By Cara Williams,
Special to the AFRO
I became an ally today.
It started slowly. I walked through flamboyant floats, outrageous outfits, and striking men dressed in drag. I wondered to myself: “Is that what Pride is all about.”
I learned today, it is so much more.
Though I am not gay, people may assume because I wear my hair very short. I attended the Gay Pride march in New York City this week.
When I arrived at the Pride March, joyful, confident people, saluting me by wishing me “Happy Pride,” greeted me.
I responded back with the same.
Enormous, even ostentatious floats with dance music pulsed through the parade route.
People dressed in every form of attire imaginable. While others were clothed in…well, not so much.
The atmosphere exuded freedom, gratitude and love.
I marched beside Efrain Sarmiento, a colleague from Latin America who is gay. He met my eyes with tears in his, saying “this is about our freedom.”
In some parts of Latin America, being gay is legal but also deadly.
The Regional Information Network on Violence reports on violence against LGBTQ+ community in Latin America and the Caribbean. Four LGBTQ+ people are murdered every day in Latin America and the Caribbean according to data collected for an inaugural report on the region’s LGBTQ+ community.
Efrian’s tears were a reflection of his freedom, as a Hispanic gay man, to strut down the streets of New York in hot pink shorts and high heels without being harassed or assaulted.
Every nation and nationality “represented” at New York City’s Pride Parade.
Jewish, Asian, Black, Hispanic, Indian, and every other ethnicity imaginable were loud, proud and present.
The common denominator was love.
Marching on my other side was a Jewish woman in her twenties, the sister of a Hearst employee.
A shirt that proudly said “QUEER” draped around her waist in the bold colors of Pride.
She became giddy when she spotted a fan displaying the Star of David, as we marched along.
LGBTQ+ rights in Israel are among the most developed in the Middle East. However, orthodox Jews consider identification as gay as an abomination and lesbianism as lewd and promiscuous. Reconstructionist and reformed Judaism does not hold strict views on LGBTQ+ identity and allow same-sex marriage.
“I was proud to see the Jewish community represented,” she said of one of the most anticipated marches in New York City.
The Black community was front and center in planning, participating and celebrating Pride Week. From Andre Thomas, co-chair of the 2022 Pride Festival to Lil’ Kim, LaVerne Cox, Dominique Morgan and others, Black leadership was represented and visible in all parts of the New York Pride experience. The same was true in Washington, D.C. and other major cities across the country this year.
The sober helped the drunken marchers. Native New Yorkers helped out-of-towners.
The City Police Department watched over the parade like a big brother watching over a sibling at a school dance. In prior years, city police marched in the parade itself, but this year, organizers requested uniformed officers refrain from participation.
No disrespect or harassment unfolded as the parade flowed seamlessly through city streets. No fights or arguments erupted along the two-mile march and no one was out of place.
Volunteers dispensed water and brilliant smiles along the parade route.
I felt like an ally of the LGBTQ+ community for the first time. The experience of the march freed a part of me. Before today, I would not have walked so boldly beside gay men and lesbian women.
I would not have been available to witness their declarations of freedom and right to love with whom they want to love. I had always told myself, “that’s none of your business.”
However, today, I hugged my new friends, those LGBTQ+ co-workers I knew from my company and others I met along the parade route.
As we said our goodbyes, a small voice inside of me said, “I’ll be back next year.”
Today, my company stood up and made history. As for me, I made it my business to stand with the LGBTQ+ community.
Because, it is my business.
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