June is Pride month, and although Pride had to cancel until September because of COVID-19, the organization will still celebrate 31 years in Boise—albeit in a different way.
“We have a responsibility to the community and to those who support us,” said Pride President Michael Dale. “It’s not right for us to compromise someone’s health, especially when so many in our community are at high-risk to catch the virus. It just wouldn’t have been fair.”
Boise Pride, founded in 1989, is opting for a virtual version set to take place Friday-Saturday, Sept. 11-12. The organization will host several virtual events, has changed this year’s theme to “Power in Progress,” and in tandem with the theme unveiled a new flag named the “Progress Pride Flag.”
In keeping with many Pride events around the country, Boise’s has been reimagined as a digital experience. Some of the events in the works for streaming are music concerts, drag performances and speaker segments. The organization is also working to create as much physical representation around the city as possible.
Boise loves Pride and since 2017 has doubled in growth and in 2020 the organization had projected as many as 80,000 attendees. This year the Boise Pride Organization has no intention of letting people down.
Pride organizers have worked with local businesses to get the ball rolling. Major annual partner The Balcony Club is set to announce a number of virtual events, and Event Coordinator Dugan Jackson said the club is hopeful that it will still be able to put on a socially distanced dance party on the night of Saturday, Sept. 12, but coordination has been difficult given the pandemic.
“The huge festivals are great, but you don’t need to have a huge festival to have Pride,” said Jackson. “We don’t need to dampen our pride—just find new ways to show it.”
Another local Pride-supporting business is the downtown Flying M. Owner Kent Collins said he approved of making changes to Pride on account of the virus, and the M will continue being a safe space in the community and continue to openly show its Pride year round. Collins said it would be a terrible idea if they just went ahead with it: “People need to put on their mask and chill out for a while.”
“The parties will be missed but, I think this year especially,” said Collins, “It’s time to look inward and truly think about what Pride means to you and your everyday life.”
As part of Stage IV of Gov. Brad Little’s staged reopening of the economy, restrictions on large gatherings have loosened; but despite the clampdown in recent months, enthusiasm for Pride remains strong in the City of Trees. The Capitol will be lit in support of Pride and businesses around town have been encouraged to show their support, as well. Additionally, the organizers of Pride have sought to hold small events around the city that follow safety guidelines, and signaled an interest in working with local beverage and food vendors, as well as introducing a few surprises like Pride at Home kits—a concept Pride representatives said they’d like to explain closer to the event.
“We’ve been changing and adapting content as necessary,” said Dale. “There will be some pre-recorded things people can watch and some small things to do out in the city. That way people can engage in new ways, like hosting watching parties. We want to capture and share the excitement the best we can.”
This year’s theme for Pride is “Power in Progress,” and it comes from the organization acknowledging that often the Pride movement overlooks the work BIPOC have put into the movement.
“Despite being forged by BIPOC and Transgender individuals,” wrote Pride organizers in a press release, “Pride as a concept often misses the mark in representing their voices in our parades and parties.”
In the release, Boise Pride referenced the Stonewall Riots of 1969, during which a police raid of a New York gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, turned violent, with patrons and neighbors fighting back against the police incursion.
June 28, 1970, marked the first anniversary of the riots, which was celebrated with an assembly and simultaneous gay pride marches in Chicago and Los Angeles. In time, more cities, states and countries began participating around the world. Boise Pride is celebrating this history with the new theme in 2020.
“Due to George Floyd’s murder, and as an organization that was created out of violent injustice, we thought it was necessary to be more inclusive of trans people and BIPOC,” said Jackson.
The theme is also in line with the new flag Boise Pride has adopted going forward. The new flag was designed by Daniel Quasar and is called the “Progress Pride Flag.” There are many different flags representing LGBTQ people, trans, pansexual and bisexual people; but the “Progress Pride Flag” represents them all together alongside BIPOC allies. Pride acknowledges this is a small and symbolic gesture, but one that can help bring about more inclusion.
Going forward and looking at next year’s pride, Dale said that virtual events will become a bigger part of Pride in years to come and now they have even more time to plan big for the next Pride.
“Next year, hopefully things recover from COVID-19 and we’ll have great energy and give each other hugs,” said Dale. “But for this year our theme is about making Boise a more inclusive space for everyone, no matter who they are.”