It’s been almost a week since the St. Patrick’s day parade in Staten Island and I have been processing my thoughts and emotions, beginning with the inability to apply up through today. Many have asked me how it felt when we were denied the opportunity to apply. My answer has been consistent – a flurry of emotions – from anger, frustration, disappointment, like being slapped in the face by open discrimination. Once I walked outside, several individuals offered some words of comfort, saying things like, “It’s a no today, but there are still 2 weeks,” ”Today was a no from the organizer of the parade but a yes from so many people and Staten Island,” and “The day will come when the Pride Center of Staten Island banner will be carried in the St. Patrick’s Parade.”

Since that day, the support from the Staten Island community and beyond has been overwhelming. Elected officials, organizations, businesses, and individuals have publicly supported us. I have received calls and emails from all over the US expressing outrage and support. It’s important for everyone to understand that there were some individuals who worked on the effort long before I stepped in to apply. While these efforts did not yield the result we wanted, they laid a foundation for the parade to know what was coming: the Pride Center of Staten Island, although denied the opportunity to apply each year, was persistent and would try again. The one thing that picked me up each day was hearing from Staten Island residents, support from an elected official, the invite to a meeting (and amazing support) from clergy leaders of all denominations on the Island, and remembering that this is just one example of the exclusion our community faces on a daily basis. It is my responsibility to fight for equal rights.

I was honored to be personally invited to a VIP brunch at Jody’s just before the parade. I have never received so much positive feedback in one room. One person approached me and shared that she had attended the parade every year of her life, and was ready to boycott this year’s parade. With tears in her eyes, she said that my request for people not to boycott was the only reason she was there this year. The heartfelt words of personal friendship and respect from State Assemblyman Mike Cusick and DA Mike McMahon were met with loud cheers and brought tears to my eyes. I was also invited to march with the elected officials, and while I was grateful for the invitation, I refused, since I couldn’t march with the Pride Center banner. That day, I walked up and down both sides of Forest Avenue – enjoying the parade – but mostly noticing the many rainbow flags people were waving and the signs in local businesses supporting our community. I was stopped by several people I had never met, expressing their support. It was a bittersweet and emotional day.

I would like to recognize and thank many people for their efforts and support: Assemblyman Mike Cusick (for his tireless efforts, support and friendship), Councilwoman Debi Rose (who was first to say she would not march in support of the Center), Congressman Max Rose (for his outspoken support from the get-go), Borough President Jim Oddo (who publicly expressed his support and refusal to march), DA Mike McMahon (who publicly supported us), Governor Cuomo (who publicly supported us – NY is the State of Love), Mayor DeBlasio (who publicly supported us), Senator Diane Savino (who publicly expressed her support and refusal to march), Comptroller Scott Stringer (who publicly supported us), Assemblyman Charles Fall (who publicly supported us), Councilman Steve Matteo (who publicly supported us), Nicole Malliotakis (who publicly supported us), The LGBTQ Caucus (Corey Johnson, Daniel Dromm, Jimmy Van Bramer, Ritchie Torres, Carlos Menchaca) (who unanimously publicly supported us), Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (who publicly supported us), Rainbow Run SI (for making us visible that day), KC Hankins (you are a driving force!), Brendan Fay (you support us and lift us up), Tom McGinley (for amazing signs), Staten Island Women Who March (who supported us in all ways), Staten Island 4 Change (for helping make it visible), Move Forward SI (for publicly supporting us), Joseph Ferrara (who publicly supported us), the board and staff of the Pride Center and the many, many organizations, businesses, individuals, friends, and family who have supported us.

Of course, the fight is not over yet and will continue throughout the year. Due to the support of so many, we are already developing a strategy for next year. It is this community support that lifts us up and helps us persist. I am thankful, optimistic, strategic and hopeful.

“We are way more powerful when we turn to each other and not on each other, when we celebrate our diversity, focus on our commonality, and together tear down the mighty walls of injustice.”

Cynthia McKinney

Thank you,

Carol Bullock, Executive Director

Pride Center of Staten Island, Inc.