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Red Bank Parks and Recreation Hosts Fourth Annual Pride In The Park Celebration

By Carolyn M. Brown,

originally published: 06/06/2024

Red Bank Parks and Recreation Hosts Fourth Annual Pride In The Park Celebration

The month of June is a time to showcase pride and recognize the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community worldwide. Across the state of New Jersey, there will be a series of Pride events from festivals to outdoor concerts and other events, reflecting the diversity of LGBTQ+ people. Red Bank Parks and Recreation is hosting its annual Pride In The Park celebration on Saturday, June 8th from 12 PM to 3 PM, at Riverside Gardens Parks.

Now in its fourth year, Pride In The Park is a free outdoor event featuring vendors, giveaways, family activities, and music by a deejay. There will also be live music performances by the Red Bank Charter School band. Families can show off their pet’s most creative and colorful outfits in the Pride Pet Costume contest sponsored by the family-owned pet store Fins and Feathers, a Red Bank mainstay for over 35 years. Other community partners in the Pride celebration include the Count Basie Center for the Arts, 180 Turning Lives Around, a support services group, and Make It Better For Youth, a grassroots group of educators and leaders working with LGBTQ+ youth.

Red Bank Parks and Recreation Hosts Fourth Annual Pride In The Park Celebration

Through events like Pride In The Park, Red Bank is focusing on inclusiveness. “Our primary focus is creating a fun and safe environment for the community and visitors,” says Oscar Salinas, director of recreation. “Our Pride celebration is one of those things I enjoy putting together as well as other activities such as concerts and community events throughout the year. We are making sure that our communities feel welcomed not only by residents of Red Bank but also neighboring (towns).”

A highlight of this year’s Pride festivities is Drag Bingo sponsored by Red Bank RiverCenter, infusing the classic game of Bingo with the amusement of a drag queen. Host Harmonica Sunbeam, “The Comedy Queen,” will call out the numbers and provide some zingers in between. “As a drag artist, I bring all of my energy and all of my fabulous sparkle and shine to an event, making everyone feel included as well as having a good time and giving them a chance to win some fabulous prizes,” says Sunbeam, a longtime Jersey City resident and one of its luminaries.

From local readings of “Drag Queen Story Hour” to notable screen credits, the veteran performer has been delighting audiences at nightclubs, cabarets, and fundraising events throughout the United States and abroad for over 30 years. A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Sunbeam has been featured on several television shows and films including “The Deuce,” “Honey,” and “Please Give,” and also has worked alongside noted musical artists such as Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Holiday, and was featured on “Saturday Night Live” as a backup dancer for artist Katy Perry performing her hit single “Swish Swish.”

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Pride was first officially recognized by the U.S. government in 1999 when President Bill Clinton issued a proclamation that June was “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” Under President Barack Obama, it became more inclusive in 2009, when he declared June as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.”

Sunbeam stresses the importance of celebrating and honoring Pride month. “There are many people that cannot do that themselves because of where they live, their home situation or their personal situation. So, we do this for them in hopes that we can continue to be there for them when, and if, they can ever come out and celebrate for themselves.”

Red Bank Parks and Recreation Hosts Fourth Annual Pride In The Park Celebration

Pride month is rooted in the historical context of civil unrest and resilience. It is celebrated every June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, which was six days of protests against police brutality following a raid by the NYPD at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. Considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, the rebellion inspired activists to plan organized protests to commemorate Stonewall and to demonstrate for equal rights known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. In observance of the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion on June 28, 1970, the first marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. These annual Liberation Day marches would later become known as Pride marches or parades, reportedly around the mid-1970s.

While this June marks the 55th anniversary of Stonewall and quite some progress has been made over the years, there's still a lot of work to be done, Sunbeam says. “There are people who are trying to push us backwards so we must continue to be seen, be out, be loud and be proud to let people know that we're here and we're not going anywhere. And we are going to fight for what we believe is right in terms of representation and status.”

In recent years a record amount of legislation attacking LGBTQ+ rights has advanced, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Attacks on drag culture and failed attempts by state lawmakers to ban drag performances in public, including Drag Story Hour held at libraries and bookstores, have given rise to ongoing bullying and intimidation of drag queens. “The pushback is a deflection of much larger issues,” says Sunbeam. “There are many more things that we can focus on as a society than drag artists reading books to children. Drag Story Hour is an optional program that was brought to that (venue) by someone who actually wants it there. So, if it's not your thing or if it's not something that you want for your children, then you have the right to not attend. But, why ruin something for someone else, especially when the people who are there are doing something positive,” adds Sunbeam.

Red Bank Parks and Recreation Hosts Fourth Annual Pride In The Park Celebration

As a part of the Pride celebration, Red Bank Parks and Recreation will honor two students from Red Bank Regional High School with the “Beacon of Light” award. Red Bank Mayor William Portman will present the award which recognizes advocates of LGBTQ+ issues and rights.

“Red Bank’s Pride In The Park is a family-friendly event that is open to anyone who is looking to have a good time,” Sunbeam says. “Also, it provides a sense of community for others who live in that town or may come from nearby towns, who may not have a chance to experience a Pride celebration elsewhere. It's great to have a Pride celebration in your own town. It shows that there are people there who care and respect you, that you're at least being represented.”

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Red Bank, NJ | June 08, 2024 at 12 PM - 3 PM

About the author: Carolyn M. Brown is an investigative journalist, editor, author, playwright, multimedia content producer and an entrepreneur. She has produced content spanning across a portfolio of platforms, including print, digital media, broadcast, theater arts, and custom events. Her publication credits include Essence, Forbes, Inc., and Diversity Woman magazines. She is a founding board member of the Paterson Performing Arts Development Council, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing together diverse communities through the performing arts and cultural events and to creating pathways for new and established artists.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.



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