philadelphia black pride festival
philadelphia black pride festival

Philadelphia Just Hosted Its Very First March Celebrating LGBTQ People of Color

LGBTQ people of color took to the streets of Philadelphia on Wednesday to march. It was the first of its kind in the city, kicking off the 19th annual Philadelphia Black Pride Festival.

The procession began at the Aloft Philadelphia Downtown hotel and ended at the Courtyard at City Hall, where an “Unchained Rally” began. The parade and rally aimed to “demonstrate and honor the resilience and rich history of the LGBTQ community of color, and to examine ways to create safe spaces for future black and brown LGBTQ Philadelphians.”

“I think we’ve done a lot with our gay and lesbian community, but we haven’t dealt with the racism that exists within our community,” says march attendee Tyrone Smith. “We all act like we are still in the closest on it, and now I think is the time to talk about.”

“I’m 75 years old, still fighting with youth for their rights to be who they are in being black and brown people,” Smith continues. “That to me is more than my sexual orientation. Cause when I walk into a room, what do you see first? My black, beautiful skin — thats what you see first. So if you can’t recognize my skin, then how do you care who I sleep with? It doesn’t make sense to me. We need to have the conversation.”

RELATED | Philly’s Pride Flag Is About to Get Two New Black and Brown Stripes, and Here’s Why

Throughout the rest of the week, there will be events every day associated with Philadelphia Black Pride Festival, including block parties, a finale day party featuring NeNe Leakes and panel discussions centered around issues in the community. The LGBT Center at University of Pennsylvania hosts a roundtable discussion about bias and stereotypes on Thursday, April 26, and the “I Am She, and She Is Me” brunch on Sunday, April 29, focuses on a conversation about the lack of visibility of the LGBTQ community in certain spaces.

“We’re having really tough conversations,” says Amber Hikes, the city’s executive director of LGBT Affairs. “And it’s important to do that in Philadelphia, because we are a city of firsts. We do everything first. And so while these issues are not unique to Philadelphia, it is certainly Philadelphia that is leading the charge in addressing these issues and having difficult conversations that other cities are now having.”

In terms of firsts, Philadelphia was the first city to adopt two new colors to its official Pride flag, celebrating people of color in the LGBTQ community. Last year, the city launched a campaign called “More Color More Pride,” adding one black and one brown stripe to the traditional six-colored rainbow.

Hikes said, “Seeing an image like this flag instills so much pride in me as a queer black woman. When I see the flag, I feel like I see myself.”

“The new design is a symbolic representation of Philadelphia’s commitment to centering the experiences, contributions, activism and dedication of black and brown members of our community,” she continues. “To me, this flag says, ‘We see you. We honor you. We celebrate you. You’re not just a part of us. You are us.’”

To find out more information about the Philadelphia Black Pride Festival, head here.