The Reclaim Pride Coalition rejects corporate co-optation, denounces imperialism and state violence, and seeks to center the most marginalized in our community. They are calling a Queer Liberation March this Sunday. Left Voice spoke with Colin Ashley.
What is Reclaim Pride?
Reclaim Pride is a coalition of groups and activists who for the last few years have been working to reclaim Pride by removing institutions of oppression from the main parade, including the police and corporations. The official pride march has become more and more exclusive, transforming what once was a political celebration of LGBTQ+ people into a day-long dance party that commodified queer existence and substituted corporations, politicians, and the police for grassroot queer organizations and queer communities—especially the most marginalized who often feel excluded from the main Pride parade.
The Reclaim Pride Coalition initially formed out of the resistance contingent of the 2017 Pride Parade. Members of the resistance contengent were disgusted by the fact that Pride continued to be a force of pinkwashing that erased queer issues and queer struggles while our rights were increasingly being stripped from us—Trans people in particular and other oppressed and marginalized communities were being attacked under the new administration. Since that first contingent was formed in 2017, the Reclaim Pride coalition has grown stronger in its mission to create a Pride march that rejects corporate greed and co-optation, that denounces imperialism and state violence, and seeks to center the most marginalized in our community. Beyond creating the alternative Queer Liberation March, the goal of the coalition is to rebuild a movement that is dedicated to intersectionality. The building of the alternative march has been a form of Praxis.
It is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. What is your vision of Stonewall’s legacy?
The radical legacy of the Stonewall is that of resistance. It is a legacy of communal self-determination and “fight back” that began with opposition to state violence—specifically against police brutality. It is about the legacy of Marsh P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major—the courage of the most marginalized to not just fight against massive forces of oppression but to also struggle against those who in theory were part of the community but would marginalize them as well. The legacy of Stonewall is about remembering that the first gay Pride march went by the Women’s House of Detention and marchers shouted “Free Our Sisters! Free Ourselves.” Joan Bird and Afeni Shakur, two defendants in the Panther 21 case, were being detained there as part of a conspiracy against freedom fighters in the struggle for Black Liberation. This is the legacy of stonewall that we must reclaim.
What are the biggest problems you see with Pride as it is now?
The biggest problem is an overall pinkwashing that produces cultural amnesia. Fascism is growing globally. White supremacy is on the rise in the US and the wealth disparity between the 1% and the rest of us is increasing. Many of the folks who woke up wondering how Trump won the last election are the same folks who see nothing wrong with Pride as it is. The official Pride parade erases our own history of fighting back and it teaches people that their oppressors, like the cops and the corporations, are their friends.
In the past, many Pride parades have been disrupted by people denouncing police violence. What do you think about the recent apology by the NYPD?
Commissioner O’Neill’s apology for the police raid on Stonewall was seen by many of the most privileged in our community as a “step in the right direction.” This fails to take a realistic view of history and the current reality of many folks in our community. The apology was hollow and mentioned that nothing like that would ever happen in 2019. However, Black and Brown queer spaces are still overly policed and targeted by the state. Trans women of color are criminalized for sex-work, whether they are sex workers or not. The use of condoms as evidence of sex work disproportionately allows the police to terrorize young queers of color. O’Neill’s apology not only ignores the full history of the oppression of queer people at the hands of the NYPD—it completely ignores our current reality. What is an apology if the person apologizing still has their boot on your neck? His apology is a slap in the face. The presence of police at Pride has always been a slap in the face.
How can people get involved in Reclaim Pride?
Come to the Queer Liberation March this Sunday. The march will start at 7th Avenue south of Christopher Street at 9:30 am. We will go one block up 7th Avenue, take a right on West 10th Street over to 6th Avenue and then march all the way up 6th Avenue into Central Park. You can also meet up with the March at Bryant Park by 11 am. The march will end with a Rally in Central Park’s Great Lawn. You are welcome to join us here at any time. At Reclaim Pride, you will be able to sign up to help us build a radical coalition that continues to grow in its political vision.