Guided by love: a spotlight on Rhode Island Pride
February 21, 2022
With this year’s Pride Month coming up this summer, we reached out to Rodney Davis, Pride organizer at Rhode Island Pride, who shared the latest on what the organization is doing to be more mindful and present in the community.
A conversation with Rhode Island Pride
Q: We’d love to know more about Rhode Island Pride and its beginnings. How did the organization get started?
A: Rhode Island Pride had its beginnings in 1976. As the Pride movement began to grow after the events that took place in New York City at Stonewall in 1969, activists here wanted to create an event that was tied into the Bicentennial Celebration. When organizers first tried to get permits for their parade and a special gathering at the Old State House called the Congress of Gay Concerns, they were denied. They, along with the ACLU, sued the RI Bicentennial Commission and the City of Providence. They won and were able to hold their event on June 26th of that year.
2021 marked the 45th anniversary of that important event. Last year  was also the 20th anniversary of our unique Illuminated Night Pride Parade. That, along with our PrideFest, makes it one of the largest events in Providence that brings visitors from all over the world.
Q: What inspires you to do what you’re doing? What are some things, you would consider mindful, that Rhode Island Pride is doing for the community right now?
A: I first began volunteering for Rhode Island Pride in 1991. The world was a lot different than it is today. There were no civil rights protections for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was devastating our community and public support wasn’t that strong. Even though we have made great strides towards equality, we still have much work to do towards equity, inclusion and belonging.
I am proud to serve my community as an openly gay black male who has had the experience of growing up in a housing project, experienced time in a foster home, been the recipient of racism at work, and seen the damaging effects of religious prejudice and bigotry. It is taking all that energy and converting it into something that builds up instead of tearing down. To be mindful means to be aware, and sometimes that requires us to stop, look around, plan next steps and then implement. One of the best ways to do this is by listening and engaging with the community and also being aware of the intersectionality of other communities.
As Rhode Island Pride is working on the plan for the PrideFest and Parade, we are looking at ways that we can help educate, engage our community and collaborate with other organizations both in and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community. I would always remark to others that one of my jobs with Pride is to raise money, but more importantly, my job is to raise people. But it is not our job alone. Pride does not have the capacity and resources to execute many of the great ideas and needs of the community. However, we can do what we do best, which is create Pride and the programs associated with it and support those amazing organizations that are also taking the lead in our communities.
Q: What is coming up for Rhode Island Pride that you feel will help foster positivity, mindfulness, and community?
A: The word positivity will need to be reclaimed in the days and years ahead. With that being said, we are mindful of the challenges that we as an organization and as a community face. When I spoke at our fall event, I emphasized the challenges ahead, however, if we are guided by love for our community we will be able to meet them.
We all need that opportunity to breathe and look at the world all around us and see where each of us connects to it. So while we are still in the planning stages for this year’s event we are looking to expand our PrideFest and to also develop new programming centered around engaging our BIPOC, arts and learning communities.
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