June 22, 2022

Thousands Parade Through Princeton, Celebrating Pride In Person for 2022

By Donald Gilpin

Back in person for the first time since Princeton’s first Pride Parade in 2019, Pride 2022 again drew a crowd of thousands of spirited marchers and supporters on Saturday, June 18, all celebrating the message of love, diversity, and inclusion.

From babies to 90-year-olds, the diverse throng “marched, sashayed, and rolled,” according to event lead organizer Robt Seda-Schreiber, up Witherspoon Street from the Municipal Building, then down Paul Robeson Place to the YMCA for an afterparty that included entertainment and remarks from several speakers.

“To get the community together again after three years apart — it was beautiful, meaningful, significant, and inspirational — as meaningful as it was fabulous,” said Seda-Schreiber, chief activist of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice (BRCSJ), which sponsored the event.

Seda-Schreiber noted similarities between the 2019 and 2022 events, but emphasized the importance of bringing so many people together after having been kept apart for so long. “Especially for our queer community, for all marginalized folks, not to be able to gather is a really difficult thing,” he said. “You need to be able to be in a room or a space, a field or a parade or be wherever you might be together in order to have that sense of solidarity.”

He added, “Everybody was welcome. It was all-inclusive. It certainly exceeded our expectations, and I hope the community feels the same way.”

Participants in the parade who spoke at the afterparty included Princeton Mayor Mark Freda, New Jersey State Senators Andrew Zwicker and Linda Greenstein, Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis, Detroit poet Michelle Elizabeth Brown, trans activist and BRCSJ Board President Erin Worrell, and Sesame Street’s Alan Muraoka, who was grand marshal of the parade.

Among other notables in attendance were “Miss Stonewall Inn” Cissy Walken, the parade queen; queer icons Chet Kabara and Frank Mahood, co-founder of Gay People Princeton; and the Philadelphia Freedom Band.

In his remarks to the crowd, Muraoka, who has been on Sesame Street for almost 25 years, expressed his commitment to the values underpinning the event. “I am so honored to have been asked to serve as grand marshal of the Princeton Pride Parade and to be in community with you all on this Saturday with my friends at the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice,” he said. “On Sesame Street we try to teach empathy, tolerance, acceptance, and love, so children learn how to grow to be smarter, stronger, and kinder. And I realize that these are the exact same values that the good folks at the Center are trying to teach as well.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who attended the 2019 Princeton Pride Parade in person, could not make it this year, but delivered his support in a statement that was read. “I applaud the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice and the town of Princeton for their dedication to celebrating the diversity and unity within their community and commend everyone in attendance for honoring the achievements and contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community,” he wrote.

Though many in attendance were celebrating at their first or second gay pride parade, Mahood shared a longer-term perspective.  “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first gay rights organization in Princeton, which then became the first community-based organization Gay People Princeton, of which I was a co-founder,” he said. “And now I’m very grateful to the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice for continuing this meaningful work for all of us.”

Wesley Rowell, a third-year student at the Princeton Theological Seminary and BRCSJ intern who moved to Princeton in 2020 from New York City, commented on the spirit of community and inclusion at Saturday’s festivities. “What I found really beautiful and moving was that I have not experienced Princeton being so diverse in race and gender and also the extreme range of ages,” he said. “It was really nice to see that the event brought together the LGBTQIA+ community and all of Princeton as part of that community.”

Seda-Schreiber emphasized that Saturday’s parade and afterparty provided “a damn good show,” and much more. “We had horses, roller derby queens, 10-foot-tall pride puppets, drag queens, queer icons — everything and the rainbow kitchen sink,” he said. “We had so many folks and so much going on. We didn’t just put on a show. We made sure that everybody felt part of the show.”