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RI Pride’s Infusing Providence With Some New Orleans Joie De Vivre

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Photo of a band playing on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.
Photo credit: Morgan Petroski via Unsplash

Rhode Island Pride is back, gearing up for June 2022, and they want you to join them Saturday, October 30 in celebrating our history and Halloween with a queer spin on an old-time second line parade.

In June, RI Pride announced longtime Pride organizer Rodney Davis would lead the organization out of the pandemic era that put Pride –– and the entire world –– on hold since March of 2020. Davis chatted with Options Magazine to discuss the upcoming Pride Halloween Jubilee Procession occurring on October 30.

Pride has had to deal with a rough two years, and the Jubilee is something RI Pride has never done before. But you wouldn’t feel the weight of any of that speaking to Davis. “This is a big community experiment,” he says with excitement. The new leader of Pride speaks with a combination of kindness and confidence that only comes from a strong belief in what one is doing and years of experience. Both qualities Davis has in abundance –– he helped propose and plan the first RI Pride illuminated night parade 20 years ago –– and are exactly what Pride needs right now.

“It’s a really interesting concept,” Davis says of the Jubilee. Which he explained came about as part of Pride’s leadership “trying to figure out how to produce an event with limited resources and time in the age of COVID.” He explained to Options that Pride wanted to do an event “recognizing the loss of things but finding the things to celebrate in spite of that” and saw exactly what he was looking for in the festive second line processions of New Orleans.

Second lines have deep roots in the Black community of New Orleans. They get their name from how the events often follow behind a wedding or funeral. The group in front, be it a band, parade marshal, or people being honored, is considered the first line. The second line is right behind, filled with bright music, loud colors, and reverie being had by all. People off the street join in and these parades can turn into neighborhood-wide events. As the New Orleans sums it up: second lines are “block parties in motion.”

A joyous celebration in spite of grief and struggle is exactly what RI Pride is aiming for with the Jubilee. For Davis and Pride, this is much more than a moving Halloween party. In many ways, it is kicking off the Pride of tomorrow while remembering the Pride events of the past. It is an event honoring everything we have all been through during the pandemic and a celebration of major community accomplishments. In fact, 2021 marks three important milestones: this is the 20th anniversary of Rhode Island’s trans-inclusive gender identity and expression non-discrimination law, the 20th anniversary of the illuminated night parade, and the 45th anniversary of the first RI Pride parade.

Pride has events throughout the day Saturday. Prior to the procession, Pride will host a resource fair in Biltmore Park Pride from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. It is free for groups to sign up for a table on Pride’s website —and be sure to keep an eye out for Options’ table.

At 5 p.m. marchers for the Jubilee Street Procession will gather by the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge off Dyer street and the procession will start at 6:30 p.m. Those wanting to take part in the march can participate free of charge, though Davis asks for large groups and those who need to use a vehicle to register on Pride’s website.

After the procession the street Jubilee isn’t over, Pride has planned closing ceremonies that will include a few speakers and video footage of the first RI Pride events to take place BankNewport City Center (next to Biltmore Park) at 7:30 p.m. Pride officials told Options that in case of rain check RI Pride's social media. Pride has both a Twitter and Facebook.

The Jubilee is just the beginning for what appears to be a big year for Pride. Davis told Options that Pride is planning to bring back their illuminated night parade next June and has already started to gear up for it: “We feel in order to plan adequately, we need to start now. The goal is to have a traditional Pride in 2022.”

Updated on October 28 for changes in venue and times:

Due to inclement weather Saturday, RI Pride has announced the celebrations have been moved to the WaterFire Arts Center located on 475 Valley St, Providence, RI 02908. The resource fair will now be from 1-5 p.m. At 5 p.m. Pride will showcase a videos retrospective of previous pride parades. With performances starting at 6 p.m. Entertainers include Jackie Collins, Sherenté Mishitashin Harris, Moon, Taylor Neptune, and DJ Zoila Rosa.


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