Unseasonal cold did not deter Woonsocket’s 3rd Annual Pride celebration
“Today is about joy and celebration,” said event organizer Alex Kithes. “Today is also about struggle and solidarity. The strides that our community has made, the rights that we’ve organized and fought for, they were not free. They came at a price.
Pride is becoming a tradition in Woonsocket as it enters its third year, but the weather was not cooperating. The past two Woonsocket Pride events, in 2021 and 2022 were the first-ever celebrations of this type in the city’s history where 100s turned out to celebrate, but in 2023 a rare cold, windy day – with temperatures in the low 50s and a steady wind – kept attendance at around 100 people.
Despite the weather, the event, held in Woonsocket’s World War II Veterans Memorial Park, centered the experiences of LGBTQIA+ lives in a celebratory way. Alex Kithes, who organized the event with Leia Fifer, acted as emcee.
In the videos below, I divided out the drag performances from the speeches:
- “I want to ground us in that which is truly powerful,” said former State Senator Cynthia Mendes. “More powerful, I would say, than the people who think they have all the power whether it be at the State House or in organized religion. We have the power of love. We have the power of acceptance. We have the power of grace, and including each other when no one else will.”
- “There are some people who don’t understand that love, is love,” said Jennifer Rourke. “And it really pisses me off. I’m not an ally. I’m not here to say everything is great. I’m a motherfucking accomplice, because we need to burn some shit down. We don’t want to go to jail, because jail’s not fun – don’t take it in the literal sense, okay? But this shit is really fucked up.”
- “I represent my small but might state by using my platform to advocate, mentor and speak out to the youth and adults with unique abilities,” said Autumn Rain Johnson, who is the Miss Wheelchair Rhode Island of 2023. “That’s what I refer to disabilities as because I think that ‘disabilities’ adds a negative meeting to what I have, so I think unique abilities uplifts and empowers us.”
- “I was frequently over-institutionalized as a minor because I was a trans youth in distress,” said Leia Fifer, an event organizer. “And there are going to be many, many, many more trans youth in distress, just like me, if we don’t do something.”
- “I think that we to start holding our political leaders accountable at all levels,” said Woonsocket resident Marlene Guay. “Because they [politicians running for office] do a lot of showboating, and a lot of talking, and over the next 27 days, we’re going to see a lot of people taking a lot of pictures that are just… bullshit.”
- Dameien Nathaniel presented two spoken word pieces.
- Kate Monteiro presented a history of LGBTQIA+ resistance in Woonsocket going back to 1963 and earlier.
- “Today is about joy and celebration,” said Alex Kithes. “Today is also about struggle and solidarity. The strides that our community has made, the rights that we’ve organized and fought for, they were not free. They came at a price. They came with blood, sweat and tears. Violence committed against us by the government and the far right. Our rights were won through activism nd organizing, not freely given by those in power. I want to say that again” Our rights never came because we asked nicely.”
There were four drag performers at the event. Unfortunately, YouTube has blocked the video due to copyrighted music, so the version I’m running here is silent:
See coverage of the first two Woonsocket Pride events here: