Much to the surprise of Houston LGBT community leaders, next year’s annual Pride Festival and Parade will have a new location. Pride organizers announced the news yesterday at a press conference in Downtown. Here’s the scoop from Joey Guerra of the Houston Chronicle…
The Houston LGBT Pride Celebration, after more than 30 years in Montrose, is moving downtown.
“Pride Houston has outgrown the space required to produce quality activities associated with the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration,” Pride Houston president Frankie Quijano said. “Downtown is already host to many successful annual festivals and parades. The downtown location also ensures greater access to parking, public transportation, hotels, emergency personnel and other facilities within walking distance of the celebration.”
At the press conference, Quijano also said that the changed was already approved by the Board of Pride Houston by a 7 to 1 vote. Community leaders were shocked to find out about the changes, as it seems that no one was informed of this in advance of the Board vote. Here’s more on that response, via News92FM…
Pride Houston said the decision to move the 2015 parade came because the event has gotten so big. On its website, Pride said downtown can accommodate more people, and has better parking.
But Jack Valinski, founder and former committee member of Pride Houston, said the move came as a surprise.
“I am not necessarily against the move, I am against the idea that they moved it without really talking to the community,” Valinksi said.
The website said committee members met with the Mayor Annise Parker’s office, with the Houston Police and fire department.
But Valinski said the committee did not meet with the LGBT community.
“This is where our heart is and this is where the center of our universe is, Montrose and Westheimer,” Valinksi said, “and the fact that they’re leaving that are without consideration of even talking to people is a real slap in the face to the community.”
Several aspects surrounding the announcement seem suspect as well. Pride Houston chooses this week to break the news knowing that Mayor Parker is on a trade mission in Asia, and therefore unavailable to share her insight on the community’s concerns.
If Pride Houston has indeed outgrown the neighborhood, it stands to reason that organizers want to institute a sound plan for its future. Houstonians are incredibly supportive of the LGBT community, and want the Pride celebrations to continue to grow. But having a vote with little public notice, followed by a stealth and sudden announcement was not the way to make those changes happen. Many Montrose businesses count on Pride festivities, not just for increased sales during that one week, but as critical promotion and advertising so that customers will come back throughout the year. As a longtime partner in the area, Pride Houston had an obligation to work with community leaders and business professionals affected by the move, and should have done so before this decision came up for a vote.
Even with those huge missteps, this will hopefully be a good move for the City of Houston. No one can deny the special role that Montrose has played, and continues to play in national LGBT history, as well as the movement for equality. Today GCAM, the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of LGBT History, is actively working to establish a permanent museum site for these treasured stories. Growing pains are being felt all over the Houston region, and Pride festivities are no exception to that swell.
Though the decision has already been made (and Pride Houston makes that very clear on their website), there will be a forum this Saturday to discuss the move and its various implications. If you have comments, this is the place to share them with others, and have all community perspectives be heard. Let’s hope that Pride Houston learns from their mistakes on this one.