A Pride Parade organizer reflects on the event's origins and where it's going after two decades in the Spokane spotlight

Pride Issue

A Pride Parade organizer reflects on the event's origins and where it's going after two decades in the Spokane spotlight
OutSpokane photo
Spokane's Pride march started relatively small, in 1992.

Spokane Pride started as a grassroots act of resistance. In June 1992, roughly 150 people gathered to march on the sidewalks of downtown while holding signs. It was intended to be a demonstration in spirit with the famous 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, where violence broke out after police raided a gay-friendly bar in Greenwich Village.

"It started off as a small protest march on the sidewalks of downtown Spokane," says Steven Herevia, a 28-year-old organizer with OutSpokane, the organization behind Pride. "It would definitely be in your face."

Now, the march has turned into a full-fledged parade with municipal government backing and widespread community support. There are thousands of attendees, a variety of private sector sponsors and a litany of programming during Pride Month aside from the parade, such as an interfaith Pride worship service.

Herevia points to the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide and the 2010 repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that barred gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving in the military as some substantial turning points in expanding Spokane Pride.

"We've seen a shift in the total acceptance and understanding of the community over the last five years," he says. "That has definitely impacted the number of people attending and utilizing Pride."

More institutional support and community backing for an event that used to be a fringe demonstration poses an unusual problem to organizers: How to maintain Pride's activist resistance roots while also working collaboratively with stakeholders and making the event welcoming for everyone — including straight and cisgender people. (This can also pose issues, Herevia says, because some people show up just because they think it's a big party.)

"One of the interesting cultural things that we're having to think through as a community, what are the motivations for Pride?" Herevia says. "How do we also maintain the integrity of the original motivation? How do we continue to push towards equality and equity?"

The event's activist roots still manifest themselves in certain ways. One is in the centering of trans rights in programing. Another is a series of volunteers who will serve as "peace angels," wearing massive wings that will stand in front of protesters to separate marchers from any bigotry.

"We're in a climate and a time and an era where the hate is real," Herevia says, referring to the Trump presidency. "And people are emboldened to talk about the hate and to display it and show it."

"We understand that there's a lot to fight for," he adds. "Let this one day be an expression of that fight." ♦

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Josh Kelety

As a staff writer, Josh covers criminal justice issues and Spokane County government. Previously, he worked as a reporter for Seattle Weekly. Josh grew up in Port Townsend and graduated from the University of Washington. Message him through Signal @ (360) 301-3490.