Rainbow-clad revelers gathered on the Boston Common Sunday to celebrate the local LGBTQ+ community at Boston Pop-Up Pride, a festival featuring activities, speakers, and performers.
Jay Ward, 19, had been hoping and waiting for years to attend Pride in Boston. After its cancellation — first due to Covid-19, then due to the dissolution of Boston Pride last year — he was “so, so bummed.”
“When I heard about this, I was like, ‘oh my God, I can finally actually experience it,’” said Ward, who came to Boston for the festival from his home in Wilmington.
For him and his friends, Pop-Up Pride did not disappoint.
“In our small towns, it feels so oppressive and hard to breathe. But here I feel so supported and loved,” he explained, fighting back tears. “It’s just so beautiful.”
Jack Descoteaux, 16, of Tewksbury — who sported rainbows on their clothes and their cheeks — echoed that sentiment.
“I just feel love everywhere,” they said. “This is my first Pride, and I never knew there were this many people who are so supportive, just in this area. It makes me so happy.”
Pop-Up Pride was one of the numerous events this month attempting to fill the void left by the dissolution of Boston Pride in July 2021 and the resulting absence of the iconic Pride Parade this year.
“In the wake of dismantled Boston Pride, we seek to reclaim Pride that doesn’t belong to them but to our community,” emcee Curtis Santos told the crowd.
For decades, Boston Pride organized the city’s annual Pride Parade, which brought tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals and supporters to the streets of downtown to celebrate community and advocate equality. But last summer, the organization shuttered amid controversy over its lack of inclusion of transgender people and people of color.
Organizer Jo Trigilio said in an interview at the event Sunday that they began planning Pop-Up Pride about three months ago, when they realized there were no plans for a central celebration on the weekend that the Pride Parade was traditionally held.
“We just wanted to have a grassroots, community-centered event that was inclusive and focused on intersectionality and having all the voices heard,” Trigilio explained.
Throughout the afternoon, Pop-Up Pride attracted more than a thousand attendees. The festival’s stage featured performances from members of the local LGBTQ+ community — including rapper Oompa, dancer Olivia Moon, singer Matt Scarlet, and drag performer Jaclyn Norton.
Between performances, activists took the stage to speak about the importance of LBGTQ+ rights, which are under attack across the United States.
Esmée Silverman, 20, the co-founder of Queer Youth Assemble, spoke about the recent swath of legislation restricting the rights of children and adolescents who identify as LGBTQ+.
Silverman, who grew up in Easton, began her speech with a solemn statement: “I regret to inform you all that queer youth are under attack.”
Another speaker, Quincey Roberts Sr. — who was recently appointed the inaugural executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ+ Advancement — said his message to allies is that “we want to be celebrated, not tolerated.”
The festival also featured booths from community organizations like MassEquality and Fenway Health, and a tent for families that offered activities like bubbles, crafts, storybooks, and games.
Kristin Arcangeli, of Somerville, who came to Pop-Up Pride with her wife and three children, said they were drawn to the event in part by its family-friendliness.
“It’s fun to be able to bring them out and celebrate Pride together,” said Arcangeli. “It’s nice to have it back.”
Attendees were split on whether they preferred the pop-up or the parade.
“We would much rather have a grassroots Pride than the old-style corporate Pride,” said Margaret, 60, of Allston, who has been attending Pride in Boston since the 1980s and felt that the parade had become too corporate.
“It cost so much money to be in the parade and to have a table, it became way out of hand,” said Margaret, who declined to give her full name. “Hopefully, it will be reestablished as what it should be, which is a celebration of everyone as they are, and social justice.”
Others said they were “disappointed” by the loss of the traditional parade.
“It makes me sad that politics has destroyed the parade for the foreseeable future,” said Michael, a resident of Jamaica Plain, who also declined to share his surname. “This is lovely. There’s nothing wrong with this — it’s very nice. But it could be so much bigger.”