‘We need community, we need solidarity, we need hope’

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Marchers walk together in the 2023 Princeton Pride parade as they wave flags and hold signs on June 17. Photo courtesy of Andrea Kane/Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice

Princeton’s Pride parade welcomes 4,000 people in celebration of love and community

The colors of Pride filled the streets during Princeton’s Pride parade and after-party celebration on June 17.

Waving flags, chanting and decked in colorful colors, people of all ages – with joy and laughter – celebrated love and community to show support to one another at a time when the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, aesexual) community faces increased levels of hate and anti-LGBTQ legislation nationwide.

2023 Princeton Pride parade. Photo courtesy of Andrea Kane/Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice

They marched from the Princeton Municipal Building on Witherspoon Street to the Princeton YMCA great field.

“I hope that by being at Princeton Pride that everyone knows that they and their families are welcome and loved by their Sesame Street family,” said Alan Muraoka, Pride parade co grand marshal and actor on Sesame Street, who plays the owner of Hooper’s Store.

It was a distinct honor to be a co-Grand Marshal this year, and it was so wonderful to interact with the many families who were on the Parade route, Muraoka added.

Alan Muraoka, Pride parade co-grand marshal, delivers remarks during the after-party at Princeton YMCA on June 17. Photo courtesy of Andrea Kane/Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice

The Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice (BRCSJ), which offers programs and support to the LGBTQIA+ community, organized the Pride parade and has done so since 2019.

That continued during the COVID-19 pandemic as BRCSJ organized virtual Pride parades before returning back in person last year for the 2022 parade.

“Since the Center organized the first-ever PRIDE Parade and After-Party here in Princeton five years ago, it has become as exponential as it is inspirational and has only built in size, stature, and significance,” said Robt Seda-Schreiber, BRCSJ chief activist.

BRCSJ welcomed over 4,000 people – notable celebrities, national and local elected officials, powerful community leaders and organizations, and “most importantly a population of beautiful people who often don’t have this opportunity to gather together safely and lovingly,” he said.

Seda-Schreiber said one of the things BRCSJ holds sacrosanct is that every Pride is someone’s first Pride.

“Every Pride is someone’s first Pride, not only our queer youth but folks across the spectrum of age as well as identity and gender (or lack thereof),” he added. “We hold that idea and this feeling sacrosanct as we organize this extraordinary event that pushes all of us here at BRCSJ HQ (headquarters) to create a day that is as meaningful as it is fabulous, as empowering as it is entertaining.”

Dancing and music at the Princeton Pride after-party. Photo courtesy of Andrea Kane/Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice

For Rebekah Bruesehoff, a 16-year-old author and transgender activist, it was an honor to be the parade flag-bearer in the 2023 Pride parade.

“It’s so important at this moment in history that transgender young people are lifted up in the wholeness of who we are. Being able to lead in this way that was filled with both joy and visibility was really special,” Bruesehoff said, adding their joy, light and beauty matters.

“Things are really hard right now for our community, but we are more than the trauma that is heaped on us. I want people to be inspired and empowered to lead with love and joy, because that can change the world. It already has, and it will continue to do so.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the country.

“These opportunities to gather as a community are everything right now. We need community. We need solidarity. We need hope,” Bruesehoff said. “And that’s what being together in such a beautiful, joy-filled way gives us. Whoever you are, whatever you’re facing, you’re not alone.”

All are welcome in Princeton, and all should feel safe in Princeton, Mayor Mark Freda said.

“Princeton is a very welcoming and accepting community.  It is a community that respects people for who they are instead of looking for differences to dislike,” he said. “People feeling safe to openly be who they are demonstrates that, so we are happy to have the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice spearhead this event.”