NEW PALTZ – Several raindrops didn’t deter the thousands of participants and spectators, who converged on downtown New Paltz Sunday afternoon to celebrate in the 15th annual Hudson Valley LGBTQ Pride Parade & Festival. The day was mostly sunny, mild, with a slight breeze.
The theme for the 2019 event was “Looking Back, Marching Forward,” in commemoration of 50th Anniversary of Stonewall Riots in New York City, June 28, 1969, which marked the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
“We have witnessed watershed cultural shifts towards acceptance and a ban on conversion therapy in New York, but LGBTQ youth still experience bullying and family estrangement at disproportionate rates,” said Jeff Rindler, executive director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center, which organizes the celebration. “New York recently passed the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act, but every day we come closer to the right to discriminate being legalized through religious exemptions at the federal level. We are fighting for equal protections under the law, inclusive curriculums, and access to life-saving healthcare and resources for our community.”
Denise Oliver-Velez was the grand marshal for the parade.
“I’ve lived up here for about 20 years, and I’ve seen a major change in the area here in Ulster County, in terms of awareness and acceptance, and it’s a good thing to see,” said Oliver-Velez, contributing editor at Daily Kos and a former SUNY New Paltz professor. She previously worked with the Black Panthers and the Young Lords Party.
Oliver-Velez was chosen grand marshal along with Rae Leiner, the co-founder and co-director of the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center, former director of the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative in the City of Newburgh, and former Community Voices Heard organizer in Orange County.
Also honored this year were the late Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, both transgender drag participants in the Stonewall uprising, who are both having statues erected in New York City this summer, probably at Christopher Park, across from the old Stonewall Inn. Rivera worked with Oliver-Velez as a teenager in the Young Lords group, she recalled.
Also marching in the parade were several local officials, including State Senator Jen Metzger; Ulster County legislator Hector Rodriguez; and New Paltz deputy town supervisor Dan Torres.