Taking Pride in Serving the Community
By Bradley J. VanDerStad
A Rhode Island Pride volunteer collects food for distribution. Credit: Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Pride.
On April 2, 2020, Rhode Island Pride announced the unanimous board vote to postpone all of its June events, including PrideFest and the Illuminated Night Parade. “The hardest part of this is the disappointment from the community,” says Rhode Island Pride President Ray Sirico. “So many people look forward to this one day a year they can be themselves and connect with people in the community; Pride is a place where you realize you do fit in somewhere.” The decision to postpone was not made lightly. “Rhode Island Pride has held a festival for 43 years: in 1976, the community had to sue the city for the right to have the parade, and some attendees wore bags over their heads to hide their identities. It has never been postponed or canceled for any reason; that speaks volumes on the impact of this crisis,” says Ken Barber, the Rhode Island Pride Vice President of Operations.
While the community mourned the loss of the annual event,, they understood that it was a necessary decision. “The first feelings that came to my mind were disappointment and sadness that it had to be done,” says Chris Martin, a Providence resident and regular PrideFest attendee. “Though knowing the Pride community in Rhode Island, I remain confident that they will still come up with ways to celebrate the community when it is safe and realistic to do so.” In fact, Rhode Island Pride recently announced that they will be celebrating Pride throughout the month of June with a series of virtual events.
When the pandemic first reached their State, RI Pride quickly organized a new way to support the local LGBTQIA+ community: a food drive with delivery, to alleviate food insecurity resulting from the pandemic and help Rhode Island residents maintain social distance. “While the decision to postpone the festival and parade was completely separate from the food drive, it does afford us the opportunity to focus our efforts on it,” says Barber. The food drive, which officially ended on May 28, 2020, provided food to over 13,000 Rhode Islanders. “We have made a phenomenal effort for food-insecure Rhode Islanders,” says Ray Sirico, President of Rhode Island Pride, “but now it’s time to get back to what we do best: engaging and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community.”