Reclaiming Their Pride: Local Group To Hold 2nd Annual Alternative Pride March

Jun 8, 2018

Thousands are expected to hit the streets of downtown Pittsburgh this weekend to celebrate the LGBT community. 

Pride week culminates with PrideFest, capped off with an equality march on Sunday, something that has had a presence in the city since the '70s.

PrideFest, organized by the Delta Foundation, will include headlining performances by Australian YouTuber-turned-musician Troye Sivan and tribute band ABBA The Concert. Delta spokeswoman Christine Bryant says Delta’s PrideFest will also offer food booths, additional activities and health screenings. 

While Pride Week has been widely celebrated as a time to lift the voices of the LGBT community, it’s also put the spotlight on fractures within that community and its shortcomings in the eyes of minorities.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The Delta Foundation’s Pride celebration has taken center stage in the city since the group took the reins in 2008. Since then, Delta has raised considerable money and pulled off booking nationally recognized performers.  In 2017, The Delta Foundation announced that it had partnered with the EQT Foundation, a philanthropic organization within the petroleum and natural gas company based in Downtown. That partnership resulted in a title sponsorship for the march which is now known as the EQT Equality March.

The EQT part doesn’t sit well with certain groups within the LGBT community. Ciora Thomas is the founder of SisTers PGH, a nonprofit transgender and non-binary centered shelter transitioning program for at-risk transgender or non-binary Pittsburghers. Her group has organized the second annual People’s Pride March as an alternative to the march led by the Delta Foundation. The re-branded march, Thomas said, is a red flag.

“Those corporations love to put on the rainbows just to make it seem like they’re inclusive but they’re really not,” she said.

Bryant said the Delta Foundation will continue to partner with EQT for their pride celebration as they see the partnership as an opportunity to reach communities they otherwise wouldn’t.

Ciora Thomas leads the Peoples Pride March in 2017.
Credit Trevor Culhane

According to Thomas, the unease about the naming rights was the final straw for her. She organized People’s Pride March last year in response, but she says there has been a need for an alternative march for years.

“The message we got last was, 'We have been waiting for something alternative to do because we're not serving or seeing the community we want to serve here,'” she said.

Thomas said the Delta Foundation’s pride celebration has become a haven for "drunk cis[gender] white people," and remains exclusive for those who identify otherwise. Cisgender is the term for a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

Thomas said there's not much else to be done with Delta Foundation to reunify Pittsburgh’s LGBT community, the rift runs too deep.

“We’ve had enough meetings. We’ve had enough sit downs. We’ve had enough focus groups," she said. "We’ve had enough community meetings hosted by The Delta Foundation. I think it’s time they consider becoming a Foundation that supports the community with funds to do alternative pride events."

The second annual Peoples Pride March was again organized by SisTers PGH. This year's theme, Reclaiming Our Pride, is a take on the viral quote from Rep. Maxine Waters during a House Financial Services Committee last year. 

The Delta Foundation’s PrideFest kicks off tonight Downtown. Expect several road closures through the weekend associated with Pride. Sections of Liberty Avenue, Smithfield Street, and some surrounding city streets will be blocked off. Parking Downtown will also be limited.

The EQT Equality March will begin at 12:30 p.m. Sunday after a rally on the Boulevard of the Allies between Grant and Stanwix streets. It will end at PrideFest Downtown.

The People's Pride March will kick off at 10:30 a.m. at Freedom Corner in the Hill District and will march to Market Square, where SisTers PGH will host Pride in the Square.