Pittsburgh's gay PrideFest won't include a parade this year ... it will instead be a "pride awareness march," says Jeff Freedman, who chairs the event. The new label is "a statement on why we're here for the day."
One reason is to counter the General Assembly in Harrisburg, where the House has passed, and the Senate is set to debate, a bill to amend the Pennsylvania constitution so it excludes the possibility of same-sex unions.
Gov. Ed Rendell, who opposes amending the constitution, will kick off the march. It will mark his first appearance at Pittsburgh's PrideFest, although he has attended its counterparts in Philadelphia and Harrisburg.
Freedman expects the issue to help draw many more than the 4,000 people who attended last year's event. It also won't hurt that the festival has added a second stage to its entertainment schedule this year ... a kind of outdoor club featuring a DJ and even a "mini-ball" dance competition. Freedman credits an increased number of young PrideFest planners for the change.
A separate and more overtly political statement by Pittsburgh's gay community is planned for the day before PrideFest ... the city's first Dyke March. Organized by a Bloomfield woman who calls herself Khalia Latte, the June 16 event will travel between the university campuses in Oakland. "It was created as an act of visibility ... not to be an attack on Pride ... to counter the [greater] representation we felt was given to gay men," says Latte. "We're hoping that this event will act as a catalyst ... as a rallying point for our community, to network, to try to politicize our community. Increasingly, gay space has become de-politicized, assimilationist."
She also says the city has a responsibility to more overtly welcome gay people who move here from smaller Pennsylvania towns, "holding their breath, feeling like they're living underwater," hoping to breathe freer in the big city. "We feel a responsibility for us as the metro area of this part of the state to have something for refugee queers."
Although the two weekend events are separate, Freedman is pleased to see both happen. "The community is starting to mobilize," he says. "It is long overdue."
PrideFest: Sat., June 17, Riverfront Park, North Side. March: Gather at 10 a.m. on Ross Street, Downtown, behind the county jail. Parade begins at noon. See http://www.glccpgh.org/PrideFest/PrideFest.htm.
Dyke March: Fri., June 16. Gather at 5 p.m., Forbes and Morewood avenues. March at 6:30. Bicycles, motorcycles and instruments encouraged. Contact email@example.com.