ST. PETERSBURG, FL — While most Florida Pride events have been postponed until 2021 across the state due to the coronavirus pandemic, the LGBTQ community has come up with creative ways to celebrate Pride virtually and visually while sharing messages of optimism.
As the LGBTQ community waits for next year's big events such as St. Pete Pride that attracted 265,000 parade attendees in 2019 or Miami Beach Pride's events among others, St. Petersburg resident Rachel Covello put together a statewide pride video to offset the disappointment of canceled events. (Watch the Florida Pride video at the bottom of this article.)
"It's sad that we can't get together, and there's so much negative news right now with COVID," Covello, the owner of Out Coast Gay Florida Travel, told Patch. "I'm an extrovert, so I know how depressing it is to be at home and not be able to network, socialize or be able to celebrate Pride together. That's something we look forward to, and I don't think Pride has ever been canceled."
Covello started brainstorming about ways she could safely bring the community together, and that's when she thought about creating a Pride video. She posted in dozens of LGBTQ Facebook groups and asked for volunteers to record a Pride message for her project. Responses came from people ranging from Miami, Pensacola, and Orlando to Naples and the Tampa Bay area.
St. Petersburg performer Jennifer Real, who has sung at many of St. Pete's Pride events, gave a message of hope at the beginning of Covello's video.
"Although we weren't able to honor and celebrate Pride globally, may we never forget the prior years, and look forward to next year's," Real told Patch. "We are still bringing it as we are in this together."
St. Pete Pride president Chrys Bundy is one of the many Floridians in the video with his husband, Robert, wishing everyone a happy Pride Month.
"I love the video," he said. "Mass in-person gatherings may be canceled until 2021, but Pride itself can never be canceled. You should still fly your rainbow colors, meet virtually or in small groups, and support the LGBT-affirming businesses in our great city."
Jim Nixon, who is St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman's LGBTQ liaison organized "Light Up with Pride" with over 20 St. Pete iconic buildings lit in rainbow colors on June 1 and many have maintained that throughout the month.
"I think there will be an expectation that next year's Pride will be more meaningful after the pandemic and after a divisive election season this fall," Nixon told Patch. "But most of the LGBTQ community understands that regardless of having a parade or festival that there is still PRIDE."
Miami Beach Pride's executive director, Rich Walczak, also shared some optimism during these troubled times.
"While we were saddened by the postponement of Miami Beach Pride, we have utilized the time to begin restructuring our programming and plan to move into year round Arts & Cultural events that will focus on all aspects of our incredibly diverse community," said Walczak. "Once the approval for large scale events comes through we have so many plans to bring Miami Beach Pride to life! People are looking forward to having their Prides back, and we want to make sure it's one to remember!"
Key West Pride said it has rescheduled its event for Nov. 18-22, 2020. Meanwhile, the rest of Florida hopes to celebrate in-person next year.