With a theme of “50 and Fierce,” Hawaii Island LGBTQ Pride, a Hilo-based nonprofit organization sponsored by the Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation, is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and joining with communities around the world in celebration of the social and legal advances made in the past 50 years.
This year’s Pride parade and festival are slated for Saturday in downtown Hilo.
The Stonewall riots began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, after New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village.
“At the time, police raids on bars catering to LGBT patrons were common, but that night, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back,” GLAAD’s website states. “While historical accounts of the night vary, the violent response ignited a national firestorm of activism that brought new visibility to the struggle for LGBT equality.”
According to GLAAD, a media monitoring organization formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the majority of Pride events are in June to commemorate the anniversary of Stonewall, which most historians consider to be the birth of the modern LGBT movement.
“I think every year I ask myself the question, ‘Do we need to do this again?’” said Greg Lupton, treasurer of Hawaii Island LGBTQ Pride, about the festival and parade, which are in their seventh year. “There are gay folks of all ages who will ask the question, ‘Why bother going to Pride?’ …”
But every year, Lupton said he finds for himself a “really unique reason to do what we’re doing.”
“This year, I think part of it is really feeling connections with other LGBTQ communities around the world,” he said. “(There was) something about the Stonewall rebellion that shifted the consciousness of gay people 50 years ago and that shift moved forward communities across the United States and across the world within about five years. … As a member of a community in a very remote place, I’m really feeling the connection that we have to larger cities and small towns across the world that are all celebrating at the same time.”
The parade kicks of at 11 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Ponahawai Street and Kamehameha Avenue, traveling along Ponahawai Street, Kilauea Avenue, Keawe Street, Waianuenue Avenue and down Kamehameha Avenue.
Peter “Tui” Silva will serve as grand marshal.
Born and raised in Hilo, Silva became president of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Gay and Bisexual Club in 1991 and served in a group that pushed for sexual orientation to be added to UH’s non-discrimination policy.
Silva helped found Na Mamo o Hawaii, the state’s first Native Hawaiian LGBTQ organization and previously worked as HIV prevention director at Life Foundation in Honolulu. In 2002, he founded UTOPIA Hawaii.
Silva returned to Hilo in 2007 and began working at the Waiakea Health Center, where he provided free access to sexually transmitted infection education, testing and treatment for more than a decade.
“I was really humbled and honored that they asked me to do it,” Silva said about his grand marshal duties. “… When I grew up (in Hilo), I didn’t really perceive it to be gay-friendly.”
He had allies he could turn to within his church and school — St. Joseph School and church — but at UH-Manoa, “I really blossomed,” and did a lot of advocacy work.
When he moved back, Silva said he found Hilo a “totally different place from where I grew up,” in terms of acceptance.
“Hawaii Island is a beautiful place,” Silva said. “I’m proud to call it home and I really do feel it welcomes people from all walks of life. As long as you have aloha for each other, people celebrate you and who you are.”
The festival runs from noon-4 p.m. at the Mooheau Bandstand and includes entertainment from cover band Born This Way, the Puna Men’s Chorus, Ricky Alvarez and drag performers, as well as food and art vendors and information booths for community organizations.
There also will be a bounce house, arts, crafts and games for keiki.
Lupton said this is the second longest running pride event in the state.
The biggest change throughout the past years is the number of community events offered beyond the festival, he said.
Among the those activities this year, two after-parties are slated on Saturday.
PINK!, the third official Pride after-party, which includes a drag show, is from 4-7 p.m. at Hilo Town Tavern. The event is suitable for ages 21 and older and the cost is $10 at the door.
And a Equality HI dance party for ages 18 and older is from 7-11 p.m in the Grand Naniloa Resort Crown Room. Presale tickets are $25; general admission at the door is $35. Presale tickets can be picked up at KapohoKine Adventures at the Grand Naniloa and My Bar and Nightclub in Kailua-Kona.
For more information about Pride activities, visit hawaiiislandlgbtqpride.org or find the group on Facebook.
Email Stephanie Salmons at email@example.com.