PRIDE ON PARADE: The Princeton Pride Parade is back this year, on June 18 at 11 a.m., for the first time in person since this 2019 inaugural event that drew 3,000 people into the streets of Princeton. (Photo courtesy of Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice)
By Donald Gilpin
The Princeton Pride Parade is back in person this year, on Saturday, June 18, starting from the Municipal Building at 400 Witherspoon Street at 11 a.m. and proceeding to the YMCA field on Paul Robeson Place for an afterparty.
Organized by the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice (BRCSJ), this year’s Pride Parade will be in person for the first time since 2019, when Princeton’s first-ever Pride Parade drew more than 3,000 people. Virtual pride parade events in the 2020 and 2021 pandemic years attracted more than 25,000 online viewers, according to BRCSJ Chief Activist Robt Martin Seda-Schreiber.
“We invite all to join us as our LGBTQIA community and their friends, allies, and families (chosen or otherwise) march, dance, roll, stroll, and sashay through the historic Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood to end up at a fabulous afterparty at the Princeton Y,” Seda-Schreiber wrote in an email. “What better way to walk the walk (both literally and figuratively) of inclusivity and intersectionality than to bring together all of our beautifully diverse folk in Princeton and the greater community!”
Leading the festivities as grand marshal of the Princeton Pride Parade will be Sesame Street’s Alan Muraoka, television and Broadway actor and director and the proprietor of Hooper’s Store on Sesame Street. Muraoka recently won the GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Children’s Programming” for Sesame Street’s Family Day episode, which introduced the first family on the show to include two gay fathers.
“I am thrilled and honored to act as grand marshal of the BRCSJ Princeton Pride Parade,” said Muraoka. “On Sesame Street we try to teach tolerance, acceptance, and love, and I am inspired by the mission and vision of all the good folks at the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice who are teaching the same values. Can’t wait to march with them and tell all our friends and fam how to get, how to get, how to get to Princeton Pride!”
Other participants in the parade will include the Parade Queen “Miss Stonewall Inn” Cissy Walken; Pride Puppets, 10-foot tall figures representing activist heroes from 50 years of LGBTQIA history; queer icons Chet Kabara and Frank Mahood, co-founder of Gay People Princeton, in matching rainbow outfits; the Philadelphia Freedom Band; and Dean Dafis, Maplewood’s first openly gay mayor, along with a number of local celebrities, including Princeton Mayor Mark Freda and State Sen. Andrew Zwicker.
Princeton Public Library (PPL) will be represented in the parade, marching with a contingent of library supporters and book lovers.
“The theme for our contingent is ‘Read with Pride,’ and we will carry a banner emblazoned with these words,” says a statement from the PPL. “We will have bookmarks to hand out along the parade route and we will make sure everyone knows that PPL supports diversity and equity, stands firmly against book banning, and is a welcoming and safe space for all of our community.”
One of the BRCSJ flag bearers, Gabriella Biello, who serves as BRCSJ queer youth advocacy community liaison, commented on the importance of the Rustin Center, which recently relocated to 12 Stockton Street in Princeton.
“We all have a home here at the center, a safe space to learn and grow and celebrate all that we are,” she said. “I was a broken child when I started getting involved with this community. Now I am a strong, confident, proud young woman. I am so grateful to be able to stand here today as my whole true self, and I cannot wait to now carry the BRCSJ flag at this extraordinary Pride event.”
One of the parade participants scheduled to speak from the YMCA stage is BRCSJ Board Member Michelle Elizabeth Brown, who intends to honor the Juneteenth holiday as well as gay pride. “As a Black queer woman it is especially significant on the eve of Juneteenth, under the banner of the BRCSJ and the intersectionality implicit in our very mission, we celebrate Pride here in Princeton,” she said. “As an African American, Rustin fought against the injustice of racism while also living under the veil of homophobia.”
She added, “This year we not only celebrate community, but we do such acknowledging that one march, one holiday, doesn’t end the work, it only inspires us to carry on.”
Emphasizing the challenges of the past year, trans activist and BRCSJ Board President Erin Worrell noted, “In a year that has seen a tremendous increase in attacks on the safety and wholeness of trans and queer youth, I’m thrilled that Princeton Pride is back in person so we can celebrate in joy and community together. I can’t wait to see everyone out on Witherspoon Street again.”