After 3 weeks of attending rehearsals and practicing the routine, it’s on. The night has come. It was 4th March 2017. The moment I walked passed the fence and into the “back stage” area, I could see colourful, vibrant costumes; unicorns, super heroes, sea creatures, dresses made of CDs, rainbow coloured flags, hoola hoops… it was amazing. I was at Mardis Gras for the very first time in my life, not as a spectator either. I was part of the parade celebrating the freedom of love, equality and inclusion.
I was very lucky to be part of Dr. Mark’s Marching Academy, a community float which inspire others to keep up the good fight, no matter what obstacles or hardships are ahead. Our amazing float organiser, Bradford Jeffries said in one interview, “Our morals and beliefs are intrinsic to who we are. Sometimes standing up for the things we believe in is hard. Sometimes it is unpopular. Sometimes we are let down by institutional bodies that supposedly support us. We are, however, the greatest agents of change. We don’t need to rely on others; we can all be our own heroes.” To convey this message, the float this year have embraced a superhero theme; “celebrate those heroes within our community, whose shoulders we stand on, and the rights and privileges we have today because they were brave enough to take a stand when it was neither popular nor easy.”
I feel so privileged to be part of Dr. Mark’s float this year because the theme, “Be your own hero” really resonated with me. It’s not always easy to be yourself everyday for people in the LGBTIQA community. They show strength and courage. I used to believe that Mardis Gras was an event only for the LGBTIQA community but I was ignorant and wrong. If this was the case, there would be an even bigger divide amongst us. It’s an extremely inclusive event.
I dug a little into the history of this event. The first gay rights parade was held on 24 June 1978 at 10pm. It was in actual fact a celebration after a protest organised by the Gay Solidarity Group in commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising and bring awareness to put an end to discrimination against homosexuals in employment and housing, police harassment and the repeal of all anti-homosexual laws. Although the organisers received permission to go ahead with the celebrations, the turn out from the crowd rose from 500 to 4 times as many. The police broke up the parade and arrested 53 people. Sydney Morning Herald published the full list of names of the 53 arrested, which lead to many of them being exposed to their friends and places of employment. Majority of those arrested lost their jobs since homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1984. These people were the true heroes which made the colorful pride parade we know today possible.
Although the parade was only a few days ago, my memory is a blur. It happened all so quickly. Time flies when you’re having fun! All I can remember is the cheering crowd behind the barricades. Many smiling faces, people singing and cheering, reaching out their hands to the floats and marchers. It was an extremely great event. If you have never participated or attended the Mardis Gras, I strongly recommend you do next year!
There is a documentary below about the Dr. Mark’s Marching Academy float which was filmed on the day. Enjoy 🙂