Irish Heritage and LGBTQ+ Inclusion: A First for Staten Island

Text and Photos by Shayna Hanig

A parade with flags, music, floats, community groups and crowds may be traditional for any other St. Patrick’s Day celebration — but for Staten Island, this parade made history. 

Dancers from Mrs. Rosemary’s Dance Studio performed as they made their way down Forest Avenue.

On Sunday, March 17,  the borough had its very first inclusive event, hosted by the Forest Avenue Business Improvement District (BID). Two weeks earlier, on March 3, Staten Island’s long established St. Patrick’s Day parade — the only one in the city that continuously bans LGBTQ+ involvement — went off as usual.

According to its website, the Forest Avenue BID is “embracing this revamped tradition and celebrating the diversity that makes Staten Island such a special place to live, work, and visit.”

The first-ever inclusive Staten Island parade ran from Bard to Broadway, and Staten Islanders crowded along Forest Avenue. Several businesses joined in on the festivities, blasting music and hanging banners from their windows. 

A sign on the window of The Burrito Bar says, “We stand for inclusion!” This sign could be found on other establishments such as Beans and Leaves Cafe.

Marching in the parade were U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, Mayor  Eric Adams, radio personality Elvis Duran, and representatives of The Girl Scouts, the Staten Island Zoo, the Pride Center of Staten Island and numerous local community groups, high schools and churches.

For years, the Pride Center of Staten Island was not allowed to march in the annual parade. This has led to boycotts and protests over the years about what role the LGBTQ+ community has at St. Patrick’s Day festivities. 

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R) walked in both parades on Staten Island.

The BID invited the Pride Center of Staten Island to play a part in the historical parade. “I just feel so much appreciation, gratefulness and I feel the unity and love that I know Staten Island is all about,” Carol Bullock, executive director of the center, said moments before the kick off.

Carol Bullock, holding the banner with her fist in the air, marches alongside the Pride Center of Staten Island and Elvis Duran.

The march began at noon and continued into the afternoon but Staten Island locals continued the party well after the parade ended. People walked up and down Forest Avenue and crowded nearby restaurants and bars as music continued to play.

“I am really proud of myself and the whole marching band, because we are working hard and just always putting on a good show,” said 18-year-old Josue Acevedo, who is a part of the Susan E. Wagner High School marching band. “We always show up to everything we’re called for. We are always there. If you need us, call us.”

Marching bands from the Susan E. Wagner, Port Richmond, and Tottenville high schools all participated in the event.

The streets were decorated with both rainbows and shamrocks. A highlight on inclusivity was made clear, as if saying, “anyone can be a part of this parade.”

Local businesses also participated in festivities before, during, and after the parade.

Corrine Campbell, a Staten Island middle school teacher, was not sure what to expect before attending.“It’s just a regular parade just like the other one. It’s not separate, it’s the same. Everyone’s the same. We’re all human. Not a big deal.” 

Spectators waved pride flags, Irish flags and American flags.