LA Pride, No Longer Online-Only, Will Take The Form Of A Black Lives Matter Solidarity March

Organizers of the LA Pride and Festival and New York’s Queer Liberation March announced this week that their respective events will this year be dedicated to black solidarity.

New York and Los Angeles joined hundreds of other cities around the world in cancelling their in-person Pride Month celebrations earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But on Wednesday, LA Pride organizers announced that they would revive their June 14 centerpiece event as a “solidarity protest march” with the black community “in response to racial injustice, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression.”

The Reclaim Pride Coalition, the group behind last year’s inaugural alternative pride march, announced on Thursday that it too would dedicate its Pride Month event to black solidarity, renaming it the “Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality.”

Reclaim Pride said its June 28 event “will be focused on elevating and protecting Black Lives.”

Jon Carter, one of the group’s organizers, said the New York event will be fully responsive to ongoing pandemic situation.

“Guarding public safety to the best of our ability is our top priority and will be a huge part of any of the plans that we commit to,” Carter said.

In Los Angeles, pride march organizers said part of their decision to reorient the march was to honor the the pivotal contributions of queer people of color to the movement.

“Fifty years ago Christopher Street West took to the streets of Hollywood Blvd in order to peacefully protest against police brutality and oppression,” Estevan Montemayor, president of Christopher Street West’s board, was quoted as saying on LA Pride’s website. “It is our moral imperative to honor the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who bravely led the Stonewall uprising, by standing in solidarity with the Black community against systemic racism and joining the fight for meaningful and long-lasting reform.”

“The first Los Angeles pride march was held in 1970 just after New York City’s first march, which was then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day march — hence the Los Angeles event’s name, Christopher Street West. This year marks the 50th anniversaries of both cities’ inaugural pride marches,” NBC News notes. “The first pride marches were held to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, widely considered to be a pivotal moment in the LGBTQ rights movement.”

Ashlee Marie Preston, a Los Angeles-based black trans activist and former Christopher Street West board member, said she and other Los Angeles-based black queer activists were unaware of plans to hold a “Black Lives Matter solidarity march.”

Preston said it would have been “tone deaf” not to mention the recent protests, and she noted that LA Pride organizers have yet to state whether there will be a police or sheriff’s presence at the march.

LA Pride “has been asked many times, even when I was on the board, to not have the sheriff or police present,” Preston said. “At a time when police brutality is at the center, that guarantee hasn’t been made.”

NBC News notes that Raquel Willis, a transgender activist, writer and former editor at Out Magazine, criticized Christopher Street West for “invoking the names of Johnson and Rivera, pioneering trans activists of color, ‘without having any of the Marshas and Sylvias up there today involved with the leadership of their work.'”