3 min

Post-parade parties go beyond Pride

Queer Pride and Anti-Capitalist Pride offered alternative celebrations

Laurie Hawco (left) and Dillon Black at Queer Pride on Aug 23, 2015. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

There was no need to go home after the Capital Pride parade on Aug 23, 2015, as post-parade gatherings abounded and ranged from big and noisy to small and reflective.

The Village was a hotbed of gatherings as LGBT community members and allies celebrated the afternoon and evening away. Ottawa Capital Pride’s community fair took place from 1 to 7 pm with info booths, a kid zone, food vendors and revelry on Bank Street from Somerset to James Streets. For a $5 cover charge, you could go into the beer garden, which featured main stage performers and tippling until 11 pm.

On the flip side, for people who wanted to party away from alcohol, there was a Fresh Party presented by Capital Pride and the Community Addictions Peer Support Association. The alcohol-free event featured DJs and dancing in sudsy bubbles.

Apart from the Capital Pride festivities, other community organizations stepped up to put together their own events. Dubbed Queer Pride 2015, the Queer Mafia brought in a host of community partners to put on events on Somerset Street, just minutes away from the street parties on Bank Street. From a sexy car and bike wash to DJs, a barbecue, an anonymous HIV testing site and plenty of dancing, the focus was on diversity and community, says Laurie Hawco, a member of Queer Mafia.

“For us, we felt that with the [Capital] Pride initiative this year there was a lack of community so we really wanted to be able to provide a space for diversity and belonging,” Hawco says. “Everyone’s been very [giving] with their time and their resources and just really trying to put everything into this to create a really wonderful, beautiful space for the community.”

From local businesses like Antique Skate, Centretown Pub, Babylon Nightclub and Wallack’s to organizations like the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Ottawa Wolves Rugby Football Club, BlakCollectiv, Somerset West Community Health Centre and many more, the collaboration shows community building in action, says Dillon Black, a Queer Mafia member.

“It was about bringing together a bunch of community partners and organizations that believe in social justice like we do and making something really awesome happen that’s not just about partying, but actually about community building,” Black says.

Still, whether all celebrants know the Queer Pride events are separate from Capital Pride events doesn’t really matter, Black adds.

“It was never meant to be a competition,” Hawco says. “I think [Capital] Pride had their hands full with the bankruptcy and trying to rebuild a new organization. It was challenging for them to reach out to the community and find out how to build those spaces for them. What we do is build those spaces on the regular and . . . what we did with [Queer Pride] is try to fill the void.”

Proceeds from the day’s events will support Ten Oaks and For Pivots Sake, Hawco adds.

Eva Darling, who was out with her friend Vaselina Champagne, says it’s fun to roam amongst different gatherings. Darling was having a drink at Queer Pride’s Queer Garden but wandered through Capital Pride’s street parties earlier.

“I’m really excited that it’s back on Bank Street,” Darling says. “Everyone’s out. It’s a great Sunday afternoon, the sun’s out, everyone’s having fun from what I can see, so there’s no harm, no foul here.”

Away from the Village, but still in the downtown, Anti-Capitalist Pride held a picnic in Dundonald Park. Dubbed #NotMyPride, the event was a smaller, quieter gathering than the Capital Pride or Queer Pride celebrations.

Almost 30 participants, many of them youth, say Pride lacks political activism and the white, cis, middle-class, able-bodied face of Pride makes Pride celebrations inaccessible to less privileged members of the LGBT community.

Regi, an Anti-Capitalist Pride member who uses the pronoun they, says the Pride parade in particular is upsetting. With a heavy police presence and large corporations like banks taking part in the parade, the Pride parade privileges institutions over marginalized members of the LGBT community, they say.

“We have a lot to celebrate as a community, our resistance in the face of systemic and institutional erasure and violence,” says Regi, who didn’t want to give their last name. “Those kinds of corporations and institutions have no place in the celebration of our existence.”

Regi took part in a sidewalk protest at the Capital Pride parade earlier in the day. Standing on the curb at Bank Street and Laurier Avenue, Anti-Capitalist Pride members held signs reading “Fuck The Cis-tem” and “My Pride is Anti-Capitalist.”

While protesting is significant, gathering together at an event like the picnic is equally important, Regi says.

“Capitalism and patriarchy are very cunning and divide people so that we don’t come together and overthrow it,” they say. “Coming together to have these community conversations to work towards healing and also work towards where we want to go and what we do want to see . . . is very important.”

Jasper Drury, an Anti-Capitalist Pride organizer, was also pleased with the picnic.

“The turnout was a lot better than I expected,” Drury says. “Hearing people talk about why they were here gave me hope to keep going and keep fighting.”