This year, the Pride Festival in Jersey City celebrates its 16th anniversary. That alone would be a good reason to celebrate, but recent national events have lent the occasion even more importance and resonance.
Over the last 15 years, the LGBT community has grown significantly in Hudson County. Some counts suggest a 10 to 15 percent increase since the 1990s may actually be an underestimate. In June, more than 10,000 people came to downtown Jersey City to show their support for the LGBT community in the wake of the murder of 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., suggesting there is an even larger population here than most people thought.
But if people think Jersey City is immune to the violence that has plagued LGBT communities elsewhere, or that the era of abuse once prevalent in Hudson County has ceased, the burning of a gay rainbow flag outside a hair salon on Montgomery and Grove streets in late July might be a wakeup call, and one more reason for people to come out to this year’s festival. The owner found the flag when she came to work.
“We want to remember Orlando, but we want to do so in a way that brings the community together.” – Eduardo Baez
Many issues still unresolved
Since Orlando, the mantra for many leaders of the LGBT community has been “fight hate with love.”
The organizers of this year’s Jersey City Pride Festival, Eduardo Baez and Michael Billy, paid a visit to the salon last week to offer their support.
The annual festival is part of Pride Week, which celebrates the diversity of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people. Baez, co-founder of “Gayborhood Jersey City,” said: “We want to highlight how diverse Jersey City is.”
While last year, the festival celebrated a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that made same sex marriage legal throughout the United States, in early August the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the LGBT community in regards to bathroom use, a development that should also tell the community that the struggle for equal rights is not yet complete.
This year, Baez said, the festival will expand its offerings even more. The festival takes on even greater significance, partly because of Orlando, but also because of the presidential election. Some believe that certain hard-fought gains are at risk, and the festival will serve as a rally for gay rights.
Baez said Ryan White Funding, which are federal grants that are given to communities to help people with HIV and AIDS, has been severely cut back over the last decade, and limits the ability of local caregivers to help those most in need.
The election also puts at potential risk many of the gains that the LGBT community won under Obamacare.
While Orlando allowed the LGBT community to come together in a way it had not previously, many of the other issues, he said, need to be highlighted and gains protected.
“But we want this to be a joyful festival,” Baez said. “We want to remember Orlando, but we want to do so in a way that brings the community together. We want to dance and we want to celebrate what we have.”
Jersey City has its own identity
Last year’s event, held at the Newark Avenue site for the first time, exceeded expectations. Fire officials estimated as many as 10,000 people attended the festival itself.
He said the turnout for the Orlando vigil in June suggests that there may be an even larger turnout this year.
The festival is co-hosted by Gayborhood Jersey City and Humanity Pride Productions. In conjunction with the weeklong series of events, both the city of Jersey City and Hudson County will hold flag raisings.
While there is no real way know how many LGBT people are living in Jersey City, estimates made prior to the last census estimate more than 600,000 living in the New York City/Jersey City area. Over the last few years, Jersey City has been seen as one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the nation.
Mayor Steven Fulop was among the first mayors in the state to perform civil unions prior to the legalization of same sex marriage.
Baez said the new movement is about young people who step up and do something.
A youth movement starts
Baez said he was particularly happy about this year’s launching of Teen Pride, an interactive art, spoken word, and music festival featuring LGBTQ and ally teen artists and performers ages 13-19 at Art House Productions, 136 Magnolia Ave., on Aug. 25 from 7 to10 p.m.
The theme of this year’s Teen Pride is Gender Euphoria. Proceeds from this event will go to the victims’ families of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.
“Last year I went to Pride only to see a crowd of adult disgender men,” said Siena Malmad, 14-year-old Teen Pride founder. “It disappointed me, being young and gender nonconforming. I realized soon after that the only space there seems to have been made in the LGBT community for teens is suicide hotlines. I don’t want the help and support we receive to only be given when it’s too late. I see the gay and trans community is under siege from hate crimes and suicide. Gender dysphoria can’t be the only option for LGBTQ kids. To see an impactful, healthy community grow and blossom we must create safe spaces and encourage gender euphoria in trans and nonbinary kids/teens. To support the community we must create a non-intimidating environment where young people can feel free from judgment and just be creative. That’s what Teen Pride is for.”
Expecting great things this year
The festival itself will take place in the Newark Avenue pedestrian triangle made up of Grove Street, Erie and Bay streets on Aug. 27.
“We’ve worked a lot with local businesses, and the festival will also feature a number of tables,” Baez said.
The vendors tables will be situated so as to not to interfere with existing businesses on the street. He said a number of restaurants now have tables in front of their establishments, adding to the café-like setting. Organizers have also located festival food vendors on one sidestreet away from the brick and mortar establishments.
“We also tried to find food vendors that do not compete with what’s already here,” Baez said.
The festival will take place from noon to 8 p.m. on Newark Avenue, between Grove Street and Jersey Avenue, and will feature a number of performance areas.
“We’re going to have two stages,” he said.
The main stage will have a number of featured performers during the day. These include Harmonica Sunbeam; The Queen of Comedy; AB Soto, a visual performance artist and musician; Laura Cheadle, a singer described as having a smoky blues and soul voice; We Are Larger Than Life, called the original boyband featuring singing, dancing and costumes; performer Fernando Delas Carnevali and Joe Hemsing whose alter ego is “Joey Flash,” a well-established performer on the New York scene.
Schedule of events for Pride Week
Tuesday, Aug. 16 – Hudson County flagraising at 5:30 p.m., 595 Newark Ave. in Jersey City.
Thursday, Aug. 18 – Jersey City Flag Raising, press conference and meet and greet mixer, 4:30 p.m. 280 Grove St.
Friday, Aug. 19 – Hudson Pride Connections Center Pride Youth Event (closed event).
Saturday, Aug. 20 – Second Annual Jersey City Pride Bar Crawl, 5 to 9 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 21 – Jersey City Takeover Pride Edition, Porto Lounge, 286 First St., 5 p.m. to midnight.
Monday, Aug. 22 – Roman Nose Pride Aperitivo, 125 Newark Ave., 7 p.m. to midnight.
Tuesday, Aug. 23 – Pride Volunteer Appreciation Event (Closed Event)
Wednesday, Aug. 24 – Corkscrew Bar Roman Toga Pride Party, 8 p.m., 61 Congress St. (No Cover).
Thursday, Aug. 25 – Teen Pride – Gender Euphoria, 136 Magnolia Ave., 7 to 10 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 26 – Clutch The Pearls – A Comedy & Variety Show, at Transmission, 150 Bay St., 6 to 10 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 27 – The Pride Festival, Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, noon to 8 p.m.
For more information go to https://jerseycitypride.com.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.