Rainbow Rising In Resistance at the Pride Parade

26 Jun
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The Tide Is Rising

The excitement was already noticeable on the parade route on 5th Ave. well before the 47th annual Pride March got under way.  Parade organizers made this year’s theme “We Are Proud” as the well over 1 million revelers were ready for one of the biggest parties of its kind in the nation.  For the first time, the annual event was televised on a national network, WABC, to millions of viewers across the country. An estimated 40,000 marchers were on hand surpassing last years effort and making this parade one of the biggest in the city this year. As usual kicking off the parade was the thunderous roar of hundreds of motorcycles from the Sirens MC, sending the crowd into a frenzy into what would be an amazing event. The crowd was treated to some parade VIPs that have an outstanding impact on the lives they touch. Grand Marshall ACLU members with Gavin Grimm, a transgender student fighting for the right to use the restroom with the gender most identified with were waving to the crowd.  Right behind them was truly one of NYs Bravest, Brooke Guinan, the first transgender firefighter in NYC. GMHC Asst Director, Krishna Stone and Asian online dating founder of Blued, Geng Le made the start of the parade of immeasurable importance.

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FDNY Bravest Brooke Guinan

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The Fight Is On

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Proud to Resist

 

As usual, local politicians walk down the parade route to the cheers of the excited crowd. The cheers were loudest for NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo for his leadership in getting same sex marriage and rights pushed through in NY in 2011. But the work can’t stop there. Gov. Cuomo did boycott state sponsored travel North Carolina over that states anti-LGBT stance. With the current climate in Washington DC bent on having important policies reverting to States discretion, the battleground for LGBT rights could start to erode if left up to some State legislatures. There was a loud and clear message sent by activists all throughout the parade that they will not back down without a fight. Issues from healthcare, to police brutality to trans discrimination to climate change were all on the agenda and this helped to raise awareness. The tide is definitely rising and the Resistance movement is in full force and gaining more momentum.

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Joining Forces

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Big Band Swinging It

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Flaggots Doing Their Thing

 

Corporate sponsorship was huge in the parade and Delta and T-Mobile had some of the biggest crowds. Even conservative leaning Disney got in on the action.  In this parade, a few contest judges stationed over on 6th Ave. and 8th St. got a chance to review the many floats, bands, and performers. The choices were tough since there was so much talent to pick from.   A perennial favorite are the Flaggots with their precision flag tossing. They really got a huge ovation from the crowd especially as they headed right past the Stonewall Inn. Sometimes big surprises come from the least expected places. A float from the Metropolitan Community Church of NY had a nice rap about love and Jesus.  A growing favorite is PFLAG group with groups from all over the Tri-state area.  They got a huge ovation from the exuberant crowd. Another crowd favorite is the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps. They really got the crowd worked up.  Growing in vast numbers is the international contingency. Groups representing all parts of the world marched in some stunning costumes. It was especially inspirational to see groups from the Middle Eastern countries representing. A spirited group from Korea played traditional drum beats with Resist signs all over.

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PFLAG Getting Much Love

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International Groove

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Mouse Ears in Tune

 

This was one of the best parades the city has seen this year. Pride was evident everywhere you looked. From the seniors to the kids, people were all caught up in a the biggest party and love fest to date. Love is Love is Love.

 

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Photos contributed by: Albert J Terc

Sea Creatures Make Landfall in Coney Island at the Mermaid Parade

18 Jun
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Welcome Aboard the Mermaid Ship

The torrential morning rain turned the prospects of an annual flock of parade watchers over to Surf Ave. in Coney Island, Brooklyn into a gloomy one.   But as though King Neptune himself rose from the ocean to command the rain to stop, just a few minutes after the parade kicked off the rain ceased and all kinds of sea creatures and lovely mermaids made landfall at the 35th annual Mermaid Parade. New Yorkers are some of the most creative people in the country and outside of the Village Halloween parade, this parade is one of the most creative and artisitic. People come from all parts of the country to take part in the annual festival. The Mermaid Parade is actually on its second remake as the original Mermaid parade paid tribute to Vaudeville and burlesque. And this years version had plenty of groups doing a great job going vintage.

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Deborah Harry and Chris Stein Rocking the Parade

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Marni In Revolution Mode

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Going Vintage

Each year the parade sponsors select a King Neptune and Queen Mermaid to kick off the festivities. This year rock royalty was present with punk rock icons Chris Stein and Deborah Harry getting the crowd prepared for a fun-filled day.  Deborah Harry took punk rock mainstream in the 70s and 80s with big hits like Call Me and had the first rap video ever aired on MTV in 1981 with the mega-hit Rapture. Chris Stein was the lead guitarist and photographer of many Deborah Harry photos. Soon after the celebrities waved to their adoring fans, the fun started with thousands of sea creatures and lovely mermaids showing off to the judges to win prizes. Of course, the judges are always open to bribery by any means necessary.  This year, the judges had tough choices to make as there were some great costumes and performances. One of the best ones was from a group called Clamilton with an amazing act. They were on point. A crowd favorite is the all female drum band Fogo Azul getting the crowd all worked up. Paying a tribute to Vaudeville was probably one of best groups of the day…the Rockaway Mermaid Brigade with a tribute to Duke Ellington. The group dressed for the occasion and then paid tribute to Blondie with a funny version of Call Me. Another fun group that probably had the best pirate ship was the Cee Bee Gee Bees group buzzing around and making funny honey. King Neptune would have been proud at all the man-made tributes to all things living in the water.

 

Enjoy the summer.

 

 

Tropical Heat Turns Up on 5th Ave. For the National Puerto Rican Day Parade

12 Jun
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Vejigantes starts up the parade

On one of the hottest days of the year, it was more than the temperature that was getting heated on the parade route on 5th Ave. for the 60th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Like many Spanish speaking folks would say, Aqui Hay Candela…(there’s fire going on here and not the kind FDNY can put out). This years version of the parade started off with controversy as Oscar Lopez Rivera, a former member of the militant FALN and pardoned by Pres. Obama at the end of his last term, marched in the parade. His appearance caused many big longtime sponsors like Goya Foods, Univision, AT&T, Coca-Cola, JetBlue and others to pull-out. Heavy weight politicians like NY Governor Andrew Cuomo , the NYPD and FDNY also declined to attend. Initially, parade organizers wished to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera with the “National Freedom Hero” award, but he later declined the award and preferred to march and bring awareness to the multitude of issues hurting the island. Ironically, the parade was held on the same day a referendum vote was held on the island. Even the voting process had some controversy to it. Bottom line was the vote for statehood won by overwhelming majority vote and is now waiting for the US Congress to act. Good luck with that. Congress failed to act on an earlier referendum with a higher voter turnout in 2012.  Many of the issues revolve around the bankruptcy filing earlier this year and its effects on the island population like closing of schools and hospitals. A decade long middle-class migration to the US, nefarious financial dealings, and a decline in tourism have all contributed to the precarious economic situation the island finds itself in. Marching with Oscar was a large contingency wearing the black and white version of the Puerto Rican flag that is symbolic of the Resistance movement.

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Oscar Lopez Rivera – the face of the Resistance

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A call for Unity

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Jibaros Getting In on the Action

The parade usually draws about 2 million spectators but between the heat and the controversy, there was about half that size crowd. This parade is known to be the loudest and proudest of all the parades. There were still plenty of people screaming at the top of their lungs for love of the island. Kicking things off was the 1199 Union float with a singer having lots of fun with the crowd. Grand Marshall, salsa legend Gilberto Santa Rosa, made his way up the parade route followed closely by the Madrina, actress and singer Iris Chacon. One of the better floats came from the NYS Nurses Association with a great rumba band and some hot dancers. A newbie to the parade came all the way from Lorain, Ohio with a nice tribute to Tito Puente. They were pretty good. Sometimes a group gives a nice surprise with their performance and Los Hacheros float had some traditional sounds that made you feel like you were on a beach somewhere on the island. A returning group that keeps making a nice impression were the baton twirling Batuteras de Junco. Keeping the heat up were the XDance group. They have swag and not afraid to show it.

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Gilberto Santa Rosa

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Plena Dancers

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XDance Getting Ready to Show Off Their Moves

Even though the parade ended earlier than other years and the turnout was not as much as in previous years, it was still a fun parade. There were lots of flags, dancing, happy faces and plenty of  to talk about after the parade was over. No matter what your opinion is of Oscar marching in the parade, there’s a crisis going on in la Isla del Encanto, the enchanted island. Even in the face of a looming storm, Puerto Ricans find a way to have fun and love all that is good from the island.

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Yo Soy Boricua, ‘pa que tu lo sepa!!

Pageant Queens and Holy Child Reign Supreme at the Filipino Parade

5 Jun
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Cebu Dancers with the Santo Nino

The second leg of the double parade day brought me to Madison Avenue and 38th St. where the largest Independence Day parade outside of the Philippines is celebrated. In the 27th year of celebrating the 119th year of Independence from Spain, the parade route was packed with colorful costumes and many elegant dresses. The Filipinos praise their beauty queens and why not since Miss Universe 2015, Pia Wurtzbach was on hand to wave to her adoring fans. The recently crowned Miss Pacific World 2017 winner, Beatrice Andrada was also present. In this parade more than any other, there are more tiaras than floats. The ladies dress in their elegant evening gowns while the men dress in their formal guayabera shirts. It really is quite a show to watch.  Marchers came from as far as Canada, Florida and Maryland. They all sent a beauty queen of course. Getting the parade started were this years Grand Marshall, Drs. Rodrigo and Elma Castillo. They have both been in the medical profession for over 40 years and have a thriving medical office in New Jersey. Filipinos have long been known for their contributions in the health field and this was very evident in this years parade.

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Barangay Gingoognon Dancers

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Beauty Queen Beatrice Andrada

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Kylie Versoza and Pia Wurtzbach waving to their fans

 

There were a few marchers with political signs both in favor and opposed to the controversial President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte.  Filipinos were happy to display their native representation as Barangay Gingoognon was an energetic group dancing in colorful costumes. A deeply religious people displayed two of the most devoted objects at the tail end of the parade. The Cebu Dancing Group had an amazing colorful costume with the lead dancer carrying the Holy Infant (Santo Nino) statue with much reverence. They were great to watch. They were soon followed by a religious group displaying a statue of the Black Nazarene.  The parade wrapped up with perennial favorite, the Aklan Dancers. Their numbers keep growing every year. The after parade party kept on going in Madison Square Park and on the side streets where a stage was set up for more entertainment and some great food and after two parades I was certainly going to indulge.

Araw Ng Kalayaan Mabuhay!!

 

 

 

Israeli’s Celebrate Togetherness on 5th Ave.

5 Jun
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Start of the Parade

The first leg of the double parade day started out on 5th Avenue and 57th St. for the 53rd annual Celebrate Israel parade. Although the clouds were threatening, the rain held off and the hearts of many of Israeli heritage were filled with sunshine. Revelers felt a sense of relief with heightened security all throughout the parade route. Israel is about the size of New Jersey but has done so much to contribute to the fabric of this great city.  The Israeli people are a very religious with one of the oldest world religions. This parade is very proud to display all the different members of the yeshivas and temples across the Tri-state area.  Celebrate All Together was this years parade theme.  All the schools and temples brought their banners to display their interpretation of Togetherness. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade and then the fun began. They were followed by the traditional sounding of the ceremonial Shofar as a call to unite and celebrate. This year’s honorary Ba’al Tekiah (Master of the blast) was Stanley Hochhauser riding on the back of a convertible.

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NY Governor Cuomo and Chemi Peres

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Let the Celebration Begin

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We Are All Connected

 

A flurry of yeshivas and congregations made their way up the parade route on 5th Avenue up to 74th St. carrying their banners proudly. One of the best things to witness is the passing of tradition to the next generation. That’s clearly evident in how enthusiastic the marchers were. The zest for life, empathy for humanity, and love of Israel that binds the US and Israel together.  This was highlighted when NY Governor Andrew Cuomo declared Sunday to be Shimon Peres Day and announcing new programs promoting heritage between the New York and Israel. Former President and Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres passed away last year but his son, Chemi Peres, was present for the declaration. As another show of solidarity, both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Jersusalem Mayor Nir Barkat marched together waving to the crowd. The celebration kept on going as many floats with live music rolled on by but the one with the most lively band was from the UJA float. They were real good. Of course a parade isn’t a parade without a few marching bands. The Excelsior Drum and Bugle Corp are a perennial favorite. Not far behind them were the Fusion Core Drum and Bugle Corp. They were very good. Another parade was getting started on Madison Ave. further down so I had to hightail it to next parade. Only in New York..Oy Vay.

 

Thousands Dancing For Peace on Broadway

21 May
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Dancing Rubies Having Fun

The mid-Spring heatwave broke just in time for a cool weather day to help the thousands of dancers participating in the 11th annual Dance Parade. Each year the young parade has been gaining more popularity with dancers coming from all over the country and as far as China to celebrate the most ancient of art forms right here in the dance capital of the world, NYC. All kinds of dance forms were on display which makes this parade one of the best in the city. It’s all about dance and the diversity in which it brings. Lots of people on the parade route starting on Broadway and 21st St. stopped to marvel at the costumes and unique moves…whether it’s from the Bolivians colorful costumes or the Caribbean cultures bringing the heat or the house music coalition or Indian Bhangra or the sultry belly dancers… everyone was having fun dancing. The parade helps to raise awareness of some of the most archaic cabaret laws in the city that prohibit three or more people from dancing at a club or bar with a cabaret license, which is almost impossible to obtain. There has been a more enthusiastic push to change the cabaret laws especially with a more receptive mayor in office. With more pressure and common sense, the city can loosen the Prohibition era law and allow people to dance when and where they choose to.

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Capoeira Dancers Going At It

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Bolivian Tinkus Giving It Their All

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Enough Said

 

This years Dance Parade theme is Dance for Peace and there were plenty of good willed dancers out having a good time starting with Dancers of Universal Peace kicking things off.  Parade revelers were treated to a special guest as Grand Marshall Mestre Joao Grande of Capoeira fame was on the first float.  The 500 year old Afro-Brazilian art form was displayed by two groups that amazed the judges by the Astor Place reviewing stands. The thunderous drum band heard a block away was gaining momentum as Fogo Azul got the crowd worked up for what would be an amazing day of music and dance. Of all the ethnic groups that participate in the parade, the Bolivians bring their best. Their groups are broken up into the high energy indigenous Tinkus, the sequined cowboy/cowgirl costumed Caporales dedicated to San Simon (St. Paul), and the methodical Morenales. They come from all over the country to represent Bolivian dance and culture. As a prelude to the West Indian Parade, two Caribbean groups really got the crowd worked up. If you weren’t dancing by then, you literally have no pulse. Slowing things down somewhat were a sultry group of dancers named Dancing Rubies. They put on a really good show. The international groups were really up to the task of showing off their moves. Groups with ties to Mexico, China, India, Brazil, Spain, and Korea were seen having lots of fun dancing it up. Probably the best thing is how many young kids were at the parade in costume learning their traditional dances. Bravo.

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Dance Royalty Maurice Hines

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Belly Dancers to the Rescue

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Swinging Into Action

 

Parade revelers were treated to Dance Royalty when Grand Marshall Maurice Hines and his float of young tap dancers arrived to everyone’s delight. At 72, he can out dance most people half his age. A group named Flowers of Hope got the crowd worked up with their belly dancing. They were soon followed by the all female drum band and parade favorite Batala. Another NYC favorite, the Cobras stepped up their game with moves imitating their charismatic band leader. Closing out the parade were the young dance group, XDance showing off their Salsa dance moves. They were real good and their membership keeps growing each year. The after parade festival continued into Tompkins Square Park where stages were set up to instruct students from 5 to 95 on dancing and keep the party going.

 

 

Mexicans Celebrate Cinco on 5th Ave. in Brooklyn

7 May
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Folkloric Dancers

The overcast day made Cinco de Mayo feel more like Cinco de Marzo. The chilly weather didn’t stop the first Cinco de Mayo parade on 5th Ave. in Sunset Park, Brooklyn from marching on. Local neighborhood parades can be just as much fun as the bigger parades in the city. Kicking off the parade were sponsors and local politicians including NYC Council Member Carlos Menchaca, who was vital in organizing the event. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the famous battle in the town of Pueblo where General Ignacio Zaragoza led a small army to repel the invading French troops. Even though it was not a major part of the war, it did gain support and confidence among Mexicans to defend their land.

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Danza de Tecuanes costumer

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Happy Cinco

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Chinelos Dancing It up

 

Lead groups included parade queens and traditional folkloric dancing with colorful dresses. The first of several costumed groups made their way up the parade route from 60th St. to Sunset Park.  Danza de Tecuanes from San Rafael made their appearance with the traditional costumed jaguar being tricked by farmers. They were pretty good and brought back Mexican agricultural tradition to Sunset Park.  Closing out the parade were the crowd favorite and energetic chinelos.  The crowd gathered for more fun and celebration in Sunset Park.  One of the best things about neighborhood parades is the variety of restaurants available. I had to stop by Tacos Los Poblanos for a quick spicy chicken taco. Well worth it.

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