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Big Freedia headlines this year's Wynwood Pride online celebration.
Big Freedia headlines this year's Wynwood Pride online celebration.
Courtesy photo

Amid Pandemic, Protests, and Criticism, Wynwood Pride Goes Virtual

With the world upended by the pandemic and by violent police response to peaceful protests around the U.S., many events and brands have had to make a series of pivots in recent months and reconsider their 2020 plans. If live events like music festivals and concerts haven’t been canceled or postponed until next year, they’ve likely moved online. Even world tours have begun to go virtual.

And with nightlife suffering as bars remain closed, many drag performers who’ve relied on regular parties at bars like Counter Corner and Double Stubble have been relegated to participating in various "digital drag shows" on Twitch and Instagram Live in order to generate income and exposure.

After an inaugural year that welcomed the likes of Pabllo Vittar and Ivy Queen to the Wynwood Marketplace, Wynwood Pride had planned to deliver an even bigger and better experience for visitors in 2020 before being forced to adapt the weekend-long festival into a one-day online event. What’s more, the nationwide unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing has made June 2020 a month to celebrate Black LGBTQ Pride specifically. Given the role of black and brown queer and trans people in kicking off the fight for gay rights at the Stonewall Inn a half-century ago, it's no surprise that Pride celebrations across the nation would divert their efforts this year to support Black Lives Matter.

Kicking off Saturday, June 13, at 7 p.m., Wynwood Pride’s “2020 Online” edition will follow a programming model similar to the one pioneered for last year’s edition: musical performances form the meat of Wynwood Pride’s bill, with drag performers from Miami and beyond taking the stage to treat spectators to their unique takes on the art form. Big Freedia, Kali Uchis, Orville Peck, Sofi Tukker, Caroline Polachek, Tomasa del Real, Urias, Dorian Electra, and Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters will all make appearances, and each will broadcast a special set on Wynwood Pride’s various digital channels (Twitch, Zoom, Instagram Live — take your pick) throughout the evening. DJ sets by locals like Gami and the Love Below will punctuate the eight hours of planned programming.

Starting at 8 p.m. on Twitch, local drag queen Morphine Love will host the “Love Ball,” which brings together an all-star lineup of drag performers in a mix of live and prerecorded performances. Andro Gin and FKA Twink are among the local representatives, while imports include Creme Fatale, Kandy Muse, and Canada’s Drag Race contestant Kyne. In addition to the Love Ball, performances by Drag Race and Dragula alumni Shea Couleé, the Vixen, and Louisianna Purchase — along with Miami figures like Kat Wilderness and Vex the Thing — complete the drag offerings.

Miss Toto's Funhouse returns this year.
Miss Toto's Funhouse returns this year.
Photo by Honest Henry

Last year’s Wynwood Pride faced criticism from local LGBTQ+ groups whose leaders were dismayed that the event was produced by a for-profit company (the local agency Swarm), that the festival furthers Wynwood's accelerated gentrification, and that the required police presence would send the wrong message during a time when the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

This year has proved similar, as local drag performers including Kunst and Jupiter Velvet complained that the festival as planned is a tone-deaf response to the nationwide Black Lives Matter uprisings. Others, like New Times’ Best Drag Queen winner and current Chicago resident Miss Toto, came to Wynwood Pride’s defense, citing the event's commitment to fundraising for Black Lives Matter-related causes and the involvement of several black people in producing the online event, including Toto herself. (Following the success of Miss Toto's Funhouse at last year's festival, she'll host her own streaming channel all night long.)

With Wynwood Pride 2020 relegated to the digital airwaves, many of these points of contention become moot, with no need for police involvement or big-name sponsors to help bring the festival to life. It appears the focus will be split between the event itself and the urgent social issues at hand.

In collaboration with Plus1, Wynwood Pride has pledged donations to an array of beneficiaries:

  • The Bail Project’s National Revolving Bail Fund, which has helped pay bail for over 10,000 people to date from coast to coast
  • Impact Justice, which seeks to reduce the number of youths and adults in the criminal justice system, improve conditions and outcomes for those currently incarcerated, and provide opportunities for the formerly incarcerated upon release
  • Color of Change, which creates and promotes campaigns that draw attention to systemic racist practices, aiming to motivate the public to lobby for change
  • The Equal Justice Initiative, based in Montgomery, Alabama, which is dedicated to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment nationwide and to challenge racial, economic, and social injustice wherever it arises

Not every Pride event is matching Wynwood Pride 2020’s example in spotlighting Black Lives Matter. NYC Pride, for example, is stressing pride for all LGBTQ+ people, with only limited mention of the current racial upheaval.

A lot can change in a short time, though, as we're all learning the hard way. Maybe attendees at Wynwood Pride 2021 will again be gratified to learn that for the second year running, the festival will support grassroots organizations. And heck, maybe they'll even be able to enjoy the event in the absence of the Miami-Dade Police Department again, too.

Wynwood Pride Online 2020. 7 p.m. Saturday, June 13; wynwoodpride.com. Stream via twitch.tv/wynwoodpride, instagram.com/wynwoodpride, and zoom.us.

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