Your True Colors, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
Like most people, you might join in a celebration of heritage, religion, race or some identifying quality at some point during the year. In fact, you may join into several . There are so many celebrations it is hard not to be a part of something grand.
We all take part in the fourth of July celebration. We are proud of our heritage and wish to celebrate it. There are parades and picnics, concerts and fireworks, flag waving and red, white and blue decorating. Television shows, especially those of Public Television, bring us programs of our history, national parks and our unique music. It is hard not to be swept up in the grand emotions of the day. Do your emotions swell with pride?
Many also celebrate their ethnic background through a variety of events. They honor the Independence of the nations of their ancestors as well as our own Independence. Cinco de Mayo, for example, is a great day of events to honor Mexican heritage, although it is not Mexican Independence Day as some think. In fact, it may be a bigger deal here than in Mexico. Nevertheless, we all join our Mexican neighbors in the festivities. September 16 is actually Mexican Independence day in case you were wondering why our friends were celebrating again.
Here our German heritage is celebrated with Von Steuben Parade and a weekend of Oktoberfest-like parties. Baron Friedrich von Steuben was a German military officer and volunteer for General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. By the end, he was Washington’s chief of staff. Imagine the Pride for German Americans that this officer, born in Germany, helped to secure the Independence of America. He was born on September 17th, hence our combined Von Steuben and Oktoberfest events. By the way, we are also proud to say that our German parade was used as the parade in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I guess it is appropriate Ferris is singing Danke Schoen.
In a city as diverse as Chicago, we always seem to be having parades. In the summer, there are many weekends I can walk to the corner and watch a parade head down Montrose Avenue in celebration of a South or Central American country. I see the delight in the faces of children from Guatemala or Mexico, Peru or Columbia, Brazil or Ecuador who are new to this country or first generation Americans. I also see the faces of parents and grandparents who are proud of their ethnic culture and proud to be here.
A variety of religious events bring a feeling of pride to those who belong to the various religions around town. There are sometimes parades, sometimes outdoor services, sometimes grand occasions. Many are proud of the churches built by their ancestors. A church I attended was built by our German ancestors over one hundred years ago. It stands proudly on its corner with a tower visible for miles. Certainly the founders of our German American neighborhood would be proud to know their ancestors still come to this corner to attend mass and celebrate the founding of our church and school. Many of the ancestors are in fact proud to be here. All of the great religions can claim a home in Chicago.
We celebrate the culture of our colors as well. Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, Native American Center, Du Sable Museum of African-American History all take pride in having a home here. The events rooted in the background of color are a source of honor for many. Indeed, Black Pride takes an important role in the cultural life of a city for more than just one month a year. We are the proud home of the roots of jazz and blues and the unique contribution of black Americans to our nations music. We are also proud to be the home of the first black president.
If I was to pull up the calendar of events for the City of Chicago, I would likely find more celebrations of heritage than I could reasonably report in this space. There is so much to be proud of that a simple report just would not suffice. This weekend I would find one that you might question. Many question it, and they should get an answer.
Why is there “Gay Pride?” Is this something to be proud of? Why are so many people partying in the streets? Why do we need a parade? We don’t have Hetero Pride Day. Why is this something special? Sexual orientation does not seem like the thing to parade in the streets. Who you love does not seem to be a reason for a parade, although perhaps it should be.
For a particular group of citizens who often felt isolated, it is important to come together to remember that you are not alone. If your sexual orientation is not the majority, you are different. If you grew up, as most did, afraid to express who you are, it is not unusual to come to celebrate the man or woman you tried to deny for many years. Last year it was estimated that over 1 million people jammed the parade route in Chicago. If the weather is good, we are likely to see the same again.
I have only been to the parade a few times. It is long, boring, and overcrowded. It seems every local politician is in the parade along with every large corporation that wishes to curry favor with the LGBT community. The neighborhood has a perimeter that makes it difficult to get in and out for hours before the event, to hours afterward. Local business are crowded and it is tough to find a seat anywhere.
Despite that, a million people are proud to be there.