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‘Pride is Power’: Thousands gather at Chicago’s 53rd annual Pride Parade

Carmella Marie, a pitbull terrier mix wags her tail at the Chicago Pride Parade along N. Broadway Street on Sunday, June 30, 2024. Her owner says he brings Carmella out every year, and that today is her birthday.

Gleeful cheers and lively music boomed through Lakeview as the Chicago Pride Parade passed through a sea of colorfully dressed celebrants on Sunday, June 30.

The 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade kicked off at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Sheridan and Broadway and moved through Lakeview, ending in Lincoln Park at Sheridan and Diversey. The route was packed with colorful floats, dressed-up vehicles, performers and music despite being scaled back from previous years. This year, there were 150 contingents while last year’s parade consisted of 199.

As this year’s theme for the parade was “Pride is Power,” spectators showered the city with support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Festive attendees squealed in excitement as parade participants danced and called out to them.

Celia Bartel, a barista from Los Angeles, said, “I just really love being a lesbian…. I’m just very proud of my coming out process, and I feel like seeing other folks out and about at Pride events really helped me feel comfortable, so I love to be that very proud, out representation for younger queer folks.”

Those in the parade consisted of “community organizations, businesses, governmental officials and individual community members, all gathered to commemorate the history and celebrate the legacy of the fight for LGBTQ rights,” according to PRIDEChicago.

This also marks the third year in a row that Columbia has had an official presence at the Chicago Pride Parade. Columbia had sponsored a wrapped cooling bus off of the Belmont station, offering air conditioning and charging stations for parade attendees. “We are proud of our diversity and wanted to spotlight our alumni and students,” said Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations. “Columbia teams, including students, are in attendance to collect alumni info, market to prospective students and simply be there as a supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Approximately one-third of the college’s undergraduates identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Niah Dawkins, a sophomore dance major who was at the parade, said, “It’s a time for everybody to be who they are. It’s a time for everybody to be free, let go of all the worries they have, all the problems – just have fun, connect with each other, the community, make new friends, be happy.”

People from all over the Chicagoland area and outside of Illinois found comfort in the welcoming environment at the parade.

“Growing up I don’t think it was as welcoming or open-spaced to express your individuality, so being able to have the midwest community and to be in a place that feels like a larger version of Omaha, Nebraska, but also is very queer-friendly,” said Evie Kay, a consultant who grew up in Omaha. “It’s very healing to the inner-child.”

Amy Shelton, a photographer living in Logan Square, has worked on the floats in the parade in previous years. “Pride is an act of resistance,” Shelton said. “There’s also a lot of horrible anti-trans bills that are happening – that’s why this is important.”

The Chicago Pride Parade was a reminder for some people to recognize their privilege. Nicholas Williamson from the northwest suburbs watched a documentary called “Stanley Stellar: Here is the Reason” that followed gay photographer Stanley Stellar in New York growing up in the 70s. After watching the evolution of pride over time in the documentary, it reminded him to “come out in the open and be gay” and celebrate with the community.

“We sort of take for granted that we live together and we have housing, we have jobs. We don’t really think about being gay that often, but there’s power in community,” he said. “There’s power in being who you are and standing up for our rights that are continually under fire.”

For some, this was their first-ever pride. Michael Thomas, a performing artist from Boston, said, “Chicago has made it one of those places that’s super, super open and affirming and friendly.” This was the first time he could experience Pride and “not feel pressure from outside of this community. It’s just so warm and loving, and it’s good to experience it here for the first time,” he said.

Justin Brown, a performing artist from Houston, also celebrated his first pride ever. According to Brown, Houston’s pride didn’t feel like a priority, so “seeing people be authentically themselves is a really beautiful thing, and it makes me want to explore this side of myself even more, so I’m just happy to be here,” he said. “Chosen family is really important when it comes to being a part of the LGBTQ community, so if you could find that and just feel free to be yourself and have people that really love and accept you for who you are, then you’ll have so much confidence to go out in the world and just be yourself.”


Copy edited by Trinity Balboa

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About the Contributors
Addison Annis
Addison Annis, Director of Photography
aannis@columbiachronicle.com   Addison Annis is a junior photojournalism major, minoring in video production. She has covered politics, cultural events and Chicago protests. Annis joined the Chronicle in August 2022.   Hometown: Plymouth, Minn.