After 45 years, the Twin Cities’ Pride festival is still political
Forty-five years ago, a handful of people marched through downtown Minneapolis to mark the third anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a series of demonstrations in New York credited for jumpstarting the LGBT rights movement.
Today, that march — now a parade — and the Twin Cities Pride Festival are the largest free pride events in the country, drawing about one-third of a million people to downtown Minneapolis each year.
Decades later, the annual event hasn’t lost its political roots. This year’s theme, “Love Revolution,” is meant to resist what Amy Brockman, the external relations manager for the event’s organizer, Twin Cities Pride, says is a resurgence in a permission to hate people and act on those opinions.
“We just really want to empower people to react in a way that’s positive and just remember that what we’re about is love. We’re about supporting people loving who they love,” she said.
The past two years have been emotional for the festival and Pride celebrations across the country. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage just two days before the parade, leading to a record attendance. Last June, 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in the deadliest incidence of violence against LGBT people.
This year, Twin Cities Pride is taking extra security measures, such as blockades on the street, but plans to scale back the parade’s police presence following listening sessions with its community.
“While that made white people extra safe, it made people of color and transgender people feel less safe,” Brockman said.
The organization continues to make Pride more inclusive, introducing gender pronoun stickers this year and doing extra training with festival vendors to avoid using incorrect pronouns with attendees. There will be an “escape space” tent for people with autism and other needs to relax away from the festival crowds. Brockman, who is bisexual, said they plan to add transgender and bisexual flags to the parade’s color guard this year, in addition to the rainbow Pride and Leather Pride flags.
These are pieces to further welcome all kinds of people to the Pride festivals, which LGBT leaders say provide a safe space for people to come out and have fun with others.
“Pride is such an important experience for the community and a very important experience for people, no matter what their age, who are going through their own journeys of self-identity and figuring out who they are,” said Jeff Heine, the executive director of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, which is based in downtown Minneapolis and performs during the parade.
Heine said Pride played an important role in his own journey and today offers time to relax and connect with the community.
“If you live in the Twin Cities, no matter how you identify you can’t help but be aware of the Pride festival and celebrations,” he said.
Pride is also a tradition for Andrea Jenkins, who leads the University of Minnesota’s Transgender Oral History Project and is running for a seat on the City Council this year. Jenkins, who is a black transgender woman, said going to the festival’s Power to the People Stage is like going to a “family reunion” with friends and fellow queer people of color. For more than 15 years, the stage has been an “incubator” for artists of color at the festival, Brockman said.
“People just hang out there all day, talk and reminisce,” Jenkins said.
The political side is not lost on Jenkins, who as the parade’s grand marshal in 2015 staged a die-in on Hennepin Avenue to protest violence against her community. Even in gay spaces like Pride transgender people of color can feel lonely and marginalized, she added.
“For me, [Pride] is always a political act,” she said. “We have not achieved the outcome that I believe Pride was originally intended for, and that is fairness and equality for all people.”
This year’s grand marshal, KARE 11 anchor Jana Shortal, said Pride has changed for her over the years, from a “big, irreverent party” when she came out as gay in her mid 20s to a month-long fight for equality today. As a young person, Pride was a glimpse into a community she didn’t have access to while growing up in a small town, Shortal added.
“I had never seen anyone who was queer, bi or trans,” she said. “Pride just kind of blew my mind.”
Since then, Pride has become more mainstream, she said, drawing politicians who show support for the community and becoming “something we’re all proud of.” Now Pride’s grand marshal, Shortal said she found herself grateful for those before her who fought for equality “without a parade.”
“This ride down Hennepin will be the sweetest I’ve ever taken. And I promise you, it will be for all of you, who came before me,” she said.
If you go
What: 2017 Ashely Rukes LGBT Pride Parade
Where: Hennepin Avenue between Washington Avenue and Loring Park
When: Sunday, June 25 at 11 a.m.
What: Twin Cities Pride Festival
Where: Loring Park, 1382 Willow St.
When: June 24–25
Twin Cities Pride Events
Pride Presents: Tig Notaro with Fortune Feimster
Known for her dark humor, the “One Mississippi” actress and famed stand-up comedienne will take the stage in downtown Minneapolis with “The Mindy Project” regular Fortune Feimster.
Where: State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave.
When: Thursday, June 22 at 8 p.m.
Pride in Concert: En Vogue
En Vogue, the girl group of another generation, is headlining the Twin Cities Pride lineup this year with “America’s Got Talent” alum Brian Justin Crum, British electro-pop artist Luciana and local rockers Rebel Queens. Burlesque performer Sweetpea and her Vigilantease Collective will host the 18-plus event.
Where: Loring Park, 1382 Willow St.
When: Saturday, June 24 from 6 p.m.–10 p.m.
A 5K run is one way to prepare for the long walk of the festival. Now in its sixth year, the Rainbow Run has rainbow-clad runners dash between the Northeast Minneapolis riverfront and the festival in Loring Park.
Where: Boom Island Park, 724 Sibley St. NE
When: Sunday, June 25 at 9:30 a.m.
Pride Night at the Lynx
The Lynx are celebrating pride with a game against the Connecticut Sun. Tickets to a special section include a Lynx hat and admission to a post-game celebration with forward Rebekkah Brunson.
Where: Xcel Energy Center, 199 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul
When: Saturday, June 17 from 7 p.m.–10 p.m.
Tips from Twin Cities Pride for navigating the festival
- Come prepared. Dress for the weather, wear sunscreen and bring a water bottle, which attendees can refill throughout the festival.
- Consider transit options. Metro Transit offers a free Ride to Pride pass on Sunday, June 26. The festival also has a pick-up and drop-off area at Yale & Willow for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.
- Try biking. Bikers can park at the edge of the festival or use a bike check and valet at the southwest corner of Loring Park.
- Check out what’s going on. Twin Cities Pride and Lavender Magazine each have a full listing of pride-themed events.
- Step outside your comfort zone. People come to the parade and festival to be their authentic self, so be kind.