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Thousands march in the streets of New York for WorldPride

Pride 2021: A history of the rainbow flag

What we covered here

  • New York hosted WorldPride: Thousands of people took to the streets for the largest LGBTQ celebration in the world. It was the first time WorldPride was held in the US.
  • It was a historic celebration: The march coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, considered the catalyst for the modern gay rights movement.
  • Marchers were hopeful: The march came at a time when LGBTQ rights are under threat in the US, but the tone and messaging from parade goers was celebratory and optimistic.
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Our live coverage of the 2019 WorldPride march has ended, but you can read more of our reporting on the LGBTQ community here and at the links below.

This friend group traveled all the way from Spain

Juan Bautista, second from the left, and Tamara Requeña, right, pose with their friends.

Tamara Requeña, Juan Bautista and their friends came all the way from Spain for WorldPride.

They said Madrid, where they live, has an amazing Pride celebration. But they came to New York to celebrate with the rest of the world, Requeña said.

“We’re chasing the best Pride celebration,” she said.

“We are the new generation of gay people in the world,” Bautista added. “We have to celebrate.”

Their only critique was that Spain has more free Pride events, such as concerts and shows, unlike most of the Pride-related entertainment in New York. They also mentioned that the parade did not continue in a steady procession, with gaps between groups and floats approaching 10 to 15 minutes as the parade approached the six-hour mark.

They identify as having both a male and female spirit

Members of the “Two Spirit” community are also represented at the parade.

The term “Two Spirit” is used by indigenous communities to refer to people who identify as having both a masculine and feminine spirit, and long predates the acronym LGBTQ. While a person can identify as LGBTQ and Two Spirit, the term does not make a statement about a person’s gender or sexual orientation.

According to the news website Indian Country Today, Two Spirit people held significant roles in tribes, serving to keep the balance. Today, Two Spirit people keep those traditions alive at gatherings and communal events by saying prayers to heal those present.

Macy's brought the energy with their massive float

There’s no denying that the enormous floats from big brands and companies tend to raise the energy – with a big boost from their bass-heavy sound systems.

Sponsors of WorldPride include Macy’s, MasterCard and Trojan Condoms, to name a few. Deutsche Bank’s contingent included banners and pictures of LGBTQ activists around the world in a vibrant tribute.

A group from Deutsche Bank waves banners with photos of LGBTQ activists.

WarnerMedia, the parent company of CNN, also had a float in the parade.

Pride isn't all rainbow flags

In a sea of rainbow flags, some marchers wrapped themselves in other designs.

Below, some parade participants are sporting banners in pink, purple and blue, the colors of the bisexual flag. One man wears a t-shirt proclaiming “bisexual pride!” The blue, pink and white colors of the transgender flag can also be spotted.

Read more about what the identity terms in the acronym LGBTQ mean here.

Law enforcement officials walk hand in hand

The crowd erupts in cheers as uniformed members of law enforcement stride down the parade route, some holding hands.

The group includes representatives from Canada, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Association.

Activists remember a transgender woman who was jailed because she couldn't pay bail

Supporters of the Anti-Violence Project in New York are marching in honor of Layleen Polanco.

The 27-year-old transgender woman arrested in April and sent to jail at New York’s Rikers Island after she was unable to post $500 cash bail, her family said. Nearly two months later, Polanco was found unresponsive in her cell and later pronounced dead, in what her family and the Anti-Violence Project say is a case of neglect.

A new state law that takes effect in January 2020 eliminates cash bail for most misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses. Under that law, Polanco would likely not have had to go to jail.

'No more rainbow capitalism,' reads one sign

Earlier Sunday, “Pose” star and parade grand marshal Indya Moore urged skepticism of corporate sponsors of World Pride.

Others also echoed their concerns throughout the parade route.

An alternative Queer Liberation March and Rally took place on Sunday for those disillusioned by the corporate presence at the WorldPride celebration.

The Reclaim Pride Coalition called the rally a “people’s political march,” and said it featured no corporate floats or police presence.

NYC's Department of Education marches in support of students

Members of the New York City Department of Education wave flags at the parade, touting the city’s support for LGBTQ students.

In states across the country, debates are playing out over how to make schools more welcoming for LGBTQ students. Efforts to ban transgender students from using bathrooms based on their gender identities may draw attention, but an increasing number of states and school districts are adopting welcoming policies.

Still, LGBTQ youth report high rates of discrimination. Eighty-seven percent of LGBTQ students experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics including sexual orientation, gender and race, according to data from GLSEN.

He wants people today to remember the activists that came before them

Today’s LGBTQ activists follow a long line of people who dedicated their lives to changing the way the world sees members of their community. And the fight for equality is far from over.

New Yorker Stephen Carella, 21, came up with this shirt to honor LGBTQ activists who made Pride possible. The front of the shirt is a nod to Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera and Stormé DeLarverie, while the back notes that homosexuality is still illegal in many countries around the world.

“A lot of people come to Pride for the photo ops,” he said. “I want to remember the people who fought for us. We stand on their shoulders.”

Stephen Carella, right of center, poses with a group of friends.
The back of Stephen Carella's shirt reads "Homosexuality is still illegal in 71 countries. We still have work to do."

The cast of the 'Pose' is front and center

The FX drama “Pose” has been a big presence at today’s parade, with members of the cast serving as grand marshals and a group from the show marching in the parade.

The TV series, which depicts the ballroom world of 1980s and 1990s New York, is renowned for its LGBTQ cast, including Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson and Billy Porter, among others. The show features an unprecedented number of transgender actors as series regulars.

‘Pose’ has gained a loyal following for the way it tackles serious themes like HIV/AIDS, poverty and harassment faced by the LGBTQ community while at the same time capturing their resilience.

“It has arguably never been more important for us to see transgender characters on TV finding happiness wherever they can against a backdrop of heartbreak,” journalist and author Samantha Allen wrote in an op-ed for CNN.

She's been bringing this sign to New York Pride for 35 years

95-year-old Frances Goldin, left, poses with her daughter Reeni Goldin, middle.

Frances Goldin is 95 years old, and for the last 35 years, she’s been bringing the same sign to New York Pride.

“I Adore my Lesbian Daughters KEEP THEM SAFE,” the sign reads.

Goldin is a longtime housing activist after whom an affordable housing development for seniors in New York is named. Today, she’s here with her daughter, Reeni Goldin, and Reeni’s wife, Marge Burns.

“It’s been 50 years (since Stonewall) and in this climate of hate we need to have a force of solidarity,” Reeni Goldin says.

“And happiness,” her wife adds. “Happiness that we can be here.”

Groups from around the world are at the parade

Members of the German delegation are dressed as flight attendants.

There are more than 150 groups from outside the US participating in today’s parade, organizers said. In the photo above, some members of the German delegation are dressed as flight attendants with “Merkel Air” push carts.

These marchers from Copenhagen are already gearing up for the next WorldPride in 2021, which will be hosted in the Danish capital.

And here’s the Italian delegation, chanting as they pass by the Stonewall Inn.

Proud moms and kids are offering free hugs

There are a lot of mothers wearing “Proud mom” shirts and waving signs offering free hugs.

Angela Ghiozzi of Cold Spring, New York, pictured above, said she’s been coming every year with her son since he came out seven years ago.

In the photo below, sisters Addison and Jessie Boschnack-Roth of Queens are here to show support for their mothers and also offer free hugs.

They're here to represent the elder LGBT community

Marie Spivey, Donna Sue Johnson and Guy Aiossa, from left to right, are representing SAGE, the country’s oldest advocacy group for LGBT elders.

Spivey recently applied for a spot in one of New York City’s first LGBT-friendly affordable-housing developments for older adults. She hopes to share a home with her partner Johnson, where they can walk arm-in-arm without worrying about glares from neighbors.

Aiossa also applied for a spot in the new housing developments, saying he never felt safe after moving from Greenwich Village to Brooklyn’s Far Rockaway.

They spoke to CNN about the challenges that LGBTQ adults face. Read the story here.

Late transgender icons honored as grand marshals

The late pioneering transgender icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are being honored as grand marshals of the parade.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were good friends who played a key role in the Stonewall uprising in 1969.

“We were … throwing over cars and and screaming in the middle of the street ‘cause we were so upset ‘cause they closed that place,” Johnson told historian Eric Marcus in a 1989 interview that’s now been compiled into an episode for the “Making Gay History” podcast.

The two emerged from the clashes as leaders of the gay liberation movement, and helped found the group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which offered housing to homeless and transgender youth.

Johnson’s dead body was found floating in the Hudson River in July 1992. Rivera died in 2002 of complications from liver cancer.

Sylvia Rivera, left, and Marsha P. Johnson, second from left, at a protest in New York City in 1973.

Versace is vying for the most stylish float

Look close and you’ll see Italian fashion designer and icon Donatella Versace.

Versace’s float is an homage to the Stonewall Inn, complete with a red brick side and a photo of the bar’s sign as a back drop.

The red and white side of the float reads, “Where Pride began.”

This couple says they feel validated by police support

As crowds gather on the sidewalks of Midtown Manhattan and parade participants clamber up on floats, Stephanni Morton and her wife pose for a photo in front of an NYPD vehicle.

'Pose' star Indya Moore: 'Love us when we're under attack'

At a press conference before the parade, “Pose” star Indya Moore urged the crowd to not let the rainbow flags along the parade route distract from the issues facing the transgender community, such as poverty, discrimination and tension with and distrust of law enforcement.

Moore has spoken of the similarities they share with their character, Angel, a transgender sex worker who is a member of one of New York’s drag houses. Moore was a friend of Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman who died in police custody on Riker’s Island. Moore called on organizers of World Pride to incorporate more private security in consideration of those who have had negative encounters with law enforcement because of their identity.

Moore also called on major LGBTQ advocacy groups to do more to integrate the transgender community and people of color into leadership roles and their agendas.

They also urged the public to support the transgender community outside of Pride month.

An alternative rally to the WorldPride celebration is also taking place

Photographer Amy Lombard captured this scene today from the Queer Liberation March and Rally, an alternative march for those who believe pride has become too frivolous and commercial.

The Reclaim Pride Coalition calls the rally a “people’s political march,” which has no corporate floats and no police presence.

The rally takes on the tone of the first pride march, which was held one year after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. LGBTQ people in New York gathered in 1970 commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising – and to fight for their rights.

“The gay pride parade wasn’t a parade,” Maria-Elena Grant told CNN. “It was a march, it was like a civil disobedience, it was a demonstration. It wasn’t like having a fancy corporate float and all this money … It was a civil rights action.”

It's also been 20 years since the transgender pride flag was created

This year marks not only the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, but also the 20th anniversary of the creation of the transgender pride flag. The creator of the flag, Monica Helms, is one of the parade’s grand marshals.

At a press conference Sunday, she expressed gratitude for the chance to celebrate her legacy at WorldPride. But the transgender community remains vulnerable, she said.

“It’s been a struggle for transgender people, a long struggle.”

Monica Helms, creator of the transgender pride flag, hugs another participant at the Pride march.

What else is going on for WorldPride this weekend?

New York has been host to a number of events and celebrations leading up to today’s march.

On Friday, there was a rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and to continue the fight for equal rights today. The event was a tribute to the first New York Pride rally, which took place a month after the Stonewall riots in 1969.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared June 28 Stonewall Day, and participants performed a solemn tribute to the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Among the other happenings this weekend were Youth Pride and Pride Island, a three-day outdoor music festival featuring performances by Grace Jones, Teyana Taylor and more.

Who's going to be there

Mayor Bill de Blasio waves to the crowd during the 2018 Pride March in New York City.

Last year’s march in New York City featured more than 550 groups and more than 100 floats.

Expect that number to be even larger this year, with participation from community organizations, corporate sponsors, political candidates, activists and more. Organizers say 74% of the groups marching are nonprofit organizations.

These are some noteworthy names to watch for.

  • The Gay Liberation Front, the original warriors for LGBTQ rights who first organized after the Stonewall riots
  • The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth
  • The cast of “Pose,” the TV series about New York City’s LGBTQ ballroom culture in the 1980s and 1990s
  • Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, the co-founder and director of UK Black Pride
  • Monica Helms, a transgender activist, author and US Navy veteran. She also created the Transgender Pride Flag.

Here's the route for the march

The march kicks off at noon from Madison Square Park at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue, and organizers expect about 115,000 people to attend.

The parade will pass two important landmarks:

  • The Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 uprising that saw the LGBTQ community fight back against NYPD officers who routinely raided the bar in Greenwich Village.
  • The New York City AIDS Memorial, a tribute to the more than 100,000 New Yorkers who have died from AIDS.

Marchers will head south on Fifth Avenue until they hit Eighth Street. They’ll head west on Eighth Street and cross onto Christopher Street before heading north on Seventh Avenue. Here’s a map:

How the Stonewall riots inspired today's Pride celebrations

Pride these days is synonymous with rainbow-saturated celebrations of the LGBTQ community.

It’s easy to forget its solemn origins as a march that commemorated clashes between police and protesters outside a New York gay bar, the Stonewall Inn.

The media coverage of what is now called the Stonewall riots reflected the era’s homophobic attitudes. In the late 1960s, it was still illegal in most states to be gay, not a single law protected gay people from discrimination and there were no openly gay politicians or pop culture icons.

Stonewall galvanized a generation of activists into forming a mass civil rights movement, but many of those people are no longer around to tell us their story about what happened.

CNN spoke to three people to nail down what we know. Read what they had to say here.

Why this year's march is a big deal

New York’s Pride march regularly draws large crowds, but this year’s celebration isn’t just a regular Pride march.

The city is playing host to WorldPride, the largest LGBTQ celebration in the world. It’s the first time WorldPride is being held in the United States.

The march also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, considered the catalyst for the modern gay rights movement.

Thousands of people are taking to the streets for a parade that will pass by the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 uprising that saw the LGBTQ community fight back against NYPD officers who routinely raided the bar in Greenwich Village.

The march caps off a month of events that included a rally commemorating Stonewall 50, Youth Pride and Pride Island, a three-day outdoor music festival.