Days away from the start of Pride Month, FedEx had become a frequent visitor at 245 Lark Street in Albany — the In Our Own Voices' headquarters for Pride Month planning and preparations.
"This office right here is where we put all our packages, and sometimes it is full to the brim,” said Shadey Marcado-Perez, In Our Own Voices' director of LGBTQIA+ health and human services.
Marcado-Perez organizes community events throughout the year, but June is by far the busiest month. The organization collaborates with others in the area on about 20 events. They spearhead three big celebrations.
"Planning for Black and Latino Gay Pride starts in December, when we convene our planning committee meeting and we get community feedback,” said Marcado-Perez.
What You Need To Know
- June is Pride Month and there’s dozens of ways to celebrate in the Capital Region
- In Our Own Voices, Inc. is an organization that focuses on supporting the LGBTQIA+ community of color
- It is involved in around 20 events through the month, and taking the lead on three
Mostly, Mercado-Perez found people were most looking forward to being together again in Washington Park, where Black and Latino Gay Pride is typically held.
The pandemic forced Black and Latino Gay Pride to be canceled in 2020 and in 2021. It relocated to Jericho Drive-In so attendees could social distance. This year, it will be back in Washington Park.
"The reason why we do it at Washington Park, it's because it's in the center of our community,” said Mercado-Perez. “We serve a lot of people here in Albany and this area particularly, and we want people to be able to come to our events."
Access and visibility is imperative for a community feeling the impacts of recent anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation miles away, as states like Florida and Texas strip away rights of queer youth.
"You heard one, you heard all,” said Phil Burse, IOOV chief operating officer. “So we see what's happening in other areas and we're very concerned. It's not just youth, it's all of us. It's a ripple effect. It's families. It's individuals. So we are pretty much under attack as a community."
Burse said that concern has led to resilience and resistance, so standing together this June feels especially vital.
"As much work and progress as we've made, there's still a lot of work that needs to be made to create safe spaces for our communities and equity,” said Burse.
For Mercado-Perez, working at In Our Own Voices on their biggest pride event of the year is extremely personal. In 2019, the Black and Latino Gay Pride event was the first LGBTQIA+ gathering she ever attended — the same event she's in charge of today.
"My family doesn't accept my identity, so it wasn't until I started working with pride that I started participating in what Pride is, and I started seeing what community engagement and community creation is,” said Mercado-Perez.
Around 500 people are expected at the main celebration in Washington Park on June 11. Mercado-Perez hopes the gathering could serve as an eye-opener, as it did for her, that no one is alone.
"We as human beings need connection. That is what we strive for and that is what makes us propel forward. So for me, it's really important in my personal journey, because it allowed me to connect with something that I didn't know I needed, and now I see the importance of it for other community members,” said Mercado-Perez.
“Say it Loud!” Black & Latino at Gay Pride is 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Some of their other events include the Sober/Recovery BBQ & Game Night, held June 3 in Central Park in Schenectady, and the “Red Carpet Realness” Ball scheduled for 8 p.m. June 18 in The Linda in Albany.