If you ask Jo Arnone, the GLBT pride celebrations occurring around the country throughout the month of June should not be called parades or festivals, terms at which she noticeably bristles.
“This isn’t a parade, this isn’t a festival — it’s a march, it’s a protest,” she barks in a commanding tone. “Until we have full and equitable rights as a community in this country, it is every year a protest that takes place in every city in the land. Sometimes I think it’s hard to keep that message clear when people see [pride] as a big celebration.”
Call it what you will, Arnone, who works and lives in Maryland, is honored to participate, both in New York, where she’s announced the march for 24 years and in D.C., where she’s returning for her second stint as a festival emcee and parade announcer. (She’ll be at the stand on 18th Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW.) The community-minded Arnone, who as an auctioneer has raised money for Whitman-Walker, BHT and Capital Pride, among many other civic organizations, is thrilled to see Stonewall get so much thematic attention at this year’s pride.
“People tend to forget exactly how the Stonewall riots came about,” she says. “Back then in New York our bars were busted every week. What wasn’t Mafia-run was closed down in an instant because…the cops saw us as fair game. We had our names published in the newspapers. 1969 was still a tough time to be gay and stay employed in New York. “When the cops burst in that night, causing what we call the Stonewall riots today, New York was very closeted. It was a shitty place to be gay in 1969.”
Forty years later, Arnone can’t help but marvel over the recent changes to both our movement — and to our nation’s political landscape.
“Being able to look up and see the Capitol of this great nation staring down at us, is the most powerful thing that has ever happened to me standing on a stage for a community purpose,” she says. “But I’m really looking forward to that first moment on Sunday when, standing on the Capital Pride Mainstage, I’ll turn around and see a Capitol that has a Democratic majority in it. It’s gonna make me real happy.”
“I think it’s going to be an awesome Pride.”