Over 1,000 New Haven residents flocked to PRIDE New Haven this past weekend — the city’s two-decade old celebration of LGBTQ community and culture.
The celebration began on Friday at City Hall with an opening reception and queer art show hosted by Mayor Toni Harp, followed by the Queer Queens of Qomedy show at Lyric Hall Theater and the Pride Kick-Off Party at Partners Cafe. On Saturday, a PRIDE march and 5-kilometer walk preceded the PRIDE Block Party and after-party at Gotham Citi Cafe. The weekend closed with a Drag Brunch at Barracuda Bistro & Bar and Sunday Tea Dance at York Street Cafe.
The annual celebration is organized by the service-oriented New Haven Pride Center, located at 84 Orange St. While most other cities in the United States celebrate LGBTQ pride in June, New Haven Pride Center Executive Director Patrick Dunn said September suits New Haven better.
“It’s very smart to have PRIDE in September and not June,” Dunn said. “It’s like a welcome to New Haven party for all the questioning LGBTQ people. I remember when I went to the Hartford pride parade when I was in college. It was an incredible moment feeling very safe and in a community. PRIDE New Haven becomes that here for all the young people.”
Dunn added that in June, most weekends are taken up by pride celebrations in Boston, Mass.; Providence, R.I.; and New York, N.Y. It would be too difficult for New Haven to compete, especially with its substantial college-student population gone for the summer.
As executive director, Dunn is the first employee that the formerly volunteer-run New Haven Pride Center has hired in its 21 years of existence. That means his job runs the gamut, from answering phone calls to cleaning the office to fundraising and booking performances for events such as PRIDE New Haven.
“The big thing for me this year was wanting to build partnerships and new relationships for PRIDE,” Dunn said. “People come to me with ideas, wanting to expand many of the organizations in New Haven.”
Dunn mentioned a group of faith leaders who approached him about being involved with PRIDE this year. Some of them, he said, are members of the LGBTQ community, while others are just queer-friendly allies, and their goal was to put on an interfaith ceremony during the block party.
The wide range of backgrounds of block-party goers reflected the diversity that Dunn envisioned, he said. For instance, Kanita Mote, who had a stand at the block party, is a representative for LGBT+LABOR, a group that inspects whether hotel owners are accepting of their patrons and employees’ identities.
“I’ve seen a lot of queer youth here being proud of who they are,” Mote said. “And I am a firm believer that you should be proud of who you are. This is about inclusion and being who you are and this block party reflects just a small sample of what New Haven has to offer. There are so many different types of people. It’s magnificent.”
To Dan O’Rourke, a member of the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus who had a booth at the block party, that feeling is what PRIDE is about.
“PRIDE to me means inclusivity,” O’Rourke said. “It means being open and accepting everyone.”
The Gay Men’s Chorus performed on Friday night as part of the PRIDE kick-off party, singing “We Are the World” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart.”
Yale’s own LGBTQ affinity group also had a presence at the block party, recruiting students and residents who passed by their information stand. Craig Canfield, a volunteer for the affinity group and member of the registrar’s office at Yale, was passing out information pamphlets.
“It’s great that New Haven does this for the LGBT community,” Canfield said. “As a member of the LGBTQ affinity group at Yale, along with other staff and faculty, I love interacting with the community and recruiting community members. And it’s important that the community’s presence is known and that this celebration has gotten bigger over the years.”
John Gross | firstname.lastname@example.org