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Schenectady holds annual pride celebration

Schenectady holds annual pride celebration

Schenectady holds annual pride celebration
Schenectady Pride Festival parade participants march along State Street on their way to Gateway Plaza.
Photographer: Marc Schultz / Gazette Photographer

Standing in the middle of Schenectady's Gateway Plaza is a set of six arches, each a different color of the rainbow.

An acronym or a word that represents a different milestone in the LGBTQ liberation movement sits at the top of each one

Late Sunday afternoon, dozens of people surrounded those six arches as part of Schenectady's seventh annual Pride Festival. 

The colorful celebration was cosponsored by the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation, the city of Schenectady, the Jay Street Marketplace, and Proctors, which was flashing a neon rainbow "Happy Schenectady Pride" on its marquee Sunday afternoon. 

This year's affair featured a few hours of festivities and drag performances at the Jay Street Marketplace, followed by a march down State Street to Gateway Plaza, where the Rainbow Pride Art Project, a collaborative effort between Schenectady Pride and The Schenectady Foundation, was unveiled.  

A diverse multitude of people and groups came out for the festival, not only in support of marriage equality, but a hodgepodge of other causes as well, including Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood and Moms Demand Action, among others. 

Attendees came to the festival decked out in a slew of different rainbow outfits and hairpieces, many of them holding signs that they held high up over their heads during the march or wearing shirts bearing slogans such as "Love, not hate."

One marcher, who asked to only be identified as Quinn, was rollerblading her way to Gateway Plaza as the march was winding down.

"I'm here, I'm queer, and I'm parched," she said as she grabbed a free water bottle that event organizers had prepared for marchers and continued to make her way down to where the art exhibit was being unveiled.

One part of Sunday's events was a special recognition of the Stonewall Riots in New York City that happened 50 years ago, which are considered to be among the most important events leading to a larger gay liberation movement in the United States. Sunday's art installation specifically featured space dedicated to the riots.

The sculpture, which cost $22,000, was largely funded through a $250,000 initiative from the Schenectady Foundation that will fund about 12 public art pieces throughout Schenectady. It will remain installed in Gallery Plaza until sometime in the fall. Specifically, the words on the archway say "Stonewall," "SUNDA," "GENDA," Marriage," "Marches," and "Dignity." 

SONDA, or the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act and GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, are considered two pieces of landmark legislation in the fight for LGBTQ rights. The other four words are considered pillars in the movement. Each arch represents a door that has been opened for people who identify as LGBTQ to safely walk through.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said on Sunday that the sculpture represents both the city's initiative to incorporate public art in more places, while also promoting its values.

"It's been 50 years. We've come a long way as a society, but we still have a greater distance to go," he said. "We're proud to have this here in the city of Schenectady."

"As a community, the LGBTQ has been weathering the storm for 50 plus years, and I appreciate you brave souls staying out here with us today. We are brave, we are courageous, we're going to continue to be courageous and keep fighting for equality, and doing what we've got to do," Chad Putman, co-chair of Schenectady Pride said on Sunday to the gathered supporters.

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