Pride in Philadelphia spurs activism and joy

By Michele Zipkin and Jason Villemez

For an LGBTQ community continually the focus of legislative, physical, and online attacks, the June 4 Philadelphia Pride March and Festival struck a vital refrain: support is all around, and it’s more needed than ever.

“The reality is we’re with each other because we’re for each other. We’re still going to show up for each other because we’re not disposable to one another,” MC Sam Wise, an organizer and activist, told the crowd that filled 6th Street along Washington Square Park.

Organized by galaei, the “Love, Light, and Liberation” March opened up the first weekend of Pride month with celebration and a call for continued activism. Youth stood with elders, parents stood with their kids, politicians stood with union members. Batala Philly, a local percussion band, drummed an energizing beat. Members of the Whosoever Metropolitan Community Church held flags representing all stripes of the community. Attendees held signs that read “We’re here, we’re queer, we will not live in fear,” “Say Gay, Stop Homophobia” and “Cruelty will not win.”

Before the march began, speakers including Rue Landau, Democratic nominee for City Council At Large, Jazmyn Henderson of ACT UP, and Rev. Jeffrey Jordan and Rev. Andrea Lamour-Harrington of Whosoever Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia addressed the crowd.

“We march today for the trans youth,” Jordan said. “We march today against every bill trying to stop our community.”

In 2023 alone, 491 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in legislatures around the country, the largest number on record. So far, 63 of those bills have been passed into law.

Landau, who will almost certainly make history in November as the first out LGBTQ person elected to City Council, urged the crowd to make their voices heard against those seeking to undermine LGBTQ rights.

“We have to unapologetically tell folks in power that our rights are worth it,” Landau said. “That we are here, we are not going back, and that we are here to stay and we are getting louder and stronger.”

Henderson, who has been leading frequent protests against right-wing group Moms For Liberty and the Philadelphia Marriott, which is hosting the group’s annual conference later this month, spoke about the anti-LGBTQ discrimination pushed by the group and urged the crowd to stand up against them. Speakers at the June 29 to July 3 conference include former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, among the top proponents of anti-LGBTQ legislation.

After the speakers and a land acknowledgement for the Lenni Lenape people, the march began with dozens of volunteers carrying a 200-foot long Pride flag, the longest in Pennsylvania history, down Walnut Street. They were joined by the hundreds of LGBTQ attendees and supporters from all walks of life who were cheered by onlookers all the way to the Gayborhood, where the Pride Festival kicked off as they arrived.

The march and festival marks the second year that the team at galaei organized a large-scale Pride event in Philadelphia, which was among the highest attended Philly Pride celebrations to date and the largest in recent memory.

“It was an important time to hold an event of this scale where people recapture their agency, especially when we lean forward to 2024 and all of those pieces of legislation that are anti-trans,” said galaei Executive Director Tyrell Brown. “It is a resource festival, but at the same time it’s also an inspiration, it’s a call.”

This year’s Pride festival featured something for everyone — community members danced to DJs on newly painted rainbow crosswalks; youth and their families enjoyed a space with bouncy castles and a dunk tank; those wishing for a lower sensory or sober spaces had areas specifically for them; community organizations helmed resource tables with information,narcan and condoms; vendors sold hand-made crafts; and those curious about the community’s history found a commemoration walk.

“Pride is a radical act of displaying happiness for who you are,” said L. DeFelice, Pride festival attendee. “It also symbolizes the riots that happened back in the day that are a testament to our community moving forward. Specifically shout out to Black trans women who are at the front of our movement and who are often erased from the movement. I think Pride so clearly wouldn’t happen without them.”

Pride festival partners include Action Wellness, Bebashi, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Colours Organization, Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia Family Pride, Philadelphia Fight, Reproductive Medicine Associates, Courage Medicine, Green Thumb Industries, Rythm, The Bearded Ladies, Therapy Center of Philadelphia and William Way LGBT Community Center.

“Especially in the political climate that we’re in, it’s really nice to see people express themselves and be themselves, and do that so freely in community, which is so accepting and loving,” said Zyah Fall, a Black trans woman who interns at the Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center at William Way.

A slew of drag, burlesque, and other performers dazzled multiple stages at the festival, including ballroom icon Jacen Bowman, Anayah Rae, Tony Enos, DJ Lorboo, Honey Dizaster, Prentice Bush, Icon Ebony Fierce, DJ Delish, DJ Robert Drake, VinChelle, Allyria Everlasting and many more. Vendors and other organizations who were tabling at Pride included ACT UP, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, CCP Queer Student Union, the Attic Youth Center, the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Prevention Meets Fashion, and the communit-based harm reduction outreach program Operation in My Backyard, among others.

“We’re trying to raise some funds to get the word out about how important harm reduction is in all communities,” said Nicole Bixler of Operation in My Backyard. “Pride means the same thing as harm reduction — love thy neighbor, treat everyone with dignity and respect.”

“Pride to me is equality for everybody — plain and simple,” said Cody Smith of Philly Candles.

For Martika Tyson of the retail store Butterfly Corner, “[Pride means] diversity and inclusion. Not separated, all being treated as equal, just being together with all my sisters and brothers, them, they — everyone.”

Joy and community were also common Pride themes for some participants.

“Pride is just joy, it’s like family and home,” said Nhakia Outland, founder and executive director of Prevention Meets Fashion. “I want us all to get back to community, and I think today showed that.”

Given the hundreds of harmful bills targeting queer and trans youth, Pride proved to be a safe haven for kids and families. “I got to see more children here, lots of families and it’s good to have them be in a safe space,” said Nafisah Houston, director of programs at Bebashi.

“What [Pride] means now is seeing kids who are out and having kids come to an event where there’s a youth and family zone, and that they’re supported and it’s not corporate,” said Staphnie Haynes, executive director of Philadelphia Family Pride. “I get choked up seeing all the little queers walking around owning who they are.”

Pride was possible thanks to the team at galaei, including Hazel Edwards, manager of the Trans Intersex Nonbinary and Gender Nonconforming Services, Jorian Rivera-Vientidos, manager of the Prioritizing Our People program, Nelson Torres-Gomez, galaei’s lead coordinator, and Ebony Ali, manager of the Student Power Leadership and Activism Together program.

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PHILADELPHIA IS SET TO MAKE HISTORY WITH DEBUT OF OURFEST: AMERICA’S FIRST PARADE (AND FESTIVAL) DEDICATED TO NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY * Pride 365: A Program of Galaei announces new OURfest National Coming Out Parade and Festival/Resource Fair on National Coming Out Day Weekend October 6-8, 2023 * Philadelphia, PA - Pride 365: A Program of Galaei presents the inaugural Philadelphia OURfest: National Coming Out Parade and Festival/Resource Fair, the first National Coming Out Parade in the United States. OURfest stands for Our Uniting Resilience and these new events are being created to amplify the resilience of our people, our individual journeys in coming out, and how we hold and take up space everyday. OURfest: National Coming Out Parade will take place on Saturday, October 7, 2023, from 4:00pm to 6:00pm, from 5th and Market to Broad and Locust. OURfest: National Coming Out Festival will take place on Sunday, October 8, 2023, from 12:00pm to 7:00pm, with resource fair and family zone from 12:00pm to 5:00pm, and last call for mobile bars/food trucks at 6:30pm. OURfest looks to make history as the only parade in the country dedicated and inspired by National Coming Out Day. Come to Philly for the parade and festival, but stay for the weekend. LGBTQIA+ community members across the United States are invited to make their travel plans now for three days of events - with a kick-event being planned for Friday and many other events to be announced. Philadelphia region organizations and businesses are invited to be part of this historic weekend by hosting their own events all weekend long - before and after the parade and festival. Sign-ups are now open for the parade, festival and the weekend. For more about OURfest and how to sign up for the parade and festival, visit For a full list of all LGBTQIA+ events in the Greater Philadelphia region on that weekend, make sure to visit Philadelphia is a city of historic firsts - and the organization that broke records in June for “largest Gay Pride march and festival in Philadelphia history” and “largest Gay Pride Flag in Pennsylvania history” is ready to do it all over again. And yes, that 200 foot beautiful all-inclusive rainbow flag will be out and proud once again in the streets of Philadelphia. After a few years of pride programming being in flux, Galaei, a historic organization serving queer, trans, black, brown, indigenous, and people of color, has taken up the mantle for programming under the banner of Pride 365. This new program provided the Philadelphia Gay Pride March and Festival with new leadership, new stability and a renewed sense of community and purpose. Now, after the pandemic and a three year absence, Galaei’s Pride 365 Initiative will bring new life back to National Coming Out Day/Weekend in October - and present a new line-up of events with the new OURfest parade and resource fair/festival. “We developed Galaei’s Pride 365 Initiative to redefine and elevate Pride Month Month in June - and we are excited to do the same thing in October for National Coming Out Day/Weekend,” said Galaei Executive Director and Community Organizer Tyrell Brown (they/them). “Gay Pride and National Coming Out are crucial opportunities for our communities to join together in celebration and reflection, to find family and togetherness, to have access to resources, and to share the love, art and joy that are hallmarks of our community.” “Pride in June has roots that were in protest and a stand for justice and equality for our larger LGBTQ+ community. We created a march where the entire LGBTQ+ community could participate, march together and raise up our voices. For National Coming Out, we see this is a key opportunity to share and celebrate our collective and individual stories of coming out. The parade allows for our community to experience and enjoy a visual display of how far we’ve come, to watch a moving and powerful show together, and to take a moment to enjoy the story of our coming out.” They added, “While there are similarities in that both are unifying, joyous, and celebratory, the distinction exist between them in that one is for enjoyment, while the former (“Love Light and Liberation” Pride March) was a public stand for all that we need and deserve from an advocacy standpoint that extends beyond visibility.” “Galaei is proud to be at the forefront of bringing both Pride and National Coming Out back from the pandemic, but even more so we are honored to help redefine what each of these means to our community now and moving forward.” OURFEST: NATIONAL COMING OUT PARADE OURfest: National Coming Out Parade will take place on Saturday, October 7, 2023, from 4:00pm to 6:00pm, from 5th and Market to Broad and Locust. The parade will feature a mix of curated and designed floats, community organizations and live performances that spotlight the vibrancy of the LGBTQIA+ community in Philadelphia, the suburbs and across America. Look for themed sections to showcase youth and families, sports and recreation, professional leaders, pioneers and grand marshals, arts and culture, drag artists, and other groups. The community cheer section features the record-breaking 200 foot rainbow flag that debuted in June during Pride Month. The final route for the parade is being finalized and will be shared in a future update. Also, look for a parade line-up to be shared closer to the event! OURFEST: NATIONAL COMING OUT RESOURCE FAIR AND FESTIVAL Pride 365 and Galaei bring together the city's top LGBTQ+ organizers to produce a dynamic festival - and one of the single largest outdoor festivals of the year in Philadelphia. After a three year absence, the Gayborhood will come to life again in honor of National Coming Out Day/Weekend. OURfest: National Coming Out Festival will take place on Sunday, October 8, 2023, from 12:00pm to 7:00pm, with resource fair and family zone from 12:00pm to 5:00pm, and last call for mobile bars/food trucks at 6:30pm. The festival will spread out across the Gayborhood from 13th and Walnut down to 13th and Locust, across Locust to 12th, then from there to 12th and Spruce, with other select roads closed around the festival footprint. This new resource fair and street festival will feature art and music from the community, in a celebration that combines the uniqueness of Philadelphia and showcases the diverse talents of Philadelphia’s LGBTQIA family, friends, and neighbors. The vibrant location of the Gayborhood, the stronghold of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community, provides a historic backdrop for 200+ grassroots organizations, CBO’s, nonprofits, artists and makers, entertainers, restaurants and bars, food trucks, vendors and small businesses to provide innovative programming, dynamic structure, community resources, education, food and drink and family fun. The full lineup will include performances, speeches and the awarding of our first annual Mx, Ms, Mr, OURfest 2023. Within the larger festival, Galaei has worked with community partners to build a variety of fun and vibrant places for everyone. Youth and Family Programming will be an expansive space curated by several local organizations, including The Attic Youth Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence, Galaei’s SPLAT program, Philly Family Pride, and the William Way LGBT Community Center. This space is alcohol and smoke free and will feature age-appropriate and safe youth and family programming to celebrate all generations of Philadelphia Pride. Brown said, “As one of the most forgotten parts of our community our festival places intention around how we care for and make space for queer youth and families.” Look for bounce houses, game trucks, resources, chest feeding and changing stations, and more. This year’s festival continues with unique food and beverage experiences. Sober Vibes will be hosted at Writer's Block Rehab and co-facilitated by Galaei’s POP program with a dedicated space for sober folks. This bar will have a menu of mocktails and alcohol free beverages. This is a space that centers around adults who do not drink alcohol, and simultaneously is not geared towards family and children, however, they will be welcome in the space. Food Truck Market, in partnership with The Food Truck Lady, will bring together some of the East Coast’s best and tastiest food trucks and mobile vendors to keep everyone happy and fed while they enjoy the day’s celebration. This area will create a buffer between the party goers and youth/sober areas - and offer food and drink at a variety of price points. In keeping with Galaei’s dedication to highlighting Queer and Trans Black and Brown traditions and forms of expression, Galaei is proud to present “Bailar con amor,” an ode to Afro-Latinx heritage art, dance and expression. Kiki Alley will return with a celebration space highlighting the rich culture and history of the Philadelphia ballroom community. This dedicated dance space will be a love letter to everything that is vogue. The Philadelphia Muses Stage will feature a diverse lineup of local performers and producers, including DJ sets by Sway Philly and BOS Philly, plus the presentation of the first Ms, Mx, Mr OURfest 2023, with additional bands, choirs and other entertainers. This will be a stage festival goers will not want to miss! OURstage will debut with a collaboration of producers and acts that do not have a traditional brick and mortar. This stage will celebrate OUR diverse artistic expressions. VICE (*18+) will be an ode to Galaei’s dearly departed sibling Maso, with a co-produced and curated space for exploration. There will be workshops for kink and consent, resource tabling, and shops to purchase leather and giveaways of safe sex items. The Decompression Zone, in conjunction with Disability Pride PA, is a space for attendees seeking an accessible, low-sensory respite from festivities. This area will feature comfortable seating, tables, accessible bathrooms, a cooling station, a wheelchair charging station, adult changing station and low-level music. This provides a space for elders, those living with disabilities, and others seeking rest and relaxation during the event. Community services will include medical tents for onsite medical needs such as dehydration and minor injuries. These medical services are provided by doctors and nurses from Bebashi and Mazzoni Center. Therapists for folks who are in mental health crisis or may be over stimulated, individuals trained to administer narcan, security managers, staff to answer all day of questions, Sign language and Spanish interpreters, and de-escalation specialists that will move to any point in the festival grounds or at the bars that they are needed. POP Wellness will feature local cbo’s to offer a one stop pop up wellness and resource station, linkage to testing, linkage to care and resources via case management opportunities. Attendees will be able to stop by to set an appointment, and speak to a case worker about linkages to resources, such as housing, healthcare, education, and employment. Corporate Way will be a space for selected vetted businesses that have supported the parade, festival and weekend. This space offers room for tabling, but ensures that the core festival beyond this area is centered around the larger OURfest community. Please stay tuned for a full list of vendors, food trucks, entertainment times, stage line-ups and more coming the week of the event. For more information on volunteering, participating, or sponsoring the festival, please visit our website, or email ABOUT GALAEI Galaei is comprised of a talented staff of black and brown, nonbinary, and trans organizers, who at our building and in the lgbtq+ community are committed to getting resources, providing empowerment, volunteer opportunities, and assistance to all while prioritizing the most marginalized in our QTBIPOC community. Galaei believes in celebrating pride year-round as queer and trans people because celebrations of our joy and love are implicitly an act of defiance against those who seek to oppress us. We are committed to using our events to educate, provide resources, and facilitate spaces of empowerment and love. ABOUT PRIDE 365 Every PRIDE festival is a crucial opportunity for our communities to join together in celebration, find family, get resources and share the love, art, and joy that are hallmarks of our community. Pride 365 is a new program of Galaei that seeks to elevate the experience of every Pride every year. By combining the unique and vibrant location of our Gayborhood, the stronghold of our queer businesses, supporting small queer and trans business owners, providing innovative programming, dynamic structure, and intention around how the space is curated, we endeavor to have a space for everyone.