by Julia Stier
This past weekend, crowds flocked to the annual LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood on June 8th and 9th in a celebration of love, inclusion, and acceptance.
A true Los Angeles tradition, the first parade took place on June 28th, 1970, and was the “world’s first permitted parade advocating for gay rights” according to the LA Pride website. Established by the non-profit organization Christopher Street West (CSW), the parade served as a response to the Stonewall Rebellion that occurred on Christopher Street in New York City the year before, when members of the LGBTQ community fought back against police who had raided the Stonewall Inn. The rebellion is considered to have sparked the start of the gay liberation movement. CSW has produced the parade and festival every year since.
This year’s festival showcased many LGBTQIA+ artists and musicians, and included a Sunday morning parade down Santa Monica Blvd.
Sunday afternoon’s revelers waded through a party even before reaching the festival entrance. The street was closed to cars, and Katy Perry blasted over the speakers as festival attendees enjoyed the free festivities as a part of the “Pride on the Blvd.,” with vendor booths and pop-up bars, including one representing the historic lesbian bar, The Palms, which closed back in 2013.
Inside the festival gates – with a domain that ran the length of San Vicente Blvd., between Santa Monica Blvd. and Melrose Ave. – the party really got started. Two stages hosted a series of performers, and booths offering food, drinks, and merchandise lined the boulevard.
The LA Pride Festival, in collaboration with Club Papi and Bash LA, brought to the Park Music Stage artists such as Shaun Ross, Vincint, Cupcakke, Sir Babygirl, Sateen, Miss Vanjie, The Veronicas, Years & Years and Meghan Trainor over the course of the weekend.
Also at the festival, artists including Kodie Shane, Pabllo Vittar, Cristian Castro, Amara Negra, Dej Loaf, Ashanti, and even a Selena Tribute Band performed on the Plaza Stage.
Jess Origliasso, who is openly queer and one-half of the Australian pop-duo The Veronicas, took a break in the middle of their Sunday evening set to acknowledge her “beautiful, visible community.” She thanked the LA LGBT community for providing a safe space for the duo to express themselves. “When we started making music, the community here embraced us entirely, and it pushed us forward to be the artists that we are today.”
Near the Park Music Stage, the historic bar the Black Cat set up shop. Established in 1966 – and declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2008 – the Black Cat made its mark on LGBT history when it played host to over 200 people participating in a civil demonstration in protest of the Stonewall riots.
Further down the boulevard, the Trans Galleria – hosted by the Trans Wellness Center – showcased works by trans and non-binary visual artists. Amongst the collection were bold and striking pieces by painter Danielle Paris (@danielleparisart) and several thought-provoking photographs from Kikuye Sugiyama’s AntiPatriarchal Masculinities collection.
Set apart in an alcohol-free zone, a section of the festival called #Sizzle! A Carnival of Attraction offered resource booths dedicated to health and wellness, with some particularly geared towards serving the LGBT community. There, attendees could learn about the Friends Community Center, Breathe Life Healing Center, APLA Health, and others.
Although the reveling went on long into the night, artists and participants alike acknowledged that the Pride festival is about more than just the partying or the performances. It’s about creating a safe space to celebrate a community that still, even today, faces discrimination. As one attendee, Matticus, shared, “[Pride] means everything to me.”
Missed the festival? Pride events will be happening all around LA during the month of June. To learn more about upcoming Pride events, visit https://lapride.org/events/.