As the Pride special insert in the Willamette Week notes, Pride NW is a small organization, with one employee and no office space. It has gone through many financial and organizational trials over many years. Yet, despite its true nature as a community organization, whatever the events they put together somehow come across as heavily commercialized.
Of course, the question is whether the “business as usual” is even needed any more, in Portland of all places. The conventional gay pride parade has been in its present form for decades, and at least since the 1990s, not much have changed. In the new realities, it may have already outlived its usefulness or relevance.
In the empty shell of a pride, in the vacuum vacated by passionate community activism (like in the days of fighting OCA) and by the life-or-death struggles (like during the AIDS crisis) now occupies commercial advertisements and marketing gestures disguising as pride.
Yet, as Pride NW admits, the costs for putting this event is skyrocketing.
There must be a better way.
Here are some of the points for improvement to make Pride NW a truly community-oriented organization and event:
- Tiered float/contingent and booth fees. Those who can shell out more money, and those who come with a gigantic advertising float, should be required to contribute more to Pride NW. On the other hand, community organizations and activist groups should receive preferential rates, and so should be underrepresented groups (e.g., queer people of color, poly groups, etc.).
- Make the festival a non-alcoholic event. The issue of addiction and recovery is a serious matter within the queer communities. Using Pride as a way to push addictive substances such as alcohol must end — and this is only way to make the festival more inclusive, welcoming, acceptable, and safer. If anyone wants to drink, there are plenty of other options on Stark Street. Several years ago Pride NW did the right thing by making it all non-smoking.
- Highlight local talents. The entertainment stages need not book out-of-town celebrities. If anyone wants to go to a concert they can do so at the Rose Quarter or at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Use the festival to help emerging local talents succeed. Possible other opportunities could include (juried or open-call) outdoor fine arts exhibition. Maybe this approach could also allow Pride NW to receive a grant from the Regional Arts and Cultural Council to supplement expenses.
- Get rid of the fences. No alcohol, no fences.
- Something aside from the entertainment stages and vendor booths — something that are more participatory and interactive to help build a community.
- A well-defined limit on advertising on floats.