(Susanne Schibler in McSpadden Park./Hannah Ackeral photo)
It’s shortly before noon on Saturday, Aug 1 and all around McSpadden Park women are getting ready for the 12th annual Vancouver Dyke March. Last-minute signs are being made, rainbow flags are being handed out and the Rainbow Concert Band is tuning its instruments. Amid the excitement are Susanne Schibler and her friends.
“I feel like my heart is overflowing right now. It just feels wonderful to be here and celebrate,” says Schibler, who thinks the Dyke March represents what Pride used to embody. The less corporate, community-based event feels more personal, she says, making it an annual part of her celebration.
With a giant rainbow flag leading the way, and a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the soundtrack, the Dyke March makes its way out of the park and onto Commercial Drive.
“I love it! This is a beautiful, wonderful community of people and I feel at home and empowered,” says AJ Pullishy, who is participating in the march for the first time. “Seeing people going by honking, and showing their support in whatever way they can, is so nice.”
(AJ Pullishy marches along Commercial Drive./Hannah Ackeral photo)
As the women and their allies make their way toward Grandview Park for the post-march festival, some chant “lez is more” and hold signs encouraging women to “resist compulsory heterosexuality.” Others take a less overtly political approach and simply cheer each other on.
“The diversity of the people here is wonderful to see,” Pullishy says, noting that many generations seem to have gathered for this march. Banners from groups ranging from the Archive of Lesbian Oral Testimony, to the Mabel League, to BOLDfest are all flying. It’s a testament to the range and diversity of queer women in Vancouver.
“We’re trying to provide a balance and equality and visibility for women — and that’s any woman, anyone who identifies as a woman,” says Andrea Parker, who sits on the Vancouver Dyke March board of directors as treasurer. This is Parker’s first year on the board. She says she was drawn to the Dyke March because it has maintained its grassroots approach.
“The turnout is really awesome,” says Catherine Mateo, who also sits on the board. She estimates that close to a thousand people are participating in this year’s march and subsequent festival. That’s nearly double last year’s turnout, she says.
(The rainbow flag bearers turn off Commercial Drive to enter Grandview Park./Tallulah photo)
The atmosphere at Grandview Park, where the march finishes and turns into a festival, is jubilant. People crowd into the park to lounge on the hill, take in entertainment, dance and check out the vendors on display.
“It’s good this event continues and takes space over the 12 years. I’m really excited,” says Mateo, whose late partner Danielle Macdonell also sat on the board until her sudden death last year. “This is me giving back, and pushing forward,” Mateo says. “I think she would’ve loved it.”