In June 2015, the Respect for Marriage Act passed in the Supreme Court in a 5-4 victory, giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide (in New York, it had been legal since 2011). That same month, North Brooklyn also introduced its first-ever Pride, dubbed the North Brooklyn Pride Festival.
The free one-day festival took place on North 11th Street between Wythe and Kent Avenues on June 20, 2015 (rain showers be damned), with a goal of celebrating the community while also raising awareness of LGBTQIA+ youth homelessness directly as a result of their identity. And to the latter point, organizers worked with Heart Gallery NYC, which works with noteworthy photographers to shine a light on children in the foster care system in need of forever families. According to a study commissioned by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), more than one out of three youths (34.1%) ages 13-20 in New York City foster care is LGBTQIA+, and are more frequently youth of color.
“A huge part of this event is to bring awareness of LGBTQ youth foster care and the trials that they face,” Josh Cohn, event organizer and owner of both Anella and Jimmy’s Diner explained in a 2015 interview with DNAinfo. “It’s a really big problem. They’re always the ones who get the funding cut first.”
The day was split into more family-friendly entertainment and picnic in the early afternoon, followed by a block party in the evening with emceeing by Merrie Cherry (pre-Dragula days), music from DJ Natalie Weiss of Baby DJ School (a music class focused on electronic music and DJ culture to accelerate babies’ and children’s development), craft tables and face painting, balloon animals, a photo booth, DJ set by Bushwig co-founder Horrorchata, and a pop-up performance by queer drag and burlesque collective Switch n’ Play. And regarding the aforementioned work with charity partner Heart Gallery, the event also featured information booths about how to become a mentor, a foster parent, and even an adoptive parent to youth in need.
A true local labor of love, the festival was organized by businesses in the community including Anella, St. Vitus, Jimmy’s Diner, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Bowl, East River Ferry, Rough Trade, Verboten, VICE Media, Two Boots, Brooklyn Roasting Company, The Water Table, and the Wythe Hotel (R.I.P. to a handful of those).
While this iteration of Pride in the neighborhood may not have endured, you can still celebrate queer community togetherness while supporting LGBTQIA+ charities and local businesses during Greenpoint Queer Pride, which is currently in its third year and continues to expand.