Morning showers did little to discourage the crowds from lining up along 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens on Sunday, June 6, for the twelfth annual Queens Pride Parade. This year’s theme was “Stand Up, Stand Proud, Stand Together.”
“We’re now in the twelfth year, but when we first started, people said this was Archie Bunker-land,” said Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee co-chair Maritza Martinez. “But if we can make this happen in Queens—and every year the crowds are getting bigger—why not same-sex marriage? I would say that about 60 percent of the people along the parade route were heterosexual, and the cheering was overwhelming. People were lined up three deep; it was unbelievable. This is the best parade we ever had.”
As the Sirens Motorcycle Club and Empire City MC bikers roared down the avenue, the parade stepped into gear, with the QLGPC leading a cadre of politicians in their wake. State Senator John Sabini, an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, headed the procession as the parade’s grand marshall. With him were Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Democratic District Leader Daniel Dromm, Assemblymember José Peralta, out gay state Sen. Tom Duane, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, and out lesbian City Councilmember Christine Quinn, among others.
“I’ve been to every single Queens Pride parade, so this is nothing new for me. I just get to wear a sash this year,” Sabini said with a chuckle. “As a councilmember for Queens, I was key in getting the permits when they started this parade. Back then, it was just me and Tom Duane marching, and I was the only politician from Queens. Now, we’ve got all these elected officials here. In some way I feel like a pioneer.”
“I think one of the most important outcomes over 12 years has been our ability to hold elected officials responsible,” said Dromm, who is also co-chair of the QLGPC. “When I first started, we could barely get any elected officials to support us. Now, people are coming out in support of same-sex marriage, people like Peralta, Sabini, and the City Council. Having galvanized the community in this way and getting a large number of people to these events have really shown them the power of our community.”
Crowd favorites were the marchers from the AIDS Center of Queens, who cheered and danced, wearing orange T-shirts that read “Take the Test.” They were rivaled only by Las Buenas Amigas, the Latina lesbians of New York.
The Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps made an impressive showing, playing both the Marines anthem and a selection from the Broadway musical “Chicago,” and Cheer NY backed them up with raucous cheers. Other marchers included the Gay Officers Action League, Generation Q, SAGE Queens, Queens Gays and Lesbians United, PFLAG Queens, South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association, the American Veterans for Equal Rights NY, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and the Hispanic AIDS Forum.
Closing the parade were Fanboya dancers, a group of animated performers dressed as spaghetti Western-style cowboys and Native Americans, dancing and mock fighting as the crowd cheered, and everyone poured into the festival grounds, on 37th Road between 73rd and 77th Streets.
At the festival’s main stage, politicians made speeches, Cheer NY performed several crowd-pleasing numbers, Mano a Mano served up Latina rock, and KTU radio station gave away prizes. Lorena and Alyssa St. Cartier took over main stage hosting duties toward the end of the day, while drag performer Jiggly Caliente worked several of the festival’s stages. Special guest performances came from Anthony Rodriguez, a backup dancer for Madonna; and La India, a protégé of the late queen of salsa Celia Cruz. A large circle gathered around the youth stage hosted by Generation Q, as a DJ spun hits, and dancers moved into the spotlight to entertain the crowd.
“This is a testament to the community’s support for us,” said volunteer Larry Menzie. “It’s not a beautiful day, but there’s lots of sunshine anyway.”