There were also plans to expand the World and Young People elements of the Parade. Jan expressed her disappointment that the disruption had fallen just one year after Stonewall had formalised their collaboration with UK Black Pride.

Last year’s UK Black Pride had brought 10,000 people together. “We had so much planned,” said Lady Phyll, “but we still have so much planned. Where people can meet physically there’s a degree of healing. But we’re looking at digital solutions.”

 

How can we celebrate Pride in 2020?

This year, UK Black Pride will be connecting virtually with Black Prides in the States, in Paris, Amsterdam and possibly Barbados, too. “Hopefully this digital platform will help us tackle loneliness and isolation. This time is really hard on any community that is seen as marginalised.” For example, the organisation is looking to raise funds to pay for data for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees so that they can access online services and support.

It was a sentiment that was echoed by the whole panel. “We never had ‘nothing’ as an option and that’s something that everyone should be proud of,” agreed David. “Everyone was ready to make a pivot. Just because there’s no typical Pride does not mean there’s no work to be done.”

Technology is helping to maintain those vital community connections. Ali pointed to the launch of the Coming Out platform which lists community events from the grassroots up. “That’s showing ally-ship to the performing part of our community who are under so much pressure. We’re aiming for 30,000 acts of ally-ship, the number of people who would have been on our parade.” 

 

But the Pride organisations need help themselves if they are to continue to help others. Pride organisations are no longer just their marches and festivals. David pointed to the wider role of Pride. “They are community organisations. We are out there hand-in-hand with those on the front lines.” The COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted finances. “We had a partnership with the Football Premiership,” explained Jan. “But there’s no football.” All agreed that this was the time for sponsors and supporters to put their money where their mouth is. Jan asked individuals to consider donating some of the money saved on commuting to LGBTQ+ charities. And the support of sponsors is more important now than ever. “You want to show that you’re one of the sponsors who were there when the going was tough,” she said.

Go ahead and watch the entire inspiring discussion on Fora’s YouTube channel and stay up to date with all of our upcoming events here.