Pride Northwest Discusses the 2018 Festival

Still Here, Still Queer

by Sebastian Fortino
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'Twas the week before Pride, when all thro' Portland. Everyone was stirring, almost everything planned; The Pride flags were hung by the front door with care, In hopes that Darcelle XV soon would be there; The LGBTQs were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of performers danced in their heads.' 


As we gear up for Pride 2018, PQ sat down with James Waldner, President and Debra Porta, the Executive Directior of Pride Northwest. They have both worked and served on the board for several years now. This year the organization seeks to make the event more inclusive, less wasteful, and making sure to deliver what queer people truly want today in a Pride celebration.

Proud Queer: What do we have in store for Pride 2018 that’s gonna be different from last year. What prompted you, for instance, to print fewer hard copy Pride guides this year?

James Waldner: The Pride Guide has always evolved with the times. As people’s appetites for print materials have evolved away from hard copy, so is the need to respond to that. People don’t tend to keep those. We as an organization looked to follow what’s going to serve our event and what our mission needs. We needed to evolve and figure out what’s going to share infromation in a useful way without creating additional waste.

Debra Porta: For years the Pride guide was the primary mode of getting information out. That’s no longer the case. With advancements in technology, and the Internet, apps, and all that stuff, our other options have grown significantly. This extends in terms of coordinating with partners, and networks, etc., which has grown exponentially. The Pride guide is no longer serving the purpose it initially had.


PQ: How many booths are you expecting this year?

DB: When you look at the festival all of the booths are not reserved. They are booths we’re sponsoring, partner booths, but all together about 180 by the time you are said and done.


PQ: Do you have a theme for this year?

DB & JW: Still Here, Still Queer.

JW: You’ll see that around town, and especially on TriMet.


PQ: Any sort of other changes we can expect to see this year other than the Pride guide having a smaller production?

DB: There are a couple things in the festival that I think people wil be highly interested in. We partnered with the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus to put together an LGBTQ+ arts pavillion. That’ll be near the Morrison Bridge. It’s a collection of nine LGBTQ+ arts organizations partnered together in one space. They have never partnered together before at this level. There will be performances, art, all kinds of interaction happening. And even some seating, so it’ll probably be a pretty busy part of the festival. It’ll be almost like a whole other event.


JW:  One of the things I’m most excited about is the work that’s been done around entertainment. Could you [Debra] speak about how that’s changed a little bit this year? Around strategy.


DP: Well, that’s been changing over the last couple of years. We very much focus on elevating our own community when it comes to entertainment. Same thing goes for how we approach the grand marshal of the parade. We have tons of locally talented performers--local, regional, throughout the West Coast, and so on. So our entertainment coordinatoor will pull a couple of national performers but the rest of the stage is really made up of local and regional talent who are normally not given that level a stage because our mission is to focus on our local talent, elevate our own community. Also, we’ve committed more reasources to be able to compensate local talent. That’s not typical, in terms of local Prides, to be able to compensate the performers.


PQ: That is major! Having been active in queer media in several communities I’ve heard that’s a rare thing.

PQ: The other significant thing happening inside the festival is the Pride Collective. Last year we we began conversations with latinx pride, and others. To build those relationships and to stregthen the work we’re doing together. And to really look at the festival and see how we can actively, consciously, have more representation inside the Pride festival. That’s another common--complaint isn’t the right word, because it’s true--Pride is never as representative as it should be, anywhere pretty much. And e very much make a conscious effort to include that in our planning. So there is a collection of lgbt orgs of color and transgender organizations working together to creat their own space, on the Pine Street entrance to the park. They are having performances. They are having a program through the weekend. They initially came together for Pride but they are working now on other collaborations.


JW: I’ll just say--one other minor, logistical thing--that to me is a big win, in the six years I’ve been involved with Pride, one of the consistent asks every year is: where can I get water? Why can’t I get water? Where can I refill my water? Debra has been thinking about that for years. And she and her team went out this year and have secured a water station.


PQ: Where is that gonna be?

DP: I want to say there are two. They are with the county, in their WES stations. The county has this program in which for certain sized events you can get these stations and rent them, as part of their sustainability model. There’s going to be one not far from the stage, and the second one closer to Morrison I believe. A lot of people do give out water bottles but sustainability is important. We don’t want 25,000 bottles of water coming out of the thing.

PQ: In terms of a Grand Marshall, who can we expect this year? 

JW: Our Grand Marshalls this year are our queer youth. Young people across the spectrum have been invited to lead our parade, much like they will soon be leading our movement.

Portland prides itself on being a community which is both urban and sustainable. Pride Northwest also seeks to elevate our incredible local talent, and much like PQ's slogan, celebrate "Every Letter, Every Color, Everywhere." With a program of inclusion of PoCs and transgender indivduals the event is evolving with the community. The reducton of Pride waste, which means less printing of hard copy materials, and water stations to cut down on disposable water bottles, Pride 2018 exemplifies the voices in our community. 

Pride Northwest is having a kickoff party on Tuesday, June 12th. Feel free to visit their Facebook page to learn more about the event and RSVP if you intend to go. Happy Pride Portland, the Pacific Northwest, and to our queer brothers and sisters throughout the world!