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Billy Porter, Whoopi Goldberg and Todrick Hall launch World Pride

Billy Porter, Whoopi Goldberg and Todrick Hall launch World Pride

Todrick Hall and Billy Porter backstage at the World Pride Opening Ceremony

World Pride launched last night with a packed Opening Ceremony in New York City. The star-studded concert took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Rainbow lights bathed the arena in color. Performers who took part in the three-hour show included Chaka Khan and Ciara. Pose’s Billy Porter took to the runway along with numerous drag queens. These included Bob the Drag Queen, Yvie Oddly, Alaska Thunderf–k and Alyssa Edwards.

Todrick Hall gave an energetic performance of his recent hit track, Nails Hair Hips Heels, while Cyndi Lauper sang her anthemic 80s hit, True Colors.

‘Pride isn’t just about the party’

The night’s other big guest was Whoopi Goldberg, who gave a stirring speech on the importance of Pride and its history. This year’s World Pride coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which took place in Greenwich Village in 1969.

‘We all know that Pride isn’t just about the party,’ she 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.’

Goldberg also introduced Laverne Cox to the stage.

‘As a proud, black transgender woman of color I stand before you,’ Cox told the audience. ‘In humble homage to my sisters and mothers who came before me,’ she said before name-checking the likes of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.

‘But I also stand here for those who cannot. Those whose lives were cut short due to violence and discrimination. I stand here so they know their lives were deeply valued, more than they may have ever known.’

Today, speaking to GSN, Todrick Hall said sharing the stage with such ‘iconic legendary artists’ left him ‘so humbled and flattered.

‘Last night was a game changer for me … I reminded myself how much I love to perform and that the stage is my true home.’

Spotlight on immigration

The opening ceremony acted as a fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTI youth, elders organization SAGE, and Immigration Equality.

Aaron C Morris, the Executive Director of the latter, also gave a powerful speech on the benefits of immigration and why the US needs to open its arms to LGBTI immigrants.

‘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 United States. It is my truly held belief that the more queer people that come to this nation, the better all of us are.’

World Pride 2019

At the time of going to press, there was no confirmed word on how much the event had raised. GSN has contacted NYC Pride for comment.

World Pride celebrations in New York City have been running throughout the month of June. Last night’s event kicked off the official Pride weekend celebrations. These will include a rally tomorrow in Greenwich Village to commemorate the Stonewall uprising.

A Youth Pride event comes to Central Park on Saturday, with a Pride Island concert with Grace Jones. There is a PrideFest StreetFair at 11am on Sunday (30 June), with the main Pride march taking place from noon.

This year’s Grand Marshalls include the cast of POSE, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah and Monica Helms. The Trevor Project and former members of the Gay Liberation Front will also be marshalling.

The World Pride closing ceremony takes place Sunday at 7pm in Times Square. Featured performers included Melissa Etheridge, Deborah Cox, Jake Shears, MNEK and Margaret Cho (hosting).

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