Annual PrideFest Looks for Large Turnout in Support of LGBT Community
By Thomas Gallagher
At an open mic in a half-filled back room of the Pride Center, one person sang, then another, until everyone joined in.
The Pride Center, or the Staten Island LGBT Community Center, as it was known until April 2014, has become a haven for many Staten Islanders of the LGBTQ community who feel it is one of the few places they can express themselves. The center will be hosting its eleventh year of Pride events on Staten Island.
“It’s about bringing the Staten Island Community together,” said Jeremiah Jurkiewicz, the Coordinator of the CSI LGBTQ Resource Center. “You try to bring everyone together.”
Starting July 6 with Pride Night at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, the Pride Center will host a week of Pride events.
They will include Spectrum Trans Open Mic on July 7, Adult Prom with LGBTQ older adults sponsored by SAGE Staten Island on July 8, a sober social on July 9, an interfaith service hosted by the Unitarian Church of SI on July 10, PrideFest on July 11, and Pride Brunch on July 12.
The main event will be the Pride Center’s “11th PrideFest,” held on July 11.
The day will start with a 5k run and walk through Snug Harbor, including an area that is normally not open to the public.
It will also have music, artists, food, and drag performers.
“I went to last year’s event,” said Student Government Junior Class Senate Candidate James Ashley. “I knew there was going to be vendors, colorful characters, and couples being themselves.
This is a change from the single-day parade and night of speakers and entertainment that composed the first Staten Island Pride event in 2005.
The event was attended by 400 people including State Sen. Diane Savino and Rep. Anthony Weiner.
In a liberal city, Staten Island is often seen as the conservative borough. While they did have support from local democrats such as Savino and organizers who were planning the first Staten Island Pride event, were uncertain about whether Staten Islanders would be supportive of the event and of the LGBT community as a whole.
James Smith, the Grand Marshal of the 2005 Pride Parade, told the Staten Island Advance that he wasn’t sure he could do it and that people were more open-minded than he thought.
Since the first event, support for the event and community have grown. Last year’s PrideFest was attended by over 2,000 people, including Public Advocate Letitia James and former Democratic candidate for Congress Domenic Recchia.
While national support for gay marriage has increased, notably absent from any Staten Island Pride events are Republican officials.
“[People] should definitely experience it, because you get an insight of the culture,” said CSI Sophomore Hadeel Ayesh. “Everyone has generalizations of gay people, but they don’t know the truth.”
“During the parade, they express themselves freely, showing who they truly are and what they stand for,” she continued
According to a Gallup poll, in 2005, only 49 percent of the country believed that gay and lesbian relationships between consenting adults should be legal.
10 years and 10 Pride festivals later, in 2014, that number was up to 66 percent. While the number fluctuates year by year, it has grown.
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on same-sex marriage starting April 28 and might have a ruling in time for PrideFest. For those planning on attending, they already know what they want people to know.
“Try to be supportive, we’re all human,” said Ashley. “We all have one trait, we share love and friendship.”