Monday, June 5, 2017

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Twelfth annual New Paltz Pride Parade draws big crowd

NEW PALTZ – Several hundred people stood around the downtown business district in the Village of New Paltz on Sunday afternoon, waiting for the parade to begin. Police had cordoned off the side streets, while a faint din of marching bands grew louder, amid isolated drops of pre-storm drizzle.


By some estimates, the 12th annual event drew close to 2,000

The marchers arrived without delay, accompanied by drums, horns, tubas, signs, banners, rainbow flags, jugglers, and drag queens. The crowd of spectators erupted with applause and cheer, outnumbered by the wave of participants parading down Main Street towards the park.

Roughly 500 people turned left towards the college, sparing the traffic at the main intersection from disruption. More music was heard approaching from uptown. Another wave came through, and then another, totaling over 2,000 supporters for the Equality March for Unity and Pride, organized by the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center in Kingston.

Church groups, school marching bands, straight moms, babies, puppies, spreading glitter and general glee, swept past the onlookers, dwarfing their numbers, while filling Hasbrouck Park for a festival.

While the route only stretched a thousand yards from start to finish, the event represents a much longer journey of repression, stretching across thousands of years. The local tradition of gay pride marches began in 2005, with the New York same-sex Marriage controversy.

Twelve years ago, then-Mayor Jason West was facing 24 years in jail, plus heavy fines, for disregarding the restrictions by officiating hundreds of gay and lesbian weddings. Six years later, New York eventually amended the law, costing swing-vote Republican State Senator Steve Saland his career.

“The reason for pride is to establish our identity, and to claim our rights as LGBTQ,” explained Frederic Mayo, president of the board for HV LGBTQ Center in Kingston, which is sponsoring visibility events all month, including this parade.

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein declared June 2017 Hudson Valley Pride Month, and Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a similar statement of support.

“Particularly in this environment, we need to take a stand, to preserve our rights and continue to move forward advocating for these causes,” Mayo added, referring to the political climate.


Stonewall Inn riots survivor Jay Toole

Longtime lesbian activist Jay Toole agreed. The 1969 Stonewall Riot survivor resides in Sullivan County.

“We are all Stonewall survivors,” she indicated, also observing that the legendary incident – which sparked the modern gay liberation movement – included allies from every minority group. “Everybody was there, it wasn’t just a bunch of white people doing this rebellion. Hundreds of people showed up, to say no, we’re not going to take it any more,” she said.

Toole was arrested over 20 times for dressing like a man. “The law back then was you had to have three articles of female clothing on, and I never did, so I was always being arrested,” she recalled. Often gays were also beaten. “It’s wonderful to see how far we’ve come, but we have to remember the fight isn’t over, until everybody has their rights.”  

Drag Queen Timothy Bruck Jr. of Accord, AKA Pinky Socrates, marched in the front lines this year, accompanied by proud parents who assist with his festival booth and stage show management.

“This parade is exactly what the queer community is all about, not having shame, embracing who you are, and being so proud to show that to the entire world. I am looking exactly how I want to, without a care in the world about what people think about me,” Pinky said, adding, “but that’s not true -- please don’t criticize my [eye] lashes.”

Not everything was fun and games at the pride fest. Half the vendor booths dealt with serious issues, such as suicide prevention and other awareness topics. Free condoms were available at almost every table, and proper pronouns were strictly enforced

 


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