By Chauncey Dandridge
One of the things heavily lamented by members of the LGBTQ community currently, is that this will be the first time in fifty years that there will actually be no organized Pride March conjured up to light up The Big Apple in rainbow colors. Considering that last year, New York City celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of The Stonewall Riots as well as played gracious host to World Pride festivities, the void left in the wake of coronavirus will be wildly ominous and felt around the world. Pride season in Gotham City promises to be peculiar, painfully anticlimactic and disorienting. It will be a stark contrast to joyous, countless celebrations that stretched throughout every corner and borough of the city that never sleeps. Luckily, some of the positively resounding traits of the LGBTQ community are defiance, ingenuity and resilience. There have been too many successes, too much progress, too much climbing and resisting and reconciliation to stop. Like the members of a church say, from the priest to the parishioner, you don’t have to be in church to experience God, because God is everywhere. This year, we will be reassured that Pride doesn’t need a parade to exist. Pride is everywhere, in everyone and every day.
Nostalgia is usually reserved as an emotion one feels about moments in their life that happened many years ago. In 2020, we will be forced to feel nostalgic about all the magic and madness that occurred simply one year ago. The entire month of June is usually chock full of events from rallies to fundraisers to circuit parties to outdoor concerts and everything in-between. It is a magical time for tourism, as people from around the world plan to spend their Pride in the city where Pride began and most revelers make sure their itinerary includes a journey to Mecca: The Stonewall Inn. I have the luxury and honor of being one of the resident DJs and event producers at the bar, and when I was hired back in 2013, I had no idea the sheer magnitude of excitement and glory that would reverberate within those walls and outside the front door when the anniversary of the riots grew closer in 2019.
Fast forward to March of this year, and New York City nightlife has been completely upended, the proverbial rug quickly and carelessly ripped out from under us. The static and chaos of uncertainty has filled the blank space where the music once played and has left dance floors barren and barstools vacant. Remembering their inner divinity, the drag queens, the DJs, the musicians, the dancers, the artists, the activists and the audiences have not stopped creating, fighting, surviving or watching. Instead of the arts and nightlife community going underground, we have simply gone digital!
Immediately after the initial shutdown, drag shows and talk shows and dj sets popped up everywhere and filled the vacuum. Fans adjusted and assimilated to this new way of experiencing queer art and performance as technophobes learned their way around a Zoom dance party and learned how to Venmo someone a tip. It has been quite remarkable to witness and participate in as well. I have found that I and many fellow artists are finding newer ways to express ourselves while discovering talents we were aware of but had never fostered before. Activists are leading by example, volunteering at food drives and soup kitchens, using the captive audiences glued to their phones to valiantly preach their political messages and somehow, despite the obvious physical and social distance, make stronger connections.
This ‘pause’, as they have dubbed it, has been obviously life changing, revealing much more about ourselves and others than we would have ever expected. It has been accompanied with great loss and death, financial uncertainty, hardship and resounding fear and anxiety, but perhaps it was necessary to stand still and regroup, and reinvent and reclaim our own Pride. We needed to reassess our value and values. We needed to relearn respect. We needed to remember our history and prepare for our future.
We still do not have any understanding of how and when and if the nightlife community will rebound after this crisis and threat is over. Will our favorite watering holes survive? Will dance floor capacities be cut in half? Will plexiglass stand between you and your bartender? Will your handshakes be rationed out? Will your hugs be looser or tighter? Will you have to find a dark corner in a dive bar to remove your masks and experience your first kiss? So, so many unknowns. This community has won many battles, survived many attacks, climbed many mountains and still continues to morph and master its techniques. And we do it in one of the greatest classrooms in the world, New York City. We have a current administration that is certainly not in our best interest, and as the letters in our acronym multiply so do our enemies. In solidarity, please remember that in November on Election Day. And this June, remember that, like God, Pride is everywhere, in everyone and every day.
Chauncey Dandridge is a DJ, event producer, multidisciplinary artist, author and activist in NYC. Currently enjoying a residency at The Stonewall Inn, Chauncey helps produce the annual Dance Parade and Urban Bear NYC Weekend as well as a weekly radio show and monthly variety show “Freak Out” which showcases local queer talent. He has lent his time and talents to countless fundraisers over the years. Follow him on Instagram @houseofdandridge and @djchaunceyd