World Pride officially kicked off on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
About 8,000 people packed into the arena for a three-hour show that began with Cyndi Lauper singing her hit “True Colors.” The performance ended with a gaggle of dancing drag queens who pranced alongside Lauper as she turned the train of her dress up above her shoulders to form a peacock spread of rainbow colors.
Whoopi Goldberg was the host of the evening, delivering an uplifting speech that set the evening’s celebratory atmosphere while marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a protest against police by patrons of a gay bar in 1969 that is considered the start of the LGBTQ rights movement.
“We all know that Pride isn’t just about the party,” the “View” host said. “We have Pride because so many strong and frustrated and queer people got loud and brave enough to say, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! I am a human being!’…The Stonewall Uprising lead to five days of protest. We were in the streets protesting. We were protesting in people’s faces and you know what—we are still protesting but the difference is today is that we are backed up by World Pride. This has evolved into a global movement.”
Although the Democratic presidential debate was happening at the same time, politics didn’t take center stage during the World Pride event. In fact, there was only one mention of Pres. Donald Trump, which occurred about two hours into the show when Aaron C. Morris, executive director of the LGBTQ immigrant legal advocacy group Immigration Equality, spoke about the organization’s work.
“We must demand that the United States continues to be a nation that accepts refugees form every part of the world,” he said. “We must ensure that every person who is HIV-positive or an LGBTQ person feels safe to live in the Unites States. It is my truly held belief that the more queer people that come to this nation, the better all of us are.”
Morris went on to say, “Because of you, we will staff an army of attorneys to sue the s–t out of the Trump administration.”
The opening ceremony served as a fundraiser for Immigration Equality as well as senior citizen organization SAGE and the Ali Forney Center, an advocacy group for homeless LGBTQ youth.
Several stars from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” including Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela, Yvie Oddly, Alaska Thunderf–k and Alyssa Edwards, were on the bill as were Todrick Hall, Sara Ramirez, Chaka Kahn, Daya, Ciara and “Pose” Star Billy Porter.
Yaaaaaas, @theebillyporter #WorldPride pic.twitter.com/wFml4283pw
— Marc Malkin (@marcmalkin) June 27, 2019
Laverne Cox joined Porter and his fellow “Pose” star Angelica Ross on stage. “As a proud black transgender woman of color I stand before you in humble homage to my sisters and mothers that came before me,” Cox said to thunderous applause.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson welcomed the crowd to the city. “We are the greatest city in the world,” he said. “We gave you Barbra Streisand, J.Lo and Whoopi Goldberg.”
The annual Pride parade takes place on Sunday, June 30, beginning at noon at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue.