May 19, 2016 By Michael Florio
The annual Queens Pride Parade will step off next month with three Grand Marshalls and 40,000 expected attendees.
The parade starts June 5 at noon at 37th Avenue and 89th Street, and will march along the avenue to 75th Street.
Queens Pride has selected Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland as a grand marshal of the event, as well as the AIDS Center of Queens County – which provides HIV/AIDS services to thousands throughout the borough – and Jessica Stern, Executive Director of the OutRight Action International, specializing in gender, sexuality and human rights globally.
Following the parade a festival with vendors, food, community and social group booths will take place at 75th Street and 37th Road, from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Council Member Daniel Dromm expects the turnout to match last year’s crowd of 40,000. That is four times the size of the first parade he founded in 1993, when 10,000 people attended.
Dromm started the parade back when he was a teacher at P.S. 199. The event followed opposition to the Children of the Rainbow curriculum, which was designed to teach tolerance of New York’s diverse population, including the LGBT community.
“At that time I came out as an openly gay teacher in school district 24, which had the most opposition,” Dromm said. “This led to the start of the parade.”
Dromm wanted to change the way that Queens residents viewed the LGBT community.
“I wanted to show that we are your family, friends and neighbors,” he said. “We don’t all come from Greenwich Village as the school board tried to portray us back then.”
Dromm had received death threats and at times had to be escorted by police throughout the parade. However, he continued to host the parade for years.
Over the years Queens Pride participants have fought for basic civil rights all the way to marriage equality. They continue to fight for equal rights today, now focusing on LGBT youth.
“It is still very difficult for them,” Dromm said of LGBT young people. “They do face an awful lot of bullying in school.”
“They are the biggest risk of homelessness and substance abuse due to these issues,” Dromm said. “Our focus needs to be on our youth and facilitating their coming out and making sure they feel they are equal members of society.”
While there has been resistance over the years, the parade has now become a celebrated event in the community, Dromm said.
“We have come a very long way,” he said. “But there is still a long way to go.”