And We All Float On: PrideFest 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska
[Photo couresy of Melissa S. Green, yksin on Flickr]
Pride was seen and heard, loud and proud in downtown Anchorage as blue sky and summer sun made a brief appearance for the 2012 PrideFest parade. Circling the Delaney Park Strip, the annual parade sponsored by Identity Inc, began fashionably late.
At 9th and N, emcee Daphne DoAll LaChores greeted and identified each of the passing parade contingents and gave them opportunity to be recognized. From Dykes on Bikes to the Red Caboose, a record number of parade entrants marched, rode, strutted and danced down 9th and 10th avenues in a colorful array of diversity, dignity and joy.
I was moved by the colorful boat float of the youth group. Pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of Christians for Equality marchers. Driven to laugh by the Radical Militant Librarians. Best float winners, the Anchorage Frontrunners, dazzled the crowd in tinsel hair and short shorts.
Assembly members Elvi Gray-Jackson and Harriet Drummond walked the parade route sporting a banner that declared “Anchorage Won’t Discriminate”. No disclaimers about the 58% who would.
Ms. Gray-Jackson on the mic reiterated her stance that “E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E” deserves equality and Ms. Drummond reminded the celebrants that seven out of eleven Assembly members agree that Anchorage should not discriminate. I am reminded that nearly 42% of Anchorage did vote FOR equal protection for everyone.
I think a healthy dose of them came out for the annual PrideFest.
With so many competing summer events this rare sunny Saturday, the hundreds of people that showed up point to a strong queer and ally community that have not given up hope for inclusion. The crowd, larger than last year (and larger than ever, according to organizers), showed that even after April’s ballot failure, supporters are more resolute. Knocked down, but not out.
42 years after the first Gay Pride march in New York’s Central Park which commemorated the flashpoint of the gay rights movement, the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Pride has metamorphosed into a month long national LGBT-holiday. Part of Anchorage summer since the mid seventies.
This week in Anchorage we saw a rainbow festooned parade and festival, lube wrestling, Drag Queen Bingo and divalicious displays of feathered and sequined dames and dudes; over-the-top and entertaining events that made for vibrant photos and stories.
But as a week, also, of reflection and historical significance.
Behind the flamboyance there were many events that weren’t as publicized. Several showings in the community of the historical film, “On These Shoulders We Stand”; worship and dedication services by supportive religious organizations; a memorial at the Anchorage Cemetery and Gay Day at the Zoo – just a few of the many events sponsored by or in honor of Pride Anchorage.
Post parade had grey clouds gathering by 12:30pm, but the mood was upbeat and unfettered. Crowded booths were passing out standard trade show fare like pens and carabiners and not-so-standard condoms and flavored lubrication. Among the tents were the names & banners you would expect, the Four A’s, the ACLU, United Way, Identity Inc., and a couple I didn’t expect: Credit Union 1 showed their support of the LGBT community by both marching in the parade and with a booth touting their financial services; and uniformed National Park Service members, with a colorful “Celebrating Diversity” display, greeted the festival goers.
The Park Strip was filled with all makes and models of people commingling amid odors of gyros and salmon quesadilla. Families of all flavors and dozens of dogs made for a lot of wagging and giggling. Wanderers were waylaid by the main stage for performances as varied as the viewers. From a modern punk band fronted by a wacky trumpet player and a petite screamer; to a crazy, drag-filled, pop dance and song extravaganza.
I got a little too much sun and saw an awful lot of friends and “family”. I left with face full of grin and sack of goodies.
This weeklong celebration of Anchorage’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally community, with intent to “Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Pride” culminated in a joyous downtown summer-fun event hosted at the Park Strip. Perhaps this serves to illustrate how closely tied we all are to this current evolution of the civil rights movement. This movement is not defined by a color, religion, race, caste or class. Because of the diversity, a crowd of Proud – sans the rainbows and flourish of PrideFest – is indistinguishable from any other crowd.
The only thing that separates the people in the movement and those opposed is a indeed a choice. We, who this week were seen and heard and proud, choose tolerance and love.