Nicholas Vazquez on the NYC Pride Parade

New York, N.Y. Every year the world celebrates the culture of the LGBT community which consists of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It all began on Saturday June 28, 1969 when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning persons rioted. After the riots, the police began to raid on the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The Stonewall Inn is not just a bar but a mesmerizing landmark that represents the struggles and courage the LGBT community endured to have equal rights. This bar was popular for having the most people in the gay community such as transvestites, transgender, feminine young men, hustlers, and homeless youth. It was a safe haven of hope and gratitude that will soon be the cause of this national celebration of life called the pride parade.

Marching for the first time at the 2016 pride parade with The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation showed me that everyone is there to value the ideas of Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Participation. Be present and live in the moment no matter who you are. If you have loved ones who are gay, straight, bisexual or transgender, celebrate for them and show them love. Even if you are straight, it is still just a sexual orientation and the Pride Parade is about cherishing love, life and hope. The J. Luce Foundation, where I am currently a public relations young global leader, marched on behalf of the tragic and unthinkable mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. It was an event that touched so many and shocked the world; it was as if the earth stopped moving. We marched with all of our young global leaders and many others and were led by our amazing mentor Jim Luce. I myself marched for my brother, cousins and aunts who are gay and lesbian; I felt I was walking in their honor and it was such an uplifting sensation.

Some have asked me what I liked most and least about the 2016 pride parade. To be honest, the only thing I didn’t like was the heat. It was very hot and I got sunburned, but I barely even noticed it because I had so much fun. I loved the sense of togetherness everyone had; we were all a team working together as one. I have been to the pride parade before, but this was my first time actually marching in the parade. It was very active and I saw many things that quickly caught my eye. I felt a sense of accomplishment participating in the event with everyone. When you are standing on the sides watching the festival from the outside, it is very different. You don’t really get to feel the life of the parade and you may miss many things. Marching in the parade makes you feel special and strong to be honoring friends, family and lost souls who were taken away too early because of who they loved. My biggest take away from the parade was being there in honor of not only the Orlando victims, but all of the victims throughout history who have experienced some sort of hate.

I believe everyone should attend this parade because it is so much more than just celebrating being open about one’s sexuality. It is time to appreciate friends and family for who they are and to spread the international message that “it’s okay to be different” because being different is being unique. With all great things comes an obstacle, and we did experience some roadblocks ourselves. There were people who didn’t accept homosexuality and thus expressed their feelings towards our young global leaders and tried to make us rethink about marching in the parade. This didn’t stop us, and we beat the heat and the negative views and opinions of others as we walked from 38th street to Christopher Street in Manhattan, N.Y. Happiness… that was the word of the day for me after I did my part and walked with pride.

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