On June 12 was Boston Pop-Up Pride, to the surprise and joy of the throngs of revelers who gathered on Boston Common. When Boston Pride was dismantled last July, a coalition of LGBTQ+ community activists and groups stepped up and got busy. They reimagined a new Boston Pride organization where its long-ignored marginalized groups –especially communities of Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and people of color (QTBIPOC)- become essential actors in its new chapter.
"I can't believe my eyes. There are a lot more people of color at this Pride than any I've attended since coming to Boston in 2012," Jason Wong told me, who's originally from Chicago.
Although Pop-Up Pride was a grassroots, community-organized, community-centered, one-time event, it has laid a solid foundation for future Pride events serving Greater Boston: a rally with diverse community speakers, local artists, musicians, performers, community tables, food vendors, a family area, an LGBTQ+ youth area, and support from nonprofits.
Cassi Braithwaite of Walpole told me, "I like the diversity. It feels I've come out to see local talent, to a community event, more accessible, and it doesn't feel like a marketing event."
For some in the community, Boston Pride had become a vast corporate and commercialized extravaganza where marginal groups were nonessentials except for photo-ops highlighting diversity. They saw the floats in the parade as selling the soul of the movement's grassroots message for entry into the mainstream instead of changing the mainstream. However, others in the community welcome corporate sponsors, viewing it as vital for the financial cost and continuation of Boston Pride and affirming LGBTQ+ issues and their employees.
With this year's Pride events occurring across the state and in various cities, these community-based grassroots events feel authentic, appropriate, and empowering. They decentralized the behemoth-like hold and power Boston Pride had over the entire state and much of New England for nearly 50 years. With more acceptance of LGBTQ+ Americans, many activists feel that local Pride events throughout Massachusetts hold communities, towns, local officials, and politicians accountable to its LGBTQ+denizens, especially in the drive to combat anti-LGBTQ+ legislation with more than 300 bills in 28 states so far this year.
"This is a Pride by the people for the people," Rebekah Levit of Natick shared. And Braithwaite said, "No one group owns it. No one group calls the shots. "
For example, DignityUSA, the largest LGBTQ faith organization in the country headquartered in Boston, kicked off Pride Month by hosting an online prayer service. The event celebrated Pride and was a form of pastoral care needed during this ongoing pandemic. "True blessings don't come from hierarchies of power; they come from communities of care, love, and solidarity," the website posted.
Trans Resistance MA, an outspoken critic of the Boston Pride board's transmisogyny and racism, will have its Pride march, a march from Nubian Square in Roxbury to the Franklin Park Playstead, and festival on June 25.
"Our black communities need to see us too like the rest of Boston does," Jamal Jones stated. "It ain't like they don't know where here."
Over-policing is an issue for communities of POC, especially its transgender community. Like last year's march, the TRM's statement on policing is the same:
"We plan to have minimal, if any, contact with law enforcement. Police officers will not be invited to the event or asked to secure the march route."
In 2020, the murder of George Floyd raised additional fear for LGBTQ+ people of color concerning the police. The refusal of Boston Pride's board to publicly support the LGBTQ+ community of color position statement on policing simply further highlighted the decades-long racial strife among us.
"I miss the parade," Jake Green of Somerville shared. "It does highlight the disagreement. With no parade, Pride is bittersweet."
Boston Pride had an inauspicious beginning, comprising a small motley group of LGBTQ+ activists who marched to a Vietnam protest from Cambridge Common to Boston Common in June 1970. The group held a rally on Boston Common, commemorating the previous Stonewall Riots. Boston Pride evolved into a series of weeklong events, one of the city's largest public and money-making events. Its parade, the flagship event, drew cheering spectators of nearly one million throughout New England and beyond than in its early years with hecklers along a sparsely attended parade route.
"It's an impressive crowd of folks today, as a first, without the parade and rainbow washing voices and advertisements of corporations," one of the Pop-up Pride organizers stated.
Pope-Up Pride was vital, and many local LGBTQ+ communities agree.
I agree. But, I miss the parade, too.