PHOTO/NORTHERN NEVADA PRIDE: The Pride Parade on Virginia Street in 2018
By Frank X. Mullen
Nothing was going to stop this year’s Northern Nevada Pride Festival from happening. Well, virtually nothing.
In a sad summer of Northern Nevada event cancellations, including the Reno Rodeo, the Nevada State Fair, Hot August Nights, Burning Man and so many other annual gatherings, the Pride Festival was about to become another casualty of the pandemic. But organizers decided to shift the activities on line – and make it a lot more than a virtual parade on Zoom. In the midst of the months-long quarantine, the July 25 event is even more important for the LGBTQ community this year, organizers said.
“The lockdown has been hard on everyone’s social connections and if ever there was a struggle for people who are living in hostile environments, this is it,” said YeVonne Allen, marketing director for Northern Nevada Pride. She said young people whose families haven’t accepted their sexual orientation — or gender identity — may face rejection and hostility while sheltering in place and physically cut off from their friends and support networks. “Sometimes, even without a lockdown, Pride events serve as the one time a year a person gets to be themselves out in public and be comfortable,” she said. The group suggested various methods of making the event safer, but the city won’t risk granting permits to any large gatherings during the pandemic.
“But we still wanted to do something,” Allen said. “We wanted to be able to have people who may be isolated to be able to watch and still feel they are part of a community. That’s the goal, to provide that sense of community.” Northern Nevada Pride is teaming up with Loaded TV, a local production company, to create a two-hour program that will be streamed on social media and Pride’s website. “There will be speeches, performances and information for people attending during the first hour,” she said. “The second hour we’re going to have a dance party. We have some DJs we’re lining up and everybody will have a chance to celebrate Pride with a nationwide dance party live-streamed from their homes.”
They’ve had some practice in the virtual space. Last year, Northern Nevada Pride also live-streamed the event and people all over the country who couldn’t come to the festival in Wingfield Park attended via their electronic devices. “Thousands of people logged on to participate virtually. So we feel pretty confident that people will be able to get involved. Leading up to the event, we’ll also have some mini-virtual events; we’ll be handing out Pride flags and things of that sort.”
Sponsorships are offered, although the amount requests have been lowered this year in keeping with the reduced expenses. “Our sponsorship page is updated, so if anyone goes to the site they’ll be able to get commercial spots, a ticker on the bottom of the page and things like that. They can still show their support. Individuals, for a minimal sponsorship amount, will have their names listed in the credits at the end of the program,” she said.
Allen said the program was kept at two hours to make it concise and maintain energy. This year’s emphasis, she said, is on “inclusivity and Black Lives Matter. We are making sure we are focusing on the roots of Pride, while still bringing people together for a celebration. It is important to highlight that transgender women of color started the Pride movement as we know it today.”
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Christopher Street Liberation Day, now an annual celebration in most American cities and many smaller communities. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, the seminal event of the Gay Rights movement. That movement and all the Pride events that followed, started with Stonewall, which itself was sparked by two people of color. The riots were protests against police brutality towards LGBTQ people and were spearheaded by Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a gay liberation and transgender rights activist.
“We want to honor that legacy,” Allen said. Northern Nevada Pride is a program to raise funds for Our Center, the region’s only LGBTQ community center, at 1745 S. Wells. Ave. Last year’s Northern Nevada Pride Festival and CommUNITY Parade attracted 15,000 attendees and raised more than $50,000 for the center. Pride’s mission is “to empower all members of our fun-loving community. We will bring together the LGBTQ community, allies, and businesses to promote diversity, celebrate our culture, remember our history, and advocate for our future. “
Allen said organizers hope the event will return to Wingfield Park in July 2021, when “we will be back together again to celebrate. But Pride is not just an event, or a day. Pride is within all of us. That pride can never be cancelled.”