Who is the St Pat’s 'For All' Parade for, Really?
St Patrick’s Day Parade in Sunnyside Continues Hitting High Notes
It was a beautiful sunny day in Sunnyside, as I made my way over to Skillman Avenue to watch the annual St. Pat’s For All parade. The speeches had started at noon, but I didn’t arrive until after 1 pm, so I missed them [bummer].
When I arrived, the parade was out in a full march, and behind the first banner there were about a dozen government officials including NYC Councilman Danny Dromm [Jackson Heights / Elmhurst], Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney [Manhattan / Queens], NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson [Manhattan] who’s likely planning a run for Mayor, NYS Attorney General Letitia James, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [Queens / Bronx], NYS Assemblyman David Weprin [Jamaica Estates / Richmond Hill] and the St. Pat’s For All parade co-founders Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy and Brendan Fay. A few pols who marched in their own groups, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and NYS Senator Michael Giannaris.
Jimmy Van Bramer Reportedly Threatened & Crowley Resigns as Queens Democratic Chair
Notably absent [at least I didn’t see either of them] were NYC Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and former Congressman Joe Crowley. I reckon Crowley had his reasons, as just last week he resigned as the Queens County Democratic Party Leader. And I reckon Van Bramer had his reasons as well, as this week he was reportedly threatened by a restaurateur who was upset that the Amazon deal fell through. According to Newsweek, the restaurateur texted a message to Van Bramer that included this, “… you can be at the back of the parade or in front of the firing squad …” We posted a couple of reports on the Amazon deal on the two announcements – we’re coming / we’re not coming, which you can read by clicking these links. Amazon coming to LIC Queens NYC / Amazon not coming to LIC Queens NYC.
Origins & History of the St. Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside Queens
The St. Pat’s For All parade started because the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day Parade wouldn’t allow gays, like Brendan Fay, to march openly. So he, along with Kathleen Walsh, rounded up a rag tag band of Irish folks, along with their friends and began the St. Pat’s For All parade in the year 2000. The ‘For All’ became the moniker and rallying cry, because as mentioned previously, the LGBTQ folks were banned from marching in the large Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan.
- CLICK here to read the rest of our report on the history and evolution of the St. Pat's For All parade in Sunnyside Queens - Irish culture in Queens. VIDEO including over 100 photos of the parade has been posted.
What does St Pat’s For All really Mean?
St Patrick’s Day Parade in Sunnyside Continues Hitting High Notes
To Brendan Fay & Kathleen Walsh 'For All' Means FOR ALL
But the ‘For All’ was more than for just LGBTQ – it was literally meant for all – and the two Irish founders dug back into Irish history, referencing a phrase the 1916 Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic that states, “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”. That battle was about religious discrimination, while this one was about gender identity discrimination. Unfortunately, these sorts of battles will likely go on until we small-minded Earthlings learn to discard ethnic, gender and religious group identity as a means of judging people, and - as Martin Luther King said in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech - begin to judge people “by the content of their character” instead.
The St. Pat’s For All parade welcomes all who wish to “share in the spirit of the day” and they tell us that they “err on the side of hospitality” in welcoming folks to march in the parade. I’ll return to this erring on the side of hospitality in a minute, as it was on in full display this particular Sunday.
Battle for 'Legal' Gender Diversity Recognition & Respect Mostly Won in NYS
The legal battle for gender identity rights has largely been won in the state of New York. In 2011 the NYS legislature passed a gay marriage bill conferring the same rights on same sex couples as heterosexual marriages, and gender recognition was further codified into the legal landscape in January of this year.
But while the state confers legal equality upon same sex couples, there are still pockets of resistance to recognizing gays as a legitimate gender identity, as we will see in this short history of gays winning the right to march in the three largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the U.S..
Very Brief History of Gender Diversity Recognition in Three Largest St. Patrick's Day Parades in U.S.
Chicago, which holds the second largest St. Patrick’s Parade in the nation, was first to allow gays to march in their parade beginning in the 1990’s. Boston, which hosts the third largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, opened their parade to gay marchers in 2014 [there was backlash in 2017, but it was overridden].
And the Manhattan, New York St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is the largest and oldest in the nation [256th year on March 17, 2019], first let a gay group march openly in 2015. The first gay group to march in the parade, marched under an Out NBC banner only a few years ago, in 2015. That sparked a controversy – along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s boycott of the parade since becoming Mayor in 2014. The Mayor was joined in the boycott in the couple years that followed by large alcohol companies including Guinness, Sam Adams and Heineken – so that in 2016 gays were allowed to openly march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan.
So, did the St. Pat’s For All fold, following their victory in 2018?
St. Pat's For All Parade Evolving into Something Distinctly Irish in Multi-Cultural Queens
It would seem not based on what I saw today.
So the parade started out by championing a cause – LGBTQ equality. Hence it is no surprise that since I’ve been covering the parade beginning well over a decade ago - that people championing other causes have marched in this parade – and continue to do so. Most of the causes are in support of human rights, stopping the brutal use of force to oppress people, and championing a world where people help – not hurt – each other. But like a hyper-active radio commercial, I have to say, “That’s not all folks”.
It’s worth noting that Queens is one of the most – if not the most - ethnically mixed counties in the world. About half of the borough residents were born in another country, and as such, while most grew up here, they straddle both the old and the new worlds. So what I saw on Sunday, seemed to be the beginning of a Queens-style, United Nations culturally diverse parade mosaic. The parade was morphing into something quite spectacular, by welcoming all who wish to share in the spirit of the day, which showcased the borough’s cultural flair.
When I first started covering the parade there were several Hispanic and Afrian American groups that marched in the St. Pat’s For All parade. In the past year or two I’ve seen Asian groups join the kaleidoscope of cultures.
If this continues, we may see more than a rainbow of gender, but also of cultures, with the Irish green in the middle of it all. They say that green is what makes the world go ‘round – but I’m pretty sure that’s not the Irish green – but rather the green of your money.
And once again, like a hyper-active radio commercial, I have to say, “… but that’s not all folks”.
But That's Not All Folks - The Parade includes a Musical Flair in 'the Home of Jazz'
Beginning in the 1920’s, jazz musicians started moving into Queens, starting in the Jamaica neighborhood. Jazz greats like Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Dizzie Gillespie, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Bix Biederbecke and James Brown lived in neighborhoods like Addsleigh Park, Corona and Sunnyside. In the 1940’s and 1950’s the borough was home to so many great jazz legends that it became known as the “home of jazz”, in contrast to New Orleans which kept its moniker as the “birthplace of jazz”.
So what I saw in the parade was what seemed to me almost an explosion of musical talent in the parade vis a vis prior years. There were at least a half dozen great bands – each with their own jazzy, toe-tapping music - and if it were not for a low battery on my video camera, I would be treating you to more of it here. The camera went dark several times before I gave up – but it captured more than I knew – as the camera kept recording a bit longer than when the monitor went dark.
The bands included … The Absurdist Pipes Band, the Brian Fleming Band [unconfirmed], County Cork Pipes & Drums, the Hungry Marching Band, Fogo Azul Women's & Brazilian Marching Band, the New York City Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Marching Band, and the Marching Cobras of Harlem.
And the Irish dance groups included McManus Irish Dance, the O'Donnell Academy of Irish Dance and the Fitzpatrick Academy of Irish Dance.
But that’s not all folks?
And of course, every measure of a good parade – like a party – is in who shows up. And given the nice weather there was a good turnout of neighbors, friends and well wishers.
Erin Go Bragh or in Gaelic Eirinn Go Brach, which means Ireland until the end of time. Happy St. Pat’s to All.
St Pat's For All Parade Sunnyside Queens NYC Video
St Patrick's Day Parade Sunnyside / Woodside Queens NY
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