There was no opposition and broader participation at St. Croix’s second annual Pride Parade Saturday morning in downtown Christiansted.
Unlike last year’s parade held in Frederiksted, there was no opposition on the parade route this year. There were no threatening signs or groups trying to intimidate the participants. The parade started on time and ended without so much as a homophobic slur being thrown at anyone. Public figures and a broad slice of the community, from all walks of life, came out to show their love and support for the human rights of the LGBTQ community. But only one school showed up, giving a measure of the work still to be done.
Historically, June has been recognized as Gay Pride Month around the globe and is typically celebrated to commemorate the famous Stonewall uprising. That clash began around 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan when police came in and began roughing up and arresting people on suspicion of being homosexual. The situation escalated, leading to two days of riots and the beginning of the Gay Pride movement.
The riots gave birth to Pride celebrations around the world and highlighted rights that were denied to gay men and women for too long. The first Pride Parade was held a year later, on June 28, 1970, to commemorate the day of the police raid and the day LGBTQ individuals stood up.
Locally, native members of the LGBTQ community have joined in solidarity with transplants from the mainland U.S. to create a space where people can express themselves and share their stories. One L.U.V., an organization formed by St. Croix students at the University of the Virgin Islands has evolved into a non-profit and was among one of the troupes that participated in the parade.
President of One L.U.V., Jamilia Edwards said she “was nervous in the beginning, but became more comfortable after a while as there was no protest.” Edwards said she believes that there was less opposition this year because residents were experiencing the second Pride parade in Virgin Islands history and had already gone through the first.
Edwards expressed that media coverage leading up to this year’s parade wasn’t as antagonistic and didn’t create an atmosphere where residents felt that negativity towards the LGBTQ community was warranted. One L.U.V. hopes that next year’s parade will bring out more Crucian members of the LGBTQ community and allies.
Good Hope-Country Day School’s organization called Prism Q&A also participated in the parade. Advisors Michael Armendariz and Lea Wilson facilitated the school’s appearance at the parade. Imani Evans, the founding president of the organization is also a graduate of Good Hope-Country Day School.
Evans also discussed the hard work the group put in leading up to the parade and shared that when they participated in the parade last year, there were officials at the school who did not support the group. Good-Hope Country Day was also the only school entry to participate, and Evans hopes that more schools will participate in 2020 and begin creating similar clubs for students in high school who need a safe space to be themselves.
Evans expressed joy for the opportunity to be a part of the group as an alumna saying, “we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon regardless of who supports us or not, it’s our right to meet and celebrate and give back to the LGBTQ space.” The group has since elected their third president, Dominique Elizee, who will be coordinating events on campus and is prepared to participate in the third annual Gay Pride parade.
St. Croix Pride, Inc. organized the event and plans to alternate the parade between Frederiksted and Christiansted. According to Bob Palmatier, president of STX Pride, the second annual parade was bigger than the first, with more spectators and a bump in participants. “The Governor was a part of the parade for the second time and came down from Government House to greet us with the First Lady,” he said. He added that everything leading up to the parade exceeded his expectations.
When asked why he believes there was less public backlash from the previous year, Palmatier noted there was much more positive media coverage and acknowledged that sentiments may be changing slowly towards LGBTQ rights in the Virgin Islands.
He also says that he believes that people were more welcoming and eager to understand what Pride was about, adding that major sponsorships from businesses and organizations such as AARP and the Virgin Islands Daily News have helped to establish a more positive experience for participants and observers. Palmatier said he’s really excited for the future for the organization and is pleased that the parade started and ended on time; he hopes that timeliness will be the hallmark of future events for the organization.
Participants on Saturday all appeared happy, and there was an air of freedom in how parade participants and those watching the parade celebrated their pride. After the parade there was a block party organized by STX Pride, Inc and the owners of the Courtyard Juice and Fitness Center with a special surprise performance by native Crucian artist, Bush Tea. Bush Tea has performed internationally alongside artists such as The Weeknd, Popcaan, and Princess Nokia.
When asked why it was so important for her to support the LGBTQ community Bush Tea said, “This goes beyond supporting the LGBTQ community, it’s about supporting people, our right to love in peace, to be included and to be happy.” She added she wants to use her talents “to educate the public and to get people to help each other thrive, because otherwise humanity just functions like crabs in a bucket.”