Local Pride events signal a shift away from corporate support

While Seattle Pride partnered with companies like T-Mobile, Starbucks and Microsoft, community-led events steered away from deep-pocketed sponsors.

A person wearing gold holding a microphone and another person dance on a stage with the Seattle skyline behind them

A performer from Guma’ Gela’, a CHamoru Queer art collective, leads the crowd in the Electric Slide at Indigiqueer Festival on Pier 62 on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/ Crosscut)

People poured into the streets this past weekend as Pride parades rolled through Seattle in honor of the city’s LGBTQ+ communities. Though big events like Seattle Pride remain popular, smaller neighborhood celebrations that try to avoid large corporate donors and emphasize marginalized groups within the broader LGBTQ+ community are also gaining traction.

Three people dance in colorful clothes

Sisters Nazirah and Zenobia Taylor, right, dance during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event on June 25, 2022 at Seattle Center. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Sisters Nazirah and Zenobia Taylor, right, dance during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event on June 25, 2022 at Seattle Center. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

a crowd of people sit in the grass

Ryan Wesley, left, and CJ Lindo watch a music performance during Taking B(l)ack Pride. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Ryan Wesley, left, and CJ Lindo watch a music performance during Taking B(l)ack Pride. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

“Everybody else needs to pay up before you feast on that culture,” said Renata B., a co-founder of Taking B(l)ack Pride, an event centering Black LGBTQ+ people. 

The celebration, which occurred the same weekend as Seattle Pride’s downtown parade and Seattle PrideFest parties, was first held in 2020 as a way to center the perspectives of these individuals when talking about Black liberation and safety, as well as honor victims and survivors of police violence. The founders of Taking B(l)ack Pride told Crosscut they had witnessed the exclusion of queer and trans experiences from conversations about violence against Black people. 

“It just so happens that these conversations that we were having amongst each other were happening during June,” said Mattie M., another co-founder of the event. June is widely regarded as Pride month to celebrate and honor LGBTQ+ history.

people dance and applaud sitting outside in yellow chairs

Stephy Styles jumps into the crowd during her performance at Indigiqueer Festival on Pier 62 on Saturday, June 25, 2022. The festival was presented as a part of the Indigiqueer Joy Campaign and curated by the Quileute drag queen Hailey Tayathy. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Stephy Styles jumps into the crowd during her performance at Indigiqueer Festival on Pier 62 on Saturday, June 25, 2022. The festival was presented as a part of the Indigiqueer Joy Campaign and curated by the Quileute drag queen Hailey Tayathy. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Elevating marginalized groups in Seattle’s LGBTQ+ communities

People of color had the chance to celebrate their identities at different local Pride events, like the Indigiqueer Festival on the Seattle waterfront.  

“It’s hard to see Indigineity in the queer community if you’re living in the city,” said Hailey Tayathy, a member of the Quileute Nation, who curated the June 25 event. “It’s hard to find.” 

The festival fits into the Indigiqueer Joy Campaign, a photography project and event series intended to highlight joy among Indigenous LGBTQ+ community members. 

A person with a white afro applauds

A fan and friend of performer Stephy Styles becomes emotional after Styles’ performace at Indigiqueer Festival on Pier 62. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

A fan and friend of performer Stephy Styles becomes emotional after Styles’ performace at Indigiqueer Festival on Pier 62. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

That theme of joy came up in conversations with other Pride event organizers, including Jason Loughridge, president of the White Center Pride Committee. He noted that the June 11 White Center Pride Street Festival was especially important this year following the neighborhood’s devastating loss last summer, when the Lumber Yard, its first LGBTQ+ bar, was damaged in a fire. The incident, which also impacted several nearby businesses, was investigated as arson.

“I remember being down there a year ago during these fires and we were crying outside,” Loughridge said. “And to see a year later that we’re laughing and dancing in the streets, it just felt really, really special.” 

The Lumber Yard plans to reopen across the street from its previous location this year, according to its website

left: a shirtless person wears a blue chiffon cape right: people gather at tables with a rainbow umbrella

Left: Storm Nguyen during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event on June 25, 2022 at Seattle Center. Right: People gather outside Moonshot Coffee and the soon-to-re-open Lumber Yard Bar during White Center Pride on June 11, 2022. The original Lumber Yard burned down early on July 5 last year in a suspected arson attack. It is scheduled to re-open in July at its new location across 16th Ave S. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Left: Storm Nguyen during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event on June 25, 2022 at Seattle Center. Right: People gather outside Moonshot Coffee and the soon-to-re-open Lumber Yard Bar during White Center Pride on June 11, 2022. The original Lumber Yard burned down early on July 5 last year in a suspected arson attack. It is scheduled to re-open in July at its new location across 16th Ave S. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

people stroll down a street and are framed in a car window

People stroll down 16th Ave S during the White Center Pride block party. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

People stroll down 16th Ave S during the White Center Pride block party. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Seattle’s Jewish community also had a chance to celebrate its LGBTQ+ members during the Pride Shabbat service at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on June 24. 

“In Judaism, we are taught that every person is created in the image of God, which can honestly sometimes be a challenge when I feel like my body was a mistake,” said Ray Opatowsky, who attended the event. “Being able to see myself as holy, regardless of my gender identity or self-expression is something I cherish about Judaism, and that helps me love myself when it feels like the world is falling apart around me.”

two portraits of Diamond Sudds and Ray Opatowsky

Left: Diamond Sudds watches a performance during the Taking B(l)ack Pride, June 25, 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut) Right: Ray Opatowsky, who is a part of the Seattle Jewish Community, after attending the Pride Shabbat service at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Left: Diamond Sudds watches a performance during the Taking B(l)ack Pride, June 25, 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut) Right: Ray Opatowsky, who is a part of the Seattle Jewish Community, after attending the Pride Shabbat service at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Corporate influence during Pride

Festival attendees tired of seeing corporate logos during Pride may find reprieve in some of Seattle’s more community-centric events.

Large-scale parades and parties in Seattle faced hardship even before COVID, which severely hampered social gatherings. In the mid-2000s, for example, PrideFest started to build its own festival separate from the Seattle Pride parade

Now people are pushing back on corporations – often prominent in larger parades and parties – that engage in “rainbow capitalism,” a practice of aligning themselves with Pride month to advertise.  

The sponsors and partners behind Taking B(l)ack Pride include the Alphabet Alliance of Color, UTOPIA Washington and Queer The Land – all of which are centered around people of color and the LGBTQ+ community as well as Seattle Pride itself. In comparison, Seattle Pride, which raised eyebrows earlier this year when it decided not to partner with Amazon, partnered with companies like T-Mobile, Starbucks and Microsoft.

a drag queen preforms in front of a stage and banner reading Center Pride

Nemesis performs during a drag show at the White Center Pride block party on June 11, 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Nemesis performs during a drag show at the White Center Pride block party on June 11, 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

multicolored shoes

Attendees wear multicolored footwear during Taking B(l)ack Pride. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Attendees wear multicolored footwear during Taking B(l)ack Pride. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

people sit in pews in a synagogue facing away from the camera

Seattle Jewish community attend a Pride Shabbat service at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill during Seattle’s Pride month on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Seattle Jewish community attend a Pride Shabbat service at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill during Seattle’s Pride month on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Some neighborhood Pride organizers may find themselves torn between staying true to their values and raising enough money to cover festivities, like paying for performers.

Loughridge understands why Pride organizations rely on corporate sponsorships, though he said those behind the White Center Pride Street Festival tried to steer clear of them. 

“It’s all become about big sponsors, big donors, big logos,” Loughridge said. “I think people are turned off by that, and I think that’s why they’re being drawn into these smaller Prides.” 

Despite this, he thinks there can be room for bigger Pride celebrations and more localized events. 

Mattie of Taking B(l)ack Pride has a suggestion for potential donors who want to contribute to Pride: Do it without the expectation that they will get public recognition. 

“We have a particular sponsor this year who, overall, isn’t really that great,” Mattie said, adding that the donor made clear their name did not need to be publicized. “Shittiness or not, that’s money that we don’t have. That’s money that we could use.” 

a person wearing orange dances in a spot of sunshine

Attendees dance during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event on June 25, 2022 at Seattle Center. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Attendees dance during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event on June 25, 2022 at Seattle Center. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

a man wearing purple wrestling garb and holding a rainbow flag

Wrestler Ricky Gibson emerges from backstage before a match at Lariat Bar during the White Center Pride block party on June 11, 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Wrestler Ricky Gibson emerges from backstage before a match at Lariat Bar during the White Center Pride block party on June 11, 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Beyond Pride month  

Some Pride event organizers go beyond the month of June to make change, like those at Taking B(l)ack Pride, who, Renata said, work year-round, from focusing on state legislation to creating housing. 

“That’s what folks are living and breathing, and it’s not just relegated to a time when they can make money off of it,” she said. 

For some communities, celebrations like White Center Pride are just one piece of a larger puzzle. 

“We do Pride things all year,” Loughridge said, like monthly happy hours to get people together. “I think that’s another reason you need these smaller neighborhood Prides, to keep people coming together and engaged all year long. Pride just doesn’t have to be about one day, or one weekend, or one month.”

people sit in seats in a synagogue

Lexie Halle listens to a speech during a Pride Shabbat service at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill during Seattle’s Pride month on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Lexie Halle listens to a speech during a Pride Shabbat service at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill during Seattle’s Pride month on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

a crowd of people cheer and sing outside

People cheer for performer Kidd Kenn during the 2022 Taking B(l)ack Pride. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

People cheer for performer Kidd Kenn during the 2022 Taking B(l)ack Pride. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Crosscut's Amanda Snyder contributed reporting to this story.

 

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About the Authors & Contributors

Genna Martin

Genna Martin

Genna Martin is Crosscut's associate photo editor.