For generations sexual minorities have been feared, ridiculed, discriminated against, and ostracized because of misinformation and misunderstanding within the majority community. In 1976, individuals who believed it is essential that male and female sexual minorities have avenues to educate the larger community and opportunities to come together and openly celebrate who they are began to organize a first ever pride parade. State and City leaders attempted to block the parade, but those early organizers pursued litigation which eventually led to a court ruling allowing this “pride” event to take place. About 75 individuals marched through downtown Providence to celebrate their diversity and to highlight the contributions they had made to the wider community. Thus was born the group that would become the Rhode Island Pride.
In the 1970s and 80s gay men and lesbians across the nation, were engaging in a variety of grass roots actions that we now identify as the “gay liberation movement.” Here in Rhode Island, the early gay pride celebrations were the first steps that eventually led to civil rights protections being extended to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals in 1995 and to transgender individuals in 2001. Today, over three decades later, participants have grown from just under 100 in 1976 to over 25,000 today. In keeping with this tradition, we hope to make it easier for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to be themselves. RI Pride continues to reach out to an increasingly diverse and growing population, and is dedicated to continuing this vital work of providing safe opportunities and venues for the GLBT community to come together, in RI and Southern New England.
Through the production of seminars, rallies, performances, theme events, art and literary programs and projects, individuals in Rhode Island have been able to learn about the issues, concerns and contributions of sexual minorities. RI Pride is one of the most active and visible GLBT organizations in the New England region. With over 15,000 people participating in our events attendance for the PrideFest and New England’s onlyNight-time Pride Parade, GLBT individuals in RI, southern Massachusetts, and eastern Connecticut are able to come together to celebrate their personhood and their culture. The PrideFest also includes an education and interactive recreational area called theKid’s Pride Zone to provide GLBT parents a place to engage in family oriented activities with their children at the the festival. Recently, individuals as far away as Canada, New York and Washington D.C. have come to RI to participate in these programs and events.
PROGRAMS AND EVENTS
RI Pride is proud to have an event or function every month throughout the year. These programs and projects help GLBT individuals develop self pride and self-esteem. In addition to the Annual Festival of Pride and New England’s only Night Pride Parade, RI Pride has produced or sponsored the following programs or services:
- Presentations to community organizations and businesses about GLBT issues to address homophobia and prejudice
- Partner participation in events organized or sponsored by Marriage Equality RI
- PrideFlicks and the GLBT Film Festival – GLBT-themed movie events throughout the year
- Community workshop focused on “coming out”, identity and self-affirmation
- A music and art celebration of women titled “The Goddess Show”
- Gallery Q, A GLBT themed art show and exhibition
- A statewide outreach and information outreach program named “Countdown to Pride”
- An awards and thank you event – RI Pride Honors– to give tribute and show appreciation to Rhode Island’s GLBT community, friends and supporters
- Support and organizational development assistance to smaller GLBT organizations to enhance programming to their target audience
- Triple Crown Pageant – pageant for the titles of Ms. Lesbian, Mr. Gay and Miss Gay RI.
- A festive, public kick-off event at Providence City Hall for the June Pride
- Business After Hours – Regular business and professional networking gatherings hosted by both GLBT and non-GLBT businesses in Rhode Island
- Participation in the International Gay and Lesbian Entertainment andBusiness Expo in New York City to promote Pride events and Rhode Island
- Participation in Interpride – a conference for delegates from Pride organizations around the world to meet for networking, education and information exchange
- Participation at NERP (Northeast Regional Pride Conference) – an annual meeting of pride organizers in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states where RI Pride members presented workshops and have hosted the conference in the past.
- RI PrideTV – A new and innovative tool created to be used via YouTube to reach a wide audience with news and information about the RI Pride Community
- RI Pride Video Retrospective – Video productions that provide the ability to capture and educate individuals about the history of the GLBT Community and the annual Pride celebrations
These events and programs also reach thousands of non-GLBT individuals, helping them to gain a better understanding of the GLBT community. RI Pride hopes that with better knowledge and awareness by non-GLBT people, prejudice, discrimination and acts of violence will be relegated to history.