NYC kicks off first Pride weekend since Covid pandemic with Drag March

‘We’re ushering in a new era!’ New York kicks off first Pride weekend since the Covid pandemic with Drag March parade after Madonna hit the stage for surprise show

  • While Pride is back in NYC, there will still be a mix of in-person and virtual events, meaning the weekend won’t be at the same level city dwellers have become accustomed to 
  • The weekend started off with the Drag March on Friday night. The Dyke March is set to take place on Saturday, with the 51st Annual Pride March coming on Sunday afternoon, though that event will be virtual once again 
  • Limited in-person events are expected to take place, though all will be in accordance with current guidelines
  • There will also be March Pop-Ups, giving artists outdoor spaces to design with Pride as the inspiration, hoping to bring more vibrancy back to the streets 
  • An interactive map will allow attendees to find the pop-ups 
  • On Thursday, Madonna joined the Pride action with a surprise performance at Top of the Standard 
  • Organizers of NYC’s event recently decided to ban LGBTQ cops from marching in uniform in future parades 

New York City is celebrating Pride this weekend, the first after last year’s official celebrations were hampered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While Pride is back in NYC, there will still be a mix of in-person and virtual events, meaning the weekend won’t be at the same level city dwellers have become accustomed to.

But that didn’t stop crowds taking to the street Friday night for the Drag March.

Because the Drag March is unpermitted, it did place last year, albeit in a much smaller version than this year’s event. 

‘I feel like I’m ushering in a new era tonight,’ Philip from the Upper West side told Gothamist. ‘This is the first time I’m out hugging people without a mask since the pandemic started, and all my friends are here… I feel like it’s one big birthday party.’ 

The march came the day after crowds packed in to a small NYC club to see Madonna on Thursday night in unofficial kickoff to the weekend’s proceedings.  

People participate in an event called the Drag March on June 25, 2021 in New York City

The annual Drag March, which was held virtually in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, was held on Friday night as a way to begin Pride Weekend

People dressed in drag participate in the annual Drag March which starts in Tompkins Square and ends at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village on June 25, 2021 in New York City

Michaelmasoy wearing ‘black girl magic’ earrings marches in the 27th Annual New York City Drag March on June 25, 2021

Madonna is among those helping to kick off Pride Weekend in NYC by giving a surprise performance on Thursday

Women read information about the Stonewall Riots at the Stonewall National Monument in Christopher Park

Edwin Diaz the New York Mets warms up with a Love is Love shirt in honor of Pride Night before game one of a doubleheader

The Drag March came about in 1994 after the official Pride March banned drag queens for the 25th Annual Pride March.

Gilbert Baker, who designed the Rainbow Flag, was among those who organized a Drag March in response to the ban. 

‘It feels so great to finally be out with other queer people,’ Jess of Sunset Park said of the march.

Her friend Eve added, ‘Pride weekend is my favorite weekend of the year, and Pride month is my favorite month of the year, but even though I’m so excited, honestly I feel a little shy this year. I’ve been hiding my face and staying indoors for so long, so this is like a new coming out I think.’ 

The Dyke March is set to take place on Saturday, with the 51st Annual Pride March coming on Sunday afternoon, though that event will be virtual once again and broadcast online.

There will still be live performances and interviews during the broadcast.

Limited in-person events are expected to take place, though all will be in accordance with any current New York City public guidelines.  

Customers dine outdoors under Pride decorations at Oscar Wilde on June 23, 2021 in New York City

A family holds signs saying ‘We Are Family’ and ‘No Corporations in Our March’ during the Drag March 

A woman photographs pride flags that celebrate Pride Month at the Stonewall National Monument at Christopher Park adjacent to The Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village section of New York City

Rainbow-colored flags greet visitors at Rockefeller Center as the city celebrates Pride Month on June 25

The grand marshals for the march are Wilson Cruz, Ceyenne Doroshow, Menaka Guruswamy, Arundhati Katju, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis and Aaron Philip.

Different segments of the virtual experience will highlight each of the grand marshals individually.  

There will also be March Pop-Ups, giving artists outdoor spaces to design with Pride as the inspiration, hoping to bring more vibrancy back to the streets. An interactive map will allow attendees to find the pop-ups.

The theme for the march is ‘The Fight Continues.’

Organizers said in a release that the theme ‘reflects the multitude of battles we’ve been fighting as a country and as a city.’

‘With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, issues of police brutality, the alarming murder rate for trans POC, economic hardship, climate disasters, violent efforts to disenfranchise voters, our rights as a community being questioned at the level of the Supreme Court, and more, we are in the midst of many different fights,’ the release continues. 

People take photos of people dressed in drag riding the subway after the 27th Annual New York City Drag March

The Drag March, which commemorates the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn, started in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village and ended at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village

People dance and sing during the 27th Annual New York City Drag March on June 25, 2021 in New York City

A couple kiss in front of rainbow pride colored lights projected into the sky near the Stonewall inn in the West Village on June 23, 2021 in New York City

To that end, organizers of New York City’s event recently decided to ban LGBTQ police officers from marching in uniform in future parades.

The controversial ban is scheduled to be in place from next year through 2025, organizers said. 

For some, cops shouldn’t have a uniformed presence at a march commemorating the 1969 Stonewall uprising, sparked by a police raid on a gay bar. Tensions between law enforcement and some parts of the LGBTQ community still exist, a half century later.

‘Folks still have challenging and traumatic and many times horrific relationships with law enforcement,’ said John Blasco, a parade regular. ‘If you´re an officer … of course you should be able to celebrate and express your pride, but you don´t need to do it in a uniform that has perpetuated violence against many of the people who are trying to celebrate their pride that day.’

For others, presence of LGBTQ police marchers is an expression of hard-fought diversity and inclusion that should be celebrated, a hallmark of how integral LGBTQ people are in the fabric of American life.

‘Why should I have to hide a part of me,’ asked Ana Arboleda, a sergeant with the NYPD who has marched in the parade several times and is the vice-president of the Gay Officers Action League. ‘Why should I have to take off (the uniform) as if I´m ashamed?’ 

‘To not celebrate Pride without people would have been a tragedy for me,’ Madonna said to the crowd

On Thursday, Madonna joined the Pride action with a surprise performance at Top of the Standard. 

Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper were among those spotted in the crowd to capture the unexpected thrill from the event space at The Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

The 62-year-old Queen of Pop proved she hasn’t missed a beat and stepped out on stage with her breasts completely exposed in a sheer top to perform two of her classic hits.

Donning an icy blue bob wig, Madonna got the crowd going wild with a rendition of her 2005 dance hit Hung Up.

Madge wore a sheer black T-shirt and no bra, leaving her bare breasts on display for the crowd. 

She paired the sultry top with a leather harness and leather shorts and long pink satin gloves.

The legend busted out some sexy dance moves as she made her way across the room while the audience filmed the performance on their smart phones and sang along to every word.

Andy Cohen was positioned towards the back of the space and was recording a video while belting out the lyrics himself next to his pal Anderson Cooper.

‘To not celebrate pride without people would have been a tragedy for me,’ Madonna said to the crowd, according to Variety. ‘Take nothing for granted because you never know what’s waiting for all of us around the corner.’

Adding: ‘Learn to love yourself.’ 

Among those lucky enough to catch the exclusive performance in addition to Andy and Anderson were Billy Eichner, Zachary Quinto, Lance Bass and Adam Lambert.

Afterwards, Madonna ‘left Boom Boom to go party with the real people… who weren’t able to catch her performance. She was with the drag queens and the trans people — all the kids who weren’t allowed in because of the capacity issue.’

The event reportedly raised money for the Ali Forney Center, Haus of US and The Door.

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