Justine Lee on the NYC Pride Parade

New York, N.Y. The Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar that had become the core of New York City’s underground gay community. June 28th, 1969, a date remembered as the start of The Stonewall Riots. A year after Stonewall, the first Gay Pride March was held in honor of the riots. Since then, there has been one every year. There is a Pride Parade in New York City because New York City is the heart of diversity. There is such a diverse range of people from all around the world, of all different cultures, beliefs, ideals, orientations, etc. The different values that exist in the Pride Celebration that should be promoted all year long are love, equality, unity, and freedom of expression.

Our foundation, The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, marched in the parade for the first time this year because of the Orlando nightclub shooting. It happened only a week or two prior to the parade. The mass shooting was at a gay nightclub and was considered a hate crime. Single shooter, Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was known as the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people and deadliest terrorist attack since the attacks on September 11, 2001. So, the parade wasn’t only about celebrating pride, but also in memory of those lost in Orlando.

What I liked most about the parade was the unity; everyone coming together having the time of their lives, dancing, cheering, and spreading happiness. I loved the atmosphere and vibe during the whole parade because it gave me this warm and happy feeling. As corny as that sounds, it’s the truth. I loved seeing smiles on people’s faces and seeing such an immense amount of people come together. As a young global leader, I hope to see more of that and to help play a part in unifying people together. There was honestly nothing that I didn’t like about the parade; I had such a good time.

I have attended the pride parade before, but both times have been from the side. This was my first time actually participating in the parade itself. Since I’ve already attended the parade before, it wasn’t any different from what I expected. It was just as fun, loud, and lively as the previous times that I attended the parade. I can honestly say from experience that watching the parade as opposed to walking the parade are not the same. The feeling you get from watching the parade from the sides and seeing all of the different actors is fun and all, but you aren’t getting the complete experience. This complete experience and feel is something that you can only get by walking in the parade. Being on the sides, you can’t truly see how much love, passion, and unity there is. You can’t visualize the smiles and bursts of excitement of each individual. In addition, walking the parade gives this sense of closeness. To be surrounded by the warmth and love of the people around you block after block is such an immense and gratifying feeling.

My biggest take away from the parade was being able to participate in celebrating pride as well as being able to honor the victims from the Orlando shooting. The parade helped me develop as a leader in the sense that I want to continue to take part in bringing people together, making a change, and creating a safer environment for people to feel free. I want people to be able to express themselves in ways only they can and not feel caged in.

Heritage of Pride (HOP) is a nonprofit organization that organizes the NYC Pride Parade as well as the other official LGBT Pride events. This year’s theme was, “Equality Needs You.” The Pride Parade is always held on a Sunday. Next year’s Pride Parade will be held on June 25, 2017. Next year’s theme is still undecided.

There were some obstacles that the foundation needed to overcome to join the Parade. The biggest obstacle was being able to participate. Due to the Orlando Shooting, a few weeks prior, there were those who were worried about our safety, and didn’t feel that we should participate in the parade. However, this parade wasn’t just about celebrating love, equality, unity, and freedom of expression. It was for our friends, family, those who have lost loved ones in the past because it was a crime to be gay, and those who lost their lives in the Orlando Shooting. We handled the situation in the best possible way with professionalism and consideration. We understood why there were concerns but we took it upon ourselves to go with much deliberation and thought.

Justine Lee
My name is Justine Lee. As of now, I have an A.A degree in Liberal Arts. In the Fall of 2016, I will be attending New York City College of Technology pursuing my B. Tech in Communication Design with a specialization in graphic design. Currently, I am a Communications & Social Media, Photography & Videography Intern at the J. Luce Foundation.

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