Energy was high, rainbow flags were flying and smiles were plastered on peoples’ faces on Sunday during the pride march and festival in New Paltz.
“Looking Back, Marching Forward” was this years theme, chosen to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
“The theme this year honors both our heritage but also speaks to that while it has been 50 years and we have made great strides, there is still a long way to go in areas of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia and that the fight continues,” Jeff Rindler, the executive director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, said.
The Stonewall riots were led by the LGBTQ community where they decided to fight back when the New York Police Department attempted to raid the Stonewall Inn, a safe haven for the LGBTQ community.
“The riots were started by mostly trans women of color, and of course everyone joined in and throughout history it is not always read that way,” said Rindler. “But as you really look at what happened it was a powerful group of trans women of color that started what we now know as the LGBTQ movement.”
One way that the march honored the 50th anniversary is by the planning committee’s choice of Grand Marshals, Denise Oliver-Velez and Rae Leiner, two people of color who have done powerful work in the LGBTQ community.
Oliver-Velez is a contributing editor at Daily Kos and a former SUNY New Paltz professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies. She is being honored for her work in the Civil Rights, women’s and HIV/AIDS movements.
Rae Leiner is the co-founder and co-director of the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center. Leiner has more than 15 years of experience in the non-profit field and doing social justice work.
“[Being Grand Marshal] means a lot of things,” Leiner said. “Just visibility of queer people of color who are in positions of leadership, that’s very few and far between. I know that in order for there to be change we have to have young people who are stepping up. I want to help cultivate the next source of leadership and people who have passion for the work.”
The day started off in the parking lot of New Paltz Middle School where people of all ages gathered and connected with one another while waiting for the march to start. During this time music played and people danced, with others slowly trickling in and registering for the march. The Hudson Valley LGTBQ Community Center chooses to call it a march and not a parade because of the civil rights background behind it, according to Rindler.
“There is nothing but inclusion here, each year we get bigger and better,” Kiley J Winn, the march’s host, yelled while hyping up the crowd.
Winn has hosted the march and festival several times before and for most people who were in attendance it was not their first time participating in a pride march.
“It’s nice to get out and be with the community,” said first-time attendee Vince Rea, a SUNY New Paltz alum.
There were groups of friends participating in the march as well as families but one of the largest assortment of people there were the many different organizations. The Baden-Powell Service Association, a scouting organization for youth of all genders, was in attendance with their scouts. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have always been exclusive, only welcoming one gender, and the BPSA comes to the pride march to show their scouts that diversity and inclusivity is a large part of who they are, according to Rover Jeanie.
“For our church it’s really important that we welcome people from all walks of life, we have many same sex couples in our church and we want people to know they’re welcome,” said Ann Lawson of the Christ Episcopal Church of Poughkeepsie.
When the march began it moved down Main Street where people were on the sidewalks waving and hollering in support. The march then ended in Hasbrouck Park where the festival was taking place. The festival had music and different types of booths consisting of food, local vendors and organizations.
“What we always hope to accomplish is to raise awareness, “ Rindler said, “ but also to bring the community together, to celebrate the work that we’ve done and to celebrate how far we’ve come.”