Last Sunday, the 2019 Hawaii Island LGBTQ Pride Parade was organized in downtown Hilo. Click here for more details!
Hawaii Island Pride Parade 2019
This year, the Hawaii Island LGBTQ Pride Parad memorialized 50 years since the Stonewall riots. This non-profit organization from Hilo has sponsorship from the larger Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation. And this year, the local Pride Parade was organized in cooperation with communities all around the globe. Their 2019 theme was focused on celebrating the legal and social strides that the community had made in the previous half-century.
That’s the mindset with which the Pride Parade was organized in downtown Hilo this past Saturday.
As a reminder, the Stonewall riots started in the early morning of June 28, 1969. The spark that lit the powder keg was an NYPD raid on a gay club located in Greenwich Village — the eponymous Stonewall Inn.
In this era, police raids on gay bars were not an uncommon sight. But what separated the Stonewall incident was the fact that the LGBT patrons actually fought back. There are varying historical accounts of that evening. But what matters is that this event sparked a flurry of activism all across the nation, which raised awareness for LGBT issues.
There are many organizations which chose to help in commemoration of the Stonewall event. GLAAD is one such media monitoring entity, which was previously named the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. In accordance with them, most of the Pride Parades that were organized this June had a Stonewall theme. This is no wonder, as most contemporary historians trace the roots of the current LGBT movement to that evening.
Grep Lupton is the treasurer of the Hawaii Island LGBTQ Pride Parade, and he was happy to share his thoughts on the parade and festival. He mentioned that he kept asking himself if this event was still relevant and needed on an annual basis after seven years. Lupton said that gay people of different ages asked themselves if they should even bother with Pride year after year.
However, Lupton reached the conclusion that every year seemed to present a unique reason to keep doing what he was doing.
And in 2019, his focus was on the interconnectivity with different LGBTQ organizations and communities around the globe. The Stonewall rebellion is, for him, an event that woke up gay people around the world to the fact that they are not alone. Within a couple of years after that, more and more LGBT communities started organizing across the States. And as someone who is a part of that community, but in a remote area, feeling the contemporary connection with similar organizations is hugely important to him.
This year’s parade started at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The crows walked from the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Ponahawai Street and went across Keawe Street, Kilauea Avenue, Waianuenue Avenue, and Kamehameha Avenue.
Peter “Tui” Silva was this year’s grand marshal during the parade. He is a Hilo native, born and raised. In 1991, Silva became the Gay and Bisexual Club president at the University of Hawaii. His efforts as a part of that group were focused on a push for the decrease of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In addition, Silva was one of the founders of Na Mamo Hawaii, the first LGBTQ organization among Native Hawaiians in the state. Before that, he worked for the Life Foundation based in Honolulu as an HIV prevention director. Back in 2002, he would go on to found UTOPIA Hawaii.
In 2007, Silva went back to his home town to work at the Waiakea Health Center. There, he made an effort to give free education on sexually transmitted infections, as well as the adequate treatment and testing in those situations. This has been his life’s work, stretching across more than a decade.
Silva mentioned how honored he felt when he was asked to be the grand marshal this year. He was humbled and proud at how far the local community had come. Back when he was growing up, Hilo wasn’t perceived as much of a gay-friendly community.
He had friends who supported him in his school and church, the St. Joseph School and Church, but his activism truly began while studying at UH-Manoa. That’s where he did much of his advocacy work.
After relocating back to Hilo in 2007, Silva mentioned that he found it to be a completely different area compared to the one he grew up in. The LGBT advocate meant this in a good way, seeing his community as much better accepted here since he moved away.
Silva said that Hawaii was truly a majestic place. He expressed his pride at the ability to call it home, and nowadays, he really feels that this place welcomes people of all kinds. As long as there is aloha among people, everyone is accepted for who they are.
The festival lasted from noon to 4 p.m, based primarily at the Mooheau Bandstand, with cover band Born This Way as entertainment. Apart from them, Ricky Alvarez and the Puna Men’s Chorus also made appearances, as well as different drag performers. Art and food vendors from all around the island gathered, and community organizations held information booths.
Treasurer Lupton was also quick to point out that the Hilo Parade was the second longest-running LGBT event in the entire state of Hawaii. Speaking on the changes that had happened over the past years, he spoke of other things besides Pride. He pointed out that one of the best things was the fact that there were more and more events that the community organized throughout the year. The festival itself is no longer the only event, merely the one that brings the most media focus.
And some of these activities happened right after the Parade this year. The third Pride after-party, PINK!, including a drag show, was organized at the Hilo Town Tavern right after the parade, at 4 p.m. The event was conceived to be suitable for people over the age of 21, and the entrance fee was $10.
After that, an Equality HI dance was set up after the PINK! Party. This one was organized in the Crown Room of the Grand Naniloa Resort. While the tickets were presold at a price of $25, admission cost $35 at the door.