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It’s official: Philadelphia will end 2021 without any in-person LGBTQ festivals.
There was a chance OutFest might happen, but that’s off the table, according to the newly formed PHL Pride Collective. Considered the largest National Coming Out Day celebration in the world, the event usually fills 10 square blocks in Center City with vendors, drag shows, music and games.
OutFest went virtual in 2020, then the longtime organizer Philly Pride Presents imploded earlier this year. The new Pride group was optimistic it could pull an OutFest together for what would have been the 31st annual event.
But it turned out to be too ambitious a goal for the nascent group, which came together just four months ago. “We weren’t there in terms of just the formation of the group,” said organizer Abdul-Aliy Muhammad. “It would’ve been rushed. It would’ve been inadequate.”
Muhammad said the group, which recently launched its Instagram, is making headway.
To help kickstart fundraising and provide access to resources, organizers partnered with GALAEI. It’s now considered a program of the North Philly-based QTBIPOC nonprofit, which has been around more than three decades.
“We as an organization sat down and said, ‘We need to be part of the foundation of this new Pride,’” said Ashley Coleman, GALAEI executive director. “What are the ways we can offer resources and access and opportunity to the greater community to be part of this pivotal moment in history?”
The arrangement is in place for a year, with evaluations at the 6- and 12-month marks. Some members worry partnering with an established nonprofit could distance the collective from the on-the-ground LGBTQ community.
“I think that was a huge concern for a lot of people,” Muhammad said. “But we’re also very clear that we need resources that we’re unable to access because we don’t have a legal structure to do that.”
Even so, it will be an uphill battle to actually make a large-scale event happen. GALAEI’s Coleman estimated the annual June Pride Parade’s cost at around $1.5 million. In the collective’s first four months, it has raised $10,000 — from one donor.
“Hopefully this will be funded by independent donors, grant funding, and state and federal agencies,” Coleman said.
The collective’s current members, about 30 to 40 people, are invited to attend a late October retreat at GALAEI to help craft a vision for Pride 2022. There’s also a tentative plan to bring back OutFest, but with a new name: “OurFest.”
Meantime, PHL Pride Collective is hiring a program manager. It’ll be a paid position funded by GALAEI to oversee the entire event-planning process in an official way.
Interested in getting involved? Muhammad says there will be plenty of opportunities. The group is planning to host a public event to get feedback from the community early next year.
“We want to talk about who we are and share our plan for what we want to see happen in 2022,” Muhammad said. “That’s going to be for the community, and we’re also interested in seeing if potential funders can come to that meeting to learn more about us.”