Two events spurred the
LGTBQ community of Jackson Heights to host its annual pride march: the first was a hate crime; the second, the rejection of a multicultural curriculum by Queens Community School District 24.
On July 2, 1990, Julio Rivera, a 29-year old gay
Puerto Rican bartender, was murdered in the schoolyard of P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights. After a night of heavy drinking, three young white men (Erik Brown, Esat Bici, and Daniel Doyle) who were out hunting for "a drug dealer or a drug addict or a homo out cruising," lured Rivera into the schoolyard and punched, clubbed, hammered, and finally stabbed him to death. In response to his murder, Rivera's relatives and friends mobilized New York City's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, holding a candlelight vigil at the site of the murder and putting pressure on the police department to find his killers.
CUNY Student Performers at the Queens Pride Parade 2018
In 1992, Queens Community School District 24 rejected the
Multicultural Children of the Rainbow Curriculum proposed by Chancellor
Joseph A. Fernandez of the
New York City public school system. Children of the Rainbow was designed to teach children acceptance of New York City's diverse communities, but the president of District 24's board, Mary A. Cummins, called the guide "dangerously misleading lesbian/homosexual propaganda," using three among the hundreds of the recommended readings, Heather Has Two Mommies,
Daddy’s Roommate, and Gloria Goes to Gay Pride, as proof. In response, Daniel Dromm, a public school teacher in District 24 Community proposed a family-friendly celebratory parade that would allow the Queens LGBTQ community to become visible. As he explained six years later, “I wanted people to know that lesbians and gay men were their family, friends, and neighbors.”
2018 Queens Pride Performer
On June 6, 1993, the Inaugural Queens Lesbian and Gay Parade and Block Party Festival took place in Jackson Heights. Co-organized by Daniel Dromm and Cuban-born LGBTQ rights activist Maritza Martinez, it became the first successful event to be organized in any New York City borough outside Manhattan. Some 1,000 marchers participated, and thousands of spectators attended. More than a dozen LGBTQ organizations sponsored the event. City Councilman Tom Duane, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, and activist Jeanne Manford served as Grand Marshals. A mostly local affair, the march included two separate moments of silence. At 1:25pm, the Grand Marshals of the parade called for moment of silence in front of P.S. 69 to memorialize Julio Rivera and all victims of lesbian/gay bashings. Then at 3:00pm, a second moment of silence was taken during the music festival to remember those who had died of AIDS.
Now an annual tradition, Queens Pride has attracted crowds of over 40,000 people, and is supported by politicians and sponsors such as the Queens Library, Uber, Go Magazine, Gaytravel.com, AIDS Center of Queens County, Gay City News, and Ibis Styles Hotels.
One iconic Queens Pride participant was
Ms. Colombia, who Daniel Dromm characterized as "a real Jackson Heights character." A profile from the arts organization
Visual AIDS describes her as being a "colorful and beloved performance artist." Born José Oswaldo Gómez, Ms. Colombia moved from
Medellín to the United States in search for safety, as individuals who did not dress in gender specific ways were common targets for hate crimes in Colombia. After being diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s, Gómez determined to live "day by day," becoming Ms. Colombia, whose colorful dressing and parade-walking became a celebration of being alive. On October 4, 2018, New York City officials mourned her passing.
Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee
The parade's organizer, the Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee (Queens Pride), is a
501(c)(3) not-for-profit volunteer organization founded in 1992 that coordinates LGBTQ pride events in Queens, New York. In addition to the annual Pride Parade and Multicultural Festival, Queens Pride fosters youth programming and a Winter Pride Dinner Dance.