The organizers of the 2015 PRIDE Houston have agreed to move festivities from the weekend of Juneteenth to a later date after a number of community members spoke out about the conflicting dates.
PRIDE organizers had originally scheduled the annual parade a week earlier than last year's festivities, meaning PRIDE would happen on June 20, the weekend of Juneteenth celebrations across the city and state. Organizers announced they'd agreed to reschedule the date to a later weekend during a heated meeting at the Montrose Center Thursday night.
Members of the LGBT community, along with other community groups, voiced their opinions Thursday to the board about the conflict, with some people stating that they should be forced to choose between the two communities they identify with, if the dates were not moved.
The date for the PRIDE 2015 parade will now be June 27, organizers said.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, and according to some members of the LGBT community, the board was aware of the potential conflict weeks ago. And the Juneteenth celebration can't change -- after all, June 19 is the date that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
Frustrated LGBT community members told reporters that the board had denied requests to change the date weeks ago, even after being alerted to the possible conflict.
The Harris County Democratic Party also sent a letter to PRIDE organizers just hours before Thursday's meeting, urging them to consider moving the weekend of the LGBT festivities from Juneteenth in order to give both celebrations the attention they deserve.
In the letter, the Democratic Party cited the Stonewall Riots and the Emancipation Proclamation as both being historically important for both communities, and questioned why PRIDE wasn't scheduled near the date commemorating Stonewall.
Houston community members should be given the freedom to celebrate both important events, party chair Lane Lewis said in his letter. Lewis also showed at Thursday night's meeting at the Montrose Center, as did leaders from other black and LGBT groups.
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Here's the letter from the Harris County Democratic Party:
As a participating organization in both Juneteenth festivities and the Houston GLBT Pride Parade, the Harris County Democratic Party understands the importance of both events to the citizens of Houston and the surrounding regions.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It was the day when slaves in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation and their freedom was finally granted.
The Houston GLBT Pride celebration has traditionally been held near the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, where GLBT people unified and stood against police raids and brutality.
Both celebrations are significant and the fact that so many people want the freedom to celebrate both demonstrates the rich cultural diversity of the Harris County region.
At a time when voting rights remain under attack and violence against people of color and GLBT people continues to occur, Democrats should continue embracing diversity and honor history.
The Harris County Democratic Party urges the leadership of Pride Houston to reconsider their decision to hold the GLBT Pride Festival and Parade on Juneteenth weekend.
But with announcement of the date change Thursday, it seems that community members will no longer have to make the choice between the two holidays, and will be free to celebrate both.
Still, this is hardly the first conflict associated with the current PRIDE Houston board. Uproar over the decision to move the PRIDE parade from its Montrose location to the streets of downtown has been a source of contention within the LGBT community since the move was announced last month.