In a landmark year for the LGBTQ community, UFT members and their families marched in Queens on June 2, and in Brooklyn on June 8, to celebrate Pride Month. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, where the patrons of Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn revolted against police brutality and launched the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
For Martin McKeown, a literacy teacher at PS 143 in Queens and a UFT Pride Committee member who marched with the union in Queens, the event still resonates today.
“Our rights could be taken away if we don’t continue to fight for the rights that people were fighting for 50 years ago,” he said. “We can’t be complacent — visibility is more important now than ever.”
Visibility was the order of the day at the 27th annual Pride Parade in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“Our presence was felt and I think it’s important that people in the community see that teachers are supporting the LGBTQ cause,” said McKeown. “And it’s important that they see LGBTQ UFT members that are out in the community.”
Jose Martinez, who teaches English language learners at PS 257 in Brooklyn, marched for the first time this year and saw the same scene in the early-evening parade in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
“When people saw the UFT float, they were really excited and cheering us,” he said. “They were even shouting ‘thank you.’”
Martinez said the Brooklyn march was a showcase of diversity.
“The streets were filled with people of all types of races, backgrounds and ages,” he said.
Both marches featured floats decked in rainbow flags with dancers, drag artists, community members and elected officials celebrating in the streets.
Rashad Brown, the UFT Pride Committee chair, emphasized the appeal of the smaller Pride parades in the outer boroughs.
“To go to Queens and Brooklyn, you got a sense of a close feeling of community,” he said. “The LGBTQ community is constantly under attack, and to see various members of our community together and celebrating each other gives us hope for the future.”