Celebrate Pride With Town Halls and Club Beats

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If you’re feeling conflicted about how to celebrate Pride this year, you’re hardly alone. Three months after the coronavirus pandemic turned the world on its head, America has been rocked by coast-to-coast protests inspired by George Floyd, whose death has led millions to cry out for an end to police brutality — and an end to police departments generally.

But Pride organizers have adapted (shoe box parade floats, anyone?), and with no shortage of virtual events, many of which have been reoriented to amplify black voices and concerns, it’s possible to be not just safe but supportive while still showing your pride.

Learn together.

ImageBob the Drag Queen, left, and Peppermint will lead a Black Queer Town Hall organized in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
Bob the Drag Queen, left, and Peppermint will lead a Black Queer Town Hall organized in the wake of the George Floyd protests.Credit…From left, via Bob the Drag Queen; James Michael Avance

Within weeks, the George Floyd demonstrations upended a Pride month that was already poised to be unlike any other. Although many planned events were called off in deference, others were reconfigured to put the focus on black L.G.B.T.Q. people.

In New York, a virtual drag fest scheduled to feature more than 100 drag queens was replaced with a three-day Black Queer Town Hall (June 19-21). The event, to be hosted by Peppermint, a transgender actress who starred in the Broadway jukebox musical “Head Over Heels,” and Bob the Drag Queen, a past winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” will feature round-table discussions on dismantling racism and white supremacy as well as performances by black New York City drag queens. (Keep in mind: Venmo tips are the new crinkly bills.) Marti Gould Cummings, a fixture of the city’s drag scene and a candidate for City Council, will help lead the festivities, which will also carve out time to pay tribute to black pioneers of the gay rights movement. All programming will be streamed on GLAAD’s and NYC Pride’s YouTube pages.

As its parent company, Condé Nast, faces a reckoning over its treatment of people of color, Them, the publisher’s fledgling publication dedicated to L.G.B.T.Q. style, culture, politics and issues, will host a virtual Pride event on June 22 called Out Now Live that is heavy on boldface names. Cynthia Nixon, Hayley Kiyoko, Zac Posen, Lee Daniels, Billy Eichner, Naomi Campbell, Elton John, Indya Moore, Judith Light and Tegan and Sara are all expected to appear in the event, which will include speeches, personal stories of L.G.B.T.Q. activism since the 1970s and performances by King Princess and Princess Nokia.

And with plenty of time to spend at home, there may be no better time to catch up on or revisit queer classics. This month New York Public Library branches will host online book discussions of titles including Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (June 17, 2 p.m.) and Leslie Feinberg’s “Stone Butch Blues” (June 24, 6 p.m.), which is available to read on the author’s website.

Rally together.


Ashlee Marie Preston and Brian Michael Smith will host a virtual rally on June 26 to kick off the main weekend of NYC Pride.Credit…via NYC Pride

Last summer, 50 years after the Stonewall uprising, New York City was the center of the world’s Pride celebrations. But the city’s first gay pride march wasn’t held until 1970, a year after Stonewall, making 2020 another meaningful milestone for New York in the struggle for gay rights.

Instead of a physical march through Manhattan’s broad avenues and narrow side streets, NYC Pride will observe the 50th anniversary with a broadcast wending its way through the history of the L.G.B.T.Q. movement. The two-hour event (June 28, noon) will feature grand marshals including the transgender activist Victoria Cruz and Dan Levy, a creator and star of “Schitt’s Creek,” as well as performances by Janelle Monáe, Deborah Cox and Billy Porter. Carson Kressley — perhaps a more familiar sight flanking RuPaul as a judge on “Drag Race” — will co-host the special, which will be broadcast on WABC and stream on the station’s website.

But before settling into a more celebratory mood, the main weekend of New York Pride will begin with an online rally (June 26, 5 p.m.) seeking to capture the defiant spirit of the 1969 “Gay Power” demonstrations one month after the Stonewall uprising. Ashlee Marie Preston, a transgender writer and political activist, and Brian Michael Smith, a transgender actor, will host the event, which — in addition to sounding the call for L.G.B.T.Q. rights and human rights generally — will loudly condemn police brutality and discrimination.

When the pandemic began to pour cold water on plans for Pride celebrations around the world, L.G.B.T.Q. groups at every level — local, regional, even continental — pooled their organizational muscle to coordinate Global Pride, an ambitious 24-hour streaming event on YouTube (June 27).

Meanwhile, Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project will do its best to build you up as you hunker down with a three-day livestream event (June 24-26) drawing on YouTube royalty like Rebecca Black and Louie Castro as well as the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni Crystal Methyd and Jujubee. With musicians, actors and online beauty experts, the event hopes to be a dose of positivity amid the pandemic.

Dance together.


Virtual attendees at a House of Yes Saturday night Zoom party.Credit…Kenny Rodriguez

At the very first whiff of stay-at-home orders, D.J.s looking to keep the party going flocked to Zoom and Instagram Live. In a Pride month unlike any other, many of the same people who would ordinarily be responsible for supplying parades, marches, street festivals and dance clubs with thumping beats are now keeping us moving at home (or at least giving the less dance-inclined a taste of the music they miss).

Cincinnati Black Pride found the silver lining in the pandemic, noting on its website that the lockdown “offers some of our favorite D.J.s in Cincinnati a unique opportunity to virtually be in multiple places over the Pride weekend at the same time.” D.J. Kaotic, a Cincinnati native, leads off four nights of “grown and sexy” D.J.s with her set on June 25 — after the city’s Black Alphabet Film Festival. The rest of the weekend will include classics, Caribbean, jazz, spiritual house and a Sunday tea dance.

Amid Pride Toronto’s robust schedule of virtual programming, there are a few standouts. Before the city’s third and final Stay Home Saturday (June 20, 2 p.m.), be sure to tune in to the Link Up on June 18 (4 p.m.), when the Toronto D.J.s Soulsis and Razaq El Toro will bring soca, dancehall and Afro beats — so long as you supply the bass and an appropriately vibey Summer of Quarantine outfit. And the third of the city’s three Stay Home Saturdays (June 20, 2 p.m.) starts at a 10 and cranks up from there: Early afternoon programming from Toronto’s all trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming and Two Spirit cabaret gives way to a larger virtual event all before dinnertime.

Beloved New York City spots are also doing their best to deliver Pride straight to you. House of Yes, the free-spirited Brooklyn dance club, will host a digital dance party for Pride (June 27, 8 p.m.) in collaboration with Glitterbox, whose high-energy “virtual festivals” have given a jolt to quarantine nightlife for millions streaming worldwide. The Greenwich Village piano bar Marie’s Crisis is continuing to share show tunes from its pianists’ living rooms on Facebook Live. And Ty Sunderland, the promoter behind popular parties like Heaven on Earth, has been flirting with the idea of a digital version of his pop-music rave Devil’s Playground (June 26, 10 p.m.) for months now.