By Michele Zapkins
Galaei, Philly’s QTBIPOC radical social justice organization, announced its Love, Light, Liberation Pride weekend from June 2 to 4, culminating in the annual Pride march and festival on June 4. Galaei’s Pride festivities are part of its PRIDE 365 program, which promotes the idea of celebrating Pride not just in June, but throughout the year.
Similar to last year, the Pride march will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 4, and is open to all LGBTQ community members, allies and accomplices. Before the march kicks off, community leaders will deliver speeches as well as a land acknowledgement from a member of the Lenape tribe. Though the exact route has not been finalized, the march pays homage to the Annual Reminder Day Demonstrations, which took place from 1965 to 1969 in front of Independence Hall on Chestnut Street, as well as the first Philadelphia Pride March in 1972.
“We would be remiss if we weren’t producing a large-scale event, or even any event for that matter, and not uplifting the roots of this organization and the work that we’re doing to really reignite and reinvest in the Latinx community after the impacts of COVID,” said galaei Executive Director Tyrell Brown.
Organizing Pride is a collaboration among the galaei staff members including Hazel Edwards, manager of the Trans Intersex Nonbinary and Gender Nonconforming Services (TINGS), who devised this year’s Pride theme; Jorian Rivera-Vientidos, manager of the Prioritizing Our People (POP) program; Nelson Torres-Gomez, galaei’s lead coordinator; and Ebony Ali, manager of the Student Power Leadership and Activism Together (SPLAT) program. Pride would also not be possible without external support systems, like producer Jeremy Williams.
After the march, the Love Light and Liberation Festival will take place in the Gayborhood from noon to 7 p.m. It will feature resources and programming similar to last year’s festival, with a couple of new additions including the “Bailar con amor” space, which is Spanish for “dance with love.” It will be dedicated to “Afro-Latinx heritage, art and expression,” and will feature Spanish-speaking community members with tables, resources and vendors, “so that way people can really understand that we’re embracing them,” Brown said.
Galaei’s POP wellness tent will also be a new addition, and will include direct resources from nonprofits including traditional wellness resources and job assistance. A commemoration walk is another new touch, which will manifest as a space for attendees to look at large photos of current community members and leaders, and those who are no longer with us, including Michael Hinson and former galaei executive director Gloria Casarez.
“There’ll be greenery; people can take photos, people can hold hands and cry, and just gaze upon the history of our community here in Philadelphia,” Brown said. “And then really inspire themselves for the work that we want to do going forward.”
Other festival offerings include youth and family programming by local organizations such as the Attic Youth Center, Philly Family Pride and galaei’s SPLAT program; a decompression zone a half a block from the festival ground with renewed intention around low-sensory activities; medical services from local organizations including Action Wellness, Bebashi Transition to Hope, Courage Medicine and Mazzoni Center; and festivities like Kiki Alley, which will highlight the Philly ballroom community, and the Muses stage featuring performances curated by Sway Philly and BOS.
Food and drink vendors will also be available, as will a sober space and dry bar with a performance stage. Tables from small business owners, nonprofits, community organizations, trade schools and colleges and universities will also be present at the festival.
The galaei team ended up taking on the mantle of organizing one of the largest Pride events in Philadelphia after Philly Pride Presents folded in 2021 and a new Pride collective formed composed mostly of queer and trans people of color. Galaei provided a space for the new PHL Pride Collective to meet, but differing opinions on how and where to organize Pride caused the collective to fracture. Since organizing last year’s Pride events, Brown said that he learned that Pride belongs to no single organization or individual.
“I think we have such an amazing abundance of community leaders in Philadelphia, that where people want to cultivate Pride is where they should,” Brown said. “If we have Pride in every single corner on every single block in Philadelphia because 13 or 14 different groups want to do a different thing, that only means that our movement is stronger. This is what we’re producing to have an impact as a large-scale resource festival that frankly, our community can’t go without.”
They pointed out that during the rest of the year, resources for the LGBTQ community are relatively scarce, especially for Philadelphia’s low-income and marginalized communities.
“I think that this Pride is an effort to improve, not to cancel out, not to dismiss or diminish, but to improve on Pride of the past,” Brown said. “Also looking forward to the future to [think], what do we do to improve for next time? How do we build more resources, get more funding so that we deliver a free event with abundant resources for all queer and trans folks that need it, particularly focusing on the most marginalized people in our communities, which are Brown and Black, queer and trans people.”
Other events during Pride weekend include a June 2 flag raising at City Hall as well as a kick-off party, and a June 3 annual opening party. More information on Pride can be found at galaei’s website.