By Emily Leopard-Davis
With Philadelphia Pride and the start of Pride Month now upon us, Tyrell Brown, Executive Director of GALAEI, recently sat down to talk with AL DÍA News about the plans for Pride and beyond.
Brown has been the Executive Director of GALAEI since March 2023, after serving as the organization’s deputy director. Prior to their work with GALAEI, they worked as a preschool teacher for 12 years, and also in retail and community activism.
Their background in education, and specifically work with queer and trans children of color is what got them involved with GALAEI.
“That was when I was called into GALAEI. It was actually during the summertime. They asked me to come in and put together their first summer camp,” Brown said.
GALAEI was founded over 30 years ago by activist David Acosta, to provide resources to queer Latinx men during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the years since its founding, it has expanded to include programs and resources for the greater queer, BIPOC community in Philadelphia, while still working in HIV prevention.
The programs offered are Prioritizing Our People (P.O.P.), Student Power, Leadership and Activism Together (S.P.L.A.T.), and Trans, Intersex, Non-binary and Gender Non-conforming Services (T.I.N.G.S.).
GALAEI’s role as Philadelphia Pride’s primary organizer is new this year. In 2020, the in-person Pride march and festival were canceled due to COVID.
The following year, Philly Pride Presents, the organization that had put on the Philadelphia Pride March and Festival for 28 years, suddenly dissolved itself. This was in response to outcry from the community about several posts on the group’s Facebook page.
One depicted the Stonewall Riot as a small group of cops having to defend themselves against hundreds of demonstrators. In reality, it occurred when patrons fought back during a police raid of the bar. The post was also called out for transphobia for describing the patrons as “those dressed as women.”
Another post, which marked Memorial Day, included a photo of the Blue Lives Matter Flag with a rainbow stripe instead of a blue one. This reignited criticisms of the organization’s relationship with the police. In 2016 they tried to give the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League (GOAL), the Grand Marshall award. GOAL declined after backlash from the community.
In 2022, Philadelphia Pride was organized by the PHL Pride Collective, which included members of GALAEI like Brown.
Planning started in 2021, but was moving slowly. Four plans had been suggested, with one of the four being thrown out. Eventually Brown reached out to their sibling, Maso, who helped them turn the document they had into a pitch. It was then presented to GALAEI’s former Executive Director and the rest of the PHL Pride Collective.
To kick off the weekend, the Office of LGBT Affairs is hosting its annual Pride flag raising event at City Hall from noon to 1 p.m. This event will include raising the More Color, More Pride flag and speakers from the community.
The “Love, Light, and Liberation” Pride March and Festival will be held on Sunday, June 4th. The march will start at 10:30 a.m. at 6th and Walnut, traveling down 6th Street to Washington Square.
The festival will take place in the Gayborhood from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. It will feature the same sections as last year, like Sober Vibes and Kiki Alley, with a few new ones added.
Brown emphasized the resource festival aspect of the event, which is highlighted especially well with the P.O.P. Wellness section.
It will feature tents from healthcare nonprofits, hospitals, and therapists as well as Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) where people can get STI testing or a Mpox vaccine. There will also be therapy dogs.
Brown stated that the interactions at these tents will go past just handing someone a card with information, they will get a direct link to care and even be able to talk to someone day of, such as the therapists who will be there from Mazzoni Center and Therapy Center of PA.
There will be over 200 vendors for participants to check out that range from small businesses to nonprofits and schools.
Two of the added sections are Bailar Con Amor (To Dance With Love) and Vice. Bailar Con Amor was developed by Jorian Rivera-Veintidos, P.O.P. program manager, as an “an ode to Afro-Latinx culture and dance.” AL DÍA will have a booth in this section.
Vice is in memory of Maso, one of the organizers of last year’s Pride festival. It will have resource tables and shops.
Details about all of the sections can be found here.
Some of the changes came from feedback the group received. This includes moving the Decompression Zone to a quiet street that’s adjacent to the festival and changing entry to it.
“It’ll be a soft entry, a controlled entry so we can maintain the integrity of that space. So no one’s going to walk down with a boombox. Or go down there with a cigarette and start smoking because it’s a smoke free space,” Brown explained.
They added that the Youth and Family section will have similar infrastructure for a similar reason as things like smoking and alcohol won’t be allowed in it.
Ebony Ali, the S.P.L.A.T. program manager, who is in charge of this section described it as “essentially a family and youth wonderland.”
“We’re going to have bounce houses, we have dunk tanks, we’re going to have a show, we’re going to have Drag Story Hour. Free Mom Hugs will be there,” Ali explained.
Ali added that there will be a clown on stilts and cotton candy, as well.
“It’s basically going to be a big carnival,” they said.
There will also be four times the amount of food trucks available.
“This year we actually have like 20 food trucks, in comparison to last year where we were running up to it and we only have like 5,” they said.
The fifth truck ended up being a friend of Brown’s from the Masala Kitchen who was able to get their (food truck) license just in time. Masala Kitchen will be back this year, too.
Brown explained that the lack of options for food at the festival last year caused people to have to go a ways away from the event to find something to eat, possibly ending some people’s time there prematurely. This is something they would like to avoid this time around.
The festival will be staffed by around 200 volunteers, all trained and coordinated by Hazel Edwards, T.I.N.G.S. program manager.
Pride 365 was formed this year to create programming for the community at large, with a focus on people of color.
Each one of the events under Pride 365 will be a resource festival with the goal of bringing direct resources to people.
“There’s also the tacit resource. When you have a huge resource festival one of the most unspoken rules about it is the community aspect of us being together and how that is an implicit form of protection, it’s an implicit form of organizing, and it is a resource,” explained Brown.
Another part of the program’s goal is to help people find other organizations in the city that they would benefit from, but may not have known existed.
Two such events taking place the weekend after the festival are the Alternative Proms, one for ages 16 to 20 and one for people who are 21+. The 21+ event will take place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Saturday, June 10 from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. The 16 to 20 event will take place at the same location and date from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets for it can be found here.
Registration for the age 16 to 20 event can be found on GALAEI’s website.