Pride moves festival date after Juneteenth clash

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A stubborn Pride Houston board finally relented after blistering criticism for scheduling next year's festival on the same weekend as Juneteenth, announcing Thursday that it would push its celebration back a week.

The decision to reschedule Pride from June 20 to June 27 – Stonewall Weekend and the more traditional date for Pride festivals across the country – came after mounting criticism from black LGBT activists angered over Pride Houston's refusal to undo the scheduling mishap. Pride officials were already facing criticism for their decision last month to move the festival and parade from Montrose to a new location in downtown.

On Thursday, a packed crowd filled Pride Houston's monthly Pride Perspective town hall to vent their frustrations over the scheduling mishap and the board's refusal to revisit the June 20 date.

“It's really important because civil rights for all of us are trying to be set back, so we need to stick together,” former Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones told the crowd, according to KPRC.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting, the Harris County Democratic Party sent a letter to Pride Houston urging it to move the parade, according to the Houston Press.

Both celebrations are significant and the fact that so many people want the freedom to celebrate both demonstrates the rich cultural diversity of the Harris County region.

At a time when voting rights remain under attack and violence against people of color and GLBT people continues to occur, Democrats should continue embracing diversity and honor history.

The Harris County Democratic Party urges the leadership of Pride Houston to reconsider their decision to hold the GLBT Pride Festival and Parade on Juneteenth weekend.

Also Thursday, Equality Texas said the scheduling flap could create a conflict between gay and black supporters of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Houston Pride has been rescheduled to the weekend of Juneteenth, the oldest known nationally recognized celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the US. Members of the African-American community in Houston have expressed concern that this schedule creates an unnecessarily divisive conflict at a time when the African-American and LGBT communities are coming together to defend the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Please sign this petition and join your voice in asking Pride Houston to choose a less divisive date.

The group urged its supporters to sign on to an online petition advocating for the date change.

But leading up the meeting, Pride Houston officials struck a defiant tone. On Tuesday, Pride Houston President Frankie Quijano brushed aside the concerns about the conflict in a letter and said the board refused to shift the date of the festival.

“There have been previous instances where the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration has fallen on the third weekend in June around the 20th of the month and similar requests were not made during those instances,” Quijano wrote. “Furthermore, a substantial amount has already been invested into the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration for its current date that would un-recoupable which can be crucial for any non-profit organization.”

Pride Houston officials met with concerned black LGBT leaders on Oct. 22 to air the grievances and urge that the festival and parade be moved to June 27 and away from Juneteenth, according to black trans blogger Monica Roberts, who has chronicled the controversy on her TransGriot. Juneteenth commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas. 

Pride officials refused and delayed any action until a later board meeting, Roberts said. The letter on Tuesday was the board's response.

Roberts countered that Quijano's claim about past dates of some Pride officials conflicting with Juneteenth wasn't accurate.

Can you say, dissed and dismissed? Thought you could. Because that was the way this tone deaf letter was received. It also turned out Quijano was mistaken when he claimed thee were other occasions that the Pride parade was held on Juneteenth weekend, and reviewing the history of past Pride parades going back to 1994 shows ZERO dates that the parade was Held on June 18, 19, 20, or 21.

But by Thursday's sometimes heated meeting, Pride Houston organizers had a change of heart. They announced that the 2015 festival would be rescheduled to June 27.

“We decided to change it to June 27th so one, it wouldn't conflict and so that we could respect the African-American community,” Frankie Quijano, Pride Houston's president, told KTRK.

Black LGBT activists applauded the move.

“I am satisfied with the date change, which was the ultimate goal,” LGBT activist Ashton Woods told KPRC.

Roberts said in a post on Friday that the shift in dates was long overdue.

“Now was that so hard? It wouldn't have been if you'd listened to the Black LGBT community and our allies when we first told you about the problematic date conflict to begin with. Instead of blowing us off.”

By late Friday morning, Pride Houston had not announced the date change on its social media accounts and its website still prominently featured the June 20, 2015 date (image). Another Pride Perspective meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11.

UPDATE | Pride Houston updated its website to reflect the new date of the festival on Friday afternoon and issued a statement announcing the change.

It is with great pleasure that Pride Houston announces that the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration has been moved to June 27, 2015 in respect of the historic Juneteenth holiday.  Pride Houston understands and celebrates the importance of the equality of all humanity and the significance that Juneteenth means to African Americans. Specifically we understand that although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, it was not until two and a half years later on June 19, 1865 that African Americans in Texas learned of their freedom from slavery.  That fact is why Juneteenth weekend is so important and why we chose to move our date.

It is important to note that Pride parades celebrate the 1969 Stonewall Riots when the LGBT community and its allies stood up against police raids and brutality in the  LGBT community.  This awareness puts us in a unique position to see the parallel struggles of our communities especially in this time when racial profiling of African American men and boys such a relevant topic in America today.

In a time when the civil rights of historically disadvantaged people are under attack it is imperative that the LGBT and African American communities maintain a coalition against hate, racism and homophobia.  It is to that end Pride Houston has also created a Cultural Diversity Task Force to celebrate the cultural uniqueness of the various members of the LGBT community to be incorporated into actual the Pride Weekend festivities.

So please mark your calendars for June 27, 2015 to celebrate the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration in downtown Houston. Also, remember the weekend of June 19, 2015 to celebrate Juneteenth.  We will be at both and we hope you will too.

Board of Directors:

Cristina Martinez, Frankie Quijano, Jason Gallegos, Javier Ramirez, Joey Guerra, Karen Mory, Paul Pettie and Rob Higdon. 

[h/t Towleroad]

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