True to its grassroots ideal that Pride is not a moment but a movement, Pride in the CLE begins at noon this Saturday, with a march in downtown Cleveland.
In the spirit of the Stonewall Uprising, organizers at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland stressed the distinction between a march and parade: Recent challenges that the community has faced such as anti-trans bills and Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ initiative prove an ever-present need to advocate for social justice and demand equal rights.
The march goes from Public Square through the Warehouse District and down Lakeside Avenue, flowing into a festival on Malls B and C. If you have not preregistered but would like to march, plan to arrive at the staging area near the downtown Cleveland Public Library branch by 11 a.m. to join the group from The Center.
The event is an extension of the LGBT Community Center’s mission “to enrich the lives of the LGBT community via support, advocacy, education and celebration.” Malls B and C will be populated with more than 150 vendor booths, among them, local health and human services organizations eager to serve members of this vast community.
Entertainment on the main stage will include a rotation of dance troupes, drag performers, musicians, and youth talent. The Speak Out Stage sponsored by The Cleveland Foundation will provide a platform to a lineup of activists, artists, organizers and poets to share their passions with a captive audience. The family-friendly event will be divided into zones including a kid’s area with lawn games and appearances by a rainbow cast of life-sized Care Bear characters.
Teens and their parents can also learn more about the School of One (SO1), which operates out of the LGBT Center through a partnership with the Cleveland Municipal School District. The School of One at the LGBT Center celebrates the diversity of its student body while fulfilling a need for acceptance and inclusive access to education for LGBTQ+ youth in Northeast Ohio. With a state of the art classroom situated in the LGBT Community Center in the thriving Gordon Square Arts District, it’s touted as the first program of its kind in the nation — aligned with The Center’s intention to create a safe and respectful space that is enriching, equitable and affirming.
For the first time this year, The Center will also construct a comprehensive Health and Wellness Village in partnership with MetroHealth’s Pride Network Primary Care group that addresses the routine and complex medical needs of gay, bisexual, lesbian, non-binary, transgender, queer and intersex people.
Official events promise to extend and enhance the PRIDE experience with all proceeds benefiting the LGBT Community Center Greater Cleveland. Lago Custom Events on the East Bank of the Flats is host to Friday and Saturday night lounge parties called Flat Out Pride that will bookend the weekend’s activities 7 p.m. to midnight on June 3 and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 4. On June 11, runners donning rainbow attire and martian costumes will take their places at Platform Beer Co. for the Pride Martian 5K race and toast their achievement with a complimentary round of craft beers at the after party.
This year’s event further attests to the LGBTQ+ community’s perseverance and resilience.
In the summer of 2016, The Stonewall Inn in New York City was declared a national landmark by President Barack Obama for its significance in LGBTQ+ history. The dive bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood was the site of police raids on gay patrons that spurred the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, and a year later, became the launch point of the first Gay Liberation Day March in 1970.
Around the same time in Cleveland, less than two weeks before the 27th Pride festival was scheduled to take place, Phyllis “Seven” Harris — director of the LGBT Community Center — was among a handful of participants to learn the event had been unceremoniously canceled by the organizers who’d been producing the gathering since 1989.
With the LGBT Community Center at the helm, 18 community groups banded together, conceptualizing and producing Pride in the CLE on its originally scheduled date, without missing a beat. “We marched across the Detroit-Superior Bridge and into Public Square, and the rest, as I like to say, is history,” Harris mused. Gaining momentum in the years that followed, the 2019 event welcomed more than 30,000 attendees. Then, as organizers were ramping up for their biggest event yet, a global pandemic would postpone their efforts.
Indefatigable in the face of coronavirus, planners pivoted to host Pride Ride in 2020. In 2021, the turnout was even larger, punctuated with a Pride in the CLE televised special presented by WKYC, The Center and Cleveland Public Theatre. It was so successful that leadership of The Center now intend to host a recurring fall celebration that coincides with LGBTQ+ History Month and National Coming Out Day on October 11.
Mark your calendars: This year’s Pride Ride returns October 8, 2022.
Inclusion is paramount for Harris, who as a pioneer of Cleveland’s queer community, shared how her own coming out coincided with the AIDS epidemic and the addition of “L” to the LGBT initialism. As the group’s umbrella grows to envelop a larger community, a steering committee is tasked with pointing out any blind spots around access, diversity, belonging, equity and justice.
“We conducted focus groups to get feedback and have a committee member holding us accountable about access — you know, about how not everyone who is LGBTQ can deal with the large crowd, the colors, the flags and the noise,” she explained. A sensory suite at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown will be accessible, offering a bird’s eye view for those who’d appreciate experiencing the event in a more calming ambiance. “Efforts were made to carve out accommodating spaces for LGBT elders or anyone else who would need some extra support in terms of a shaded resting place to sit.”
Learn more about Pride in the CLE and register here: https://lgbtcleveland.org/pride/
This article is sponsored by Destination Cleveland.