GRAND JUNCTION, CO – Hundreds of people gathered at Emerson Park under cloudy skies on June 28th, and marched to commemorate the unity in our community and Pride Month. Held on the 51st anniversary of the first day of the Stonewall Riot, Pride March saw people of all genders, races, sexualities, and ages come out to recognize each other’s struggles, stand together against systematic oppression, and celebrate all of the marginalized people in our community. As a young man confidently thrust his Trump hat out of his car window for all participants to see, the people kept marching, minding their own business and standing together against the intense oppression we face today in America.
The march was put on and organized by multiple organizations and individuals within our community. Jeff Pacotti explained that it was a leaderless march, and it was led by our community. On Facebook Pacotti added, “We stand in unity with BLM, POC, RAW, and everyone else who wants to join us.”
Grand Junction’s usual Pride celebration was cancelled, as were other celebrations around the country due to the pandemic. But on Sunday people safely gathered, kept their distance, and held their heads high with masks on as they marched to Two Rivers Convention Center, where speakers and performers addressed many different topics surrounding equal rights and injustices in our country.
Manny Cisneros spoke about his community activism. He mentioned the risks disproportionately affecting LGBTQIA+ folks and people of color, and how Pride is taking on a new form as we all mourn and rage over recent tragedies.
“I think for a lot of people, they struggle with understanding the notion of LGBTQ pride, Latin Pride, female empowerment, and people wonder, ‘What’s the point of Black Power?’ I think that when power is naturally given to you; when you’ve never had to take it for yourself; when the world celebrates you and encourages you; when you’ve never had to endure the kind of self hatred and overwhelming shame those of us in marginalized communities have experienced, I think it’s hard to understand having Pride [events]. Pride isn’t just a party. Pride is a tool that we use to overcome the injustice of shame. It is an expression of triumph, a statement to the world that we have lived against all odds, [that] we are still here, regardless of the struggles that we continue to face.”
I also had a conversation with Nellie and Estrella, two strong and intelligent Hispanic women who spoke to the crowd about immigration and the victory for DACA recipients when the Supreme Court blocked Trump’s bid to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
We talked about the divide between the Hispanic and Black communities.
“We just need to get together and join forces. It’s really not a different issue. We’re minorities. We’re going to be oppressed, we’re going to be discriminated against, and we just need to remember that if we’re not a united voice, nobody is going to hear us.”
Both women mentioned the fact that we, as two marginalized groups, have issues trying to unite because we don’t understand each other.
As we talked about what activism looks like in the Hispanic community, Estrella compared the different ways that activists are trying to effect change.
“We don’t riot anymore, we don’t march anymore. Now we’re at the capitol, we go to D.C. We are speaking to the people that can change things now because we had to find a different way of getting our word out and getting education out. Our number one priority is always protecting the community and our community is very fragile because it’s very fearful. We can’t do this [public speaking, marches, etc.] with undocumented people. We’re afraid ICE might show up. There’s fear, so we have to be very careful.”
Other speakers included Jeff Pacotti, Antonio Clark, Jesse Daniels, Shannon Robinson, Sarah Swedberg, and Anna Stout, a councilmember who reminded us that it is our right as American citizens to attend city council meetings and voice our opinions and concerns (every first and third Wednesday of each month, at 6:00 pm).
The event finished off with performances from Caleb Ferganchick, the Rainbow Guard, Stella Rae Van Dyke, Xavier Van Dyke, and Lady Houston.