photo: Bob Ford
photo: Bob Ford

Pride weekend I overheard snippets such as:

“The Pride parade wasn’t big enough or long enough.”
“The Block Party was not very good and I didn’t want to stay.”
“The Festival last year was bigger and it cost too much to park today.”
“Why wasn’t there a map showing where everything is and a program about when it is?”

Everyone who said these things, allowing for variations, was perfectly sure they were right. It’s possible they were, but I feel obliged to tell everyone that Pride is not an entitlement program. It doesn’t have to be a certain size, or include certain events and it doesn’t even have to be much fun. It’s also true that if it fails to meet expectations, people won’t come back. That’s true of any annual event, not just the one that commemorates the day drag queens, dykes and hustlers fought back against the police in New York in 1969.

I don’t think it works to insist that those with complaints should volunteer themselves and make it better. Nor is it okay to say that it was good enough, considering. Or that attendance (or the entertainment) was too black, too white, or too whatever.

Not everyone should volunteer for Pride Day. That’s not an entitlement program either. Some people are not willing to lead, and some people already did it enough – and some people would screw it up. I ran Pride Day for several years, and I know this to be true.

So here’s my radical idea: it’s time to pay someone to run Pride Weekend. This is what happened with many LGBT organizations and related issues: this job takes lots of time, energy and talent and a celebration that satisfies and gratifies our people needs to be done right. Not as part of some other job, running some other organization, but do it as a professional and get the dates locked in, the logistics handled and the paperwork in on time as a job.

Oh, and arrange for funding so that you get paid as the coordinator of Pride Baltimore.

I talked to people who complained it was too corporate. Like it or not, that’s where the money is, and if you are going to throw a party for thousands of people for several days, that’s going to be part of it. The nonprofits can’t afford that much. They can barely afford to pay for a table and chairs at the Pride Festival.

Let’s declare that our Baltimore Pride is important, that the people who want to go should be served and that it’s time to stop indulging our denial. There aren’t an unlimited number of people able or willing to do it at this scale. It’s one of the top ten festivals on the East coast. Let’s do a talent search and find someone willing to find the money and devote their time to it. I think that would serve the community better than hoping that despite all the challenges in the past few years, Pride will just somehow happen.

You get what you pay for. That applies to the annual June commemoration of the Rainbow Revolution as much as it does to anything else. Perhaps then we can stop thinking of it as an entitlement program and return to the idea that is an historic celebration. Running it with enough support matters. In Baltimore, Pride matters.

The author is a self-described “cranky old dyke that for unfathomable reasons is still volunteering for the archives of that equally touchy and ancient organization, the GLCCB.” She is also has been an LGBT activist since 1975, has served on the GLCCB Board and chaired 1989’s Pride Day.