L.A.’s Pride parade is a no-go again this year. Events will be held virtually
For the second year in a row, the LA Pride parade, one of the nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ celebrations, will not take place this summer amid ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, organizers said this week.
The decision comes amid a steep decline in new infections and hospitalizations in California. But planning large-scale events takes time, organizers said, and it is still unclear what the situation will be come summertime.
“Safety was our No. 1 priority,” said Sharon-Franklin Brown, board president of Christopher Street West, the nonprofit organization that produces LA Pride. “It takes time to put on a parade, [and] we were not sure we were going to be where we’re at now, which is this amazing space where everything is opening up.”
The massive street parade, which draws hundreds of thousands of spectators, takes place each June during LGBTQ Pride Month. This year, it would have taken place two days before June 15, which is when California officials plan to fully reopen the state’s economy and eliminate the color-coded tier system that dictates pandemic closures in each county.
In lieu of its parade and festival, Christopher Street West will produce a concert with TikTok that will be livestreamed on the app June 10. The show, called Thrive with Pride, will feature pop star Charli XCX and LGBTQ artists to be announced.
A television special will also air on KABC-TV Channel 7 at 9 p.m. June 12.
That month, LA Pride will launch a 30-day give-back campaign — in partnership with the nonprofit Big Sunday and other local nonprofit and social justice groups — that will include opportunities for people to volunteer, donate goods or give money to organizations throughout Los Angeles County.
Noah Gonzalez, board vice president for Christopher Street West, said each week of the campaign will have a different focus: food insecurity, housing insecurity, climate and mental health. There will be drop-off locations throughout the region to collect donated items like bedsheets, clothing and nonperishable food, he said.
In-person volunteer opportunities will be announced at a later date, Gonzalez said.
Pride Makes a Difference “is the program we are most excited about,” Gonzalez said. “It gives a vibe about where our organization is going. It really is this moment to connect and give back to the community.”
Still, the parade has long been LA Pride’s marquee event, and its absence will be keenly felt even as Christopher Street West — which has been criticized as too white, too corporate and dismissive of transgender people — tries to determine what the future holds.
Live Pride events were canceled last summer, too, because of the coronavirus and replaced by a televised and livestreamed “virtual parade” during what was to have been the parade’s 50th anniversary celebration.
After the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Christopher Street West announced what initially was called a solidarity march with Black Lives Matter, to be held on the same day that the LA Pride parade would have taken place.
But the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles group never endorsed the event, and numerous leaders within the Black LGBTQ community said Christopher Street West did not communicate with them before announcing its plans. Critics said organizers had appropriated the Black Lives Matter cause in order to hold a “mini Pride” and denounced Christopher Street West for trying to organize the march collaboratively with the Los Angeles Police Department.
On June 14, tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood for the All Black Lives Matter march, which was organized by a newly formed group named Black LGBTQ+ Activists for Change, whose board was composed entirely of Black LGBTQ people.
The next month, Christopher Street West announced that it was leaving West Hollywood after more than four decades in the iconic LGBTQ-friendly city. It did not announce a new location for future events.
Brown took the helm of the organization in August and became the first Black transgender woman to be president of its board.
With a renewed commitment to diversity and social justice, she said, Christopher Street West has been doing some soul-searching. Over the last year, she said, the organization has had “intentional dialogues, crucial conversations, difficult conversations” with LGBTQ community leaders.
“We’ve learned how much more we need to grow,” Brown said. “We also learned that there are things we could do better, how we can continue to listen and to intentionally frame those conversations around how we can best serve the community as a whole, especially underrepresented groups” including transgender and gender-nonconforming people and people of color.
Planning for Pride 2021 amid the pandemic, she said, has required some pivoting as coronavirus case numbers have fluctuated in recent months, leaving uncertainty about when and how large-scale events would be allowed.
“Programming is very hard,” Brown said. “There are things you want to do, but you’re limited and you have a greater responsibility to ensure safety.”
The parade, she said, will return in June 2022, and planning has already begun.
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