From politicians to drag queens and social activists, members of the Queens LGBT community and their allies marched down 37th Avenue to pop tunes and chants for marriage equality in the 19th-annual Queens Pride Parade in Jackson Heights Sunday.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who is openly gay, said “19 looks like it may be the best Queens Pride ever.”
People of all ages, genders and races walked from 85th Street to 75th Street down 37th Avenue, which was painted with a lavender line next to the normal yellow line for the occasion, while a diverse group of thousands watched behind police lines and occasionally grooved to the music playing from the floats.
Headed by elected officials, including Queens’ gay Councilmen Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), participants came from social groups such as the Las Buenas Amigas Latina Lesbians of New York, the American Veterans for Equal Rights New York and the AIDS Center of Queens County. Numerous drag queens wearing feathery headdresses and outrageous dresses marched and danced down the streets, often to Rihanna and Lady Gaga songs.
“Marching in the Queens Pride Parade is always a cause for great celebration and pride,” Van Bramer said. “Pride in this great community and its fighting spirit.”
Rich Wandel, who marched with the New York Bear Den, a group for gay men, said the parade is always fun.
“It’s a beautifully diverse community,” Wandel said, “and it’s wonderful.”
The politicians took a moment out of the parade to remember Julio Rivera, who was beaten to death at a Jackson Heights playground in 1990, and Edgar Garzon, who was attacked and killed in 2001 after leaving a Roosevelt Avenue bar in Jackson Heights. Rivera’s family attended the event and was recognized by the elected officials. Quinn said the Queens LGBT community’s struggle for equal rights came out of what happened to Rivera.
Dromm said while they were there to march for marriage equality, it was also important to remember that when the parade began 19 years ago, the marchers were fighting for the most basic of civil rights.
“In those days, nobody wanted to speak up,” Dromm said.
Visitors to the parade came from Jackson Heights and all across Queens. Brenda Oquendo, 44, of Ozone Park, said she attends almost every year.
“It’s a celebration of gay pride,” Oquendo said. “People being who they are and who they want to be.”
Francisco Monsanto, 53, from Deer Park, L.I., shared her sentiments.
“This is my first time and I didn’t expect I’d have so much fun,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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