Editor's note: Picture this Post asked two of its contributors – Steve Starr and Joseph Anthony Rulli – who are longtime attendees of the yearly Pride Parade to comment on this year's event. The following are their personal observations.
All photos courtesy of Steve Starr and Joseph Anthony Rulli.
Joseph Anthony Rulli: 2017’s Pride Parade showed the result of a year’s worth of planning, the garnering of the benefits of past Parades since 1970 and the patient march of progress in equality, justice and legitimacy. It has been a long road since that first march in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and other places after the 1969 Stonewall Riots as it was, metaphorically, a long parade route this year!
Extended for the last two years, re-routed a bit because of street construction – we are talking about Chicago, remember – the parade was a four-hour showcase of determination and chest-swelling even though it was an overly commercial and politically-usurped display for corporations and politicians to jump on the bandwagon… or floats, as it were!
Stonewall, 1969 – It Hasn’t Always Been A Party
Along with the perennial partying display of color, costumes, dancing and gyrating, mind-thumping music, joy, drinking, et cetera, there was (as had happened in 2016) a beautiful showcase of the heart-wrenching: the pictures of the people who were killed in the Orlando slayings passed by. In addition, pictures on placards of several historical figures (from Michelangelo Buonarroti to Harvey Milk) who were “other than” heterosexual. And as in Parades past, parents with signs of love for their children and Lambda Legal’s small signs celebrating LGBTQ legislative victories over the past decade.
“I marched in Chicago’s first Pride Parade in 1971. There were just over a hundred of us and we were really scared shitless as we chanted gay power! I could never have imagined the parade to grow to the level that it’s at now. I feel like a proud father watching its children carry on the tradition that I helped start.”
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Parade happens every year. And every year it grows as an element of celebration and controversy, curiosity and condemnation in the city. And each year it reminds us of how far we’ve come regarding our many and varied social issues as well as the distance we still have to go for true peace and harmony in our city, state and nation.
J.D. Van Slyke, Center on Halsted Volunteer and Special Events Manager comments,
“This was my first time marching in the parade. In the past, I have always been on the sidelines where I was not really able to internalize just how many people come out to support and celebrate the LGBTQ community. For me, it was powerful to see the crowds stretch the entire two and a half miles. At the risk of sounding cliché, the whole experience made me incredibly proud to live in a community and in a time where I can be myself unapologetically.”
We’ll get there someday – it’ll be messy and noisy and annoying at times. But we keep moving forward and we do it together, just as any parade moves when each float follows the one ahead of it.
Steve Starr: Spirits were high in front of the Center on Halsted for Chicago's 48th Annual Pride Parade with, both sides of the street ten people deep. It was sunny day with temperatures in the 70s — a comfortable day to chat with friends and neighbors wearing Pride apparel, rainbow-painted faces and pride tattoos. Chicago and Illinois politicians took the lead with Mayor Emanuel shaking hands on both sides of the street. Notable appearances included Senator Tammy Duckworth, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Congressman Mike Quigley, former governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Board President Toni Prekwinkle and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas. The 2018 Illinois gubernatorial rivals were all there — Ameya Pawar, J.B. Pritzger and Chris Kennedy. Notably absent were the State of Illinois Senators and Representatives laboring over a budget in Springfield two years in the making.
Corporations and Grassroots Organizations Show Pride
This year brought a large anti-Trump/Pence contingent called Refuse Fascism with supportive cheering on both sides of the street where I was standing. I was reminded of the grassroots flavor of the Pride Parade in past years, when organizations sprung up on the fly to respond to critical gay rights issues. AIDS support organizations have all but disappeared, with a stronger presence of LGBTQ human service nonprofits in higher numbers. Corporations were highly visible, with LGBTQ employees and friends marching for Groupon, Orbitz, United, Boeing, ComEd, KPMG and Astellas, to name a few. The nightclubs and health clubs had the customary speedo clad dancing men and drag queens. Theater groups About Face Theater and Broadway in Chicago were there, with a convertible transporting the “Golden Girls" from Hell In A Handbag Productions.
High Turnout at 2017 Pride
Attendance seemed as robust as ever. One year ago, the killing of 49 people in Orlando at the gay nightclub Pulse brought the sobering hyper- vigilance of a large police presence. This year was no exception, with officers doing backpack and bag searches at popular entry points. I saw two men dressed in swat team apparel — bomb squad specialists for the CPD – and I thanked them for giving up their Sunday to be at the Parade.
There were more children at the parade than I have seen in past years. Parents and children from Nettlehorst Elementary School, Near North Montessori and Chicago Waldorf School had large contingents with young children on scooters and rainbow painted faces. In a year that has brought discomforting rhetoric from U.S. elected officials directed toward LGBTQ people, I sensed a community of support enjoying a day to celebrate diversity in all its manifestations. It felt good to be in a city that welcomes ALL of its citizens.
Every year on the last Sunday of June
Joseph Anthony Rulli is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Chicago since the fall of 2006. A 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BA, History) and a 1992 graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology (MDiv) he taught Social Studies, Religion, Philosophy and History at the high school level. He began writing as a career upon his arrival to his second city and has had two short stories published, a stage play performed, an electronic tour book published online and The Chicago Haymarket Affair, his first print book released in October.