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An abundance of flags paraded alongside a crowd of thousands during the 51st annual Philadelphia Pride March and Festival on June 4.

Credit: Mollie Benn

Thousands headed to the streets on June 4 to celebrate the 51st annual Philadelphia Pride March and Festival, which saw leadership changes for the second year in a row. 

This year’s festivities were led by the social justice organization Galaei and had the theme “Love, Light, and Liberation.” The parade started at approximately 10:30 a.m. at Washington Square in Center City and ended at noon in the Gayborhood, where the festival took place until 7 p.m.  

The march began with speeches that emphasized the need for solidarity and political action, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer

“We have to unapologetically tell folks in power that our rights are worth it,” Democratic nominee for Philadelphia City Council Rue Landau said in a speech. “That we are here, we are not going back, and that we are here to stay, and we are getting louder and stronger.” Landau is projected to be Philadelphia’s first openly LGBTQ councilmember. 

The parade also featured the largest rainbow flag in Philadelphia history, measuring 200 feet long. 

The march then dispersed into the festival, which featured hundreds of booths representing artists, food trucks, health care services, and other community organizations. 

Credit: Mollie Benn Large crowd gathers for Philadelphia's 51st Pride March and Festival on June 4.

Galalei took over from the volunteer-run PHL Pride Collective, which organized last year’s Philadelphia Pride March. PHL Pride Collective’s website says that it is “unable to produce events in 2023 due to consequences arising from Capitalism.” 

The change in leadership is the second since the organization Philly Pride Presents disbanded in 2021 due to allegations of racism and transphobia, according to the Inquirer. It had previously organized Philadelphia Pride events for 28 years. 

This year’s Pride took place amid rising anti-LGBTQ legislation and sentiment across the country. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills in the United States in the 2023 legislative session. Locally, the Philadelphia Free Library is preparing for protests against its Pride Month programming from the right-wing activist group Moms For Liberty, which has advocated for book bans, The Philadelphia Gay News reported. 

Despite such sentiment, attendees noted the intentional diversity at the day’s festivities. 

“I think [it was] really nice to see different speakers representing different minority groups,” rising College junior Aubrey Shi said. 

However, Shi — a board member of the student group Penn Queer & Asian — also noted the lack of speakers that addressed a specific Asian and LGBTQ identity. Rising College junior Xandro Xu, who identifies as both Asian American and a member of the LGBTQ community, had previously spoken at the 2022 Pride parade on the intersections of those identities. 

On its website, Galalei highlighted the importance of Pride as a time to “join together in celebration, find family, get resources and share the love, art, and joy that are hallmarks of our community.” 2023 Wharton graduate and first-time Pride attendee Nox Richmond resonated with the mission. 

“It's very exciting just to see other queer people,” Richmond said. “It's like, the first time I've gotten to see queer pride out in public. I'm also not from a blue state, so it's just really nice to see pride flags around and it not being a problem. The freedom to just be yourself — it’s very exciting.”