The luck of the Irish was on the side of St. Pat’s for All revelers as the rain stopped just in time for the parade to start around 1pm in Sunnyside, Queens on March 6, 2022.
Last year, the parade, which has been a beacon of inclusivity and a celebration of Queens’ diversity since its inception more than 20 years ago, was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, with many COVID restrictions lifted, New York’s second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade showed the city, with its energy, is bouncing back.
If proof was needed, it was enough to look at the many beaming “naked” smiles, which the masks had hidden for two long years.
Tiffany Cabán, a Queens native and city council member, was thrilled to see the “beautiful celebration of the intersection of so many different identities.”
“I love it,” Cabán said. “As a queer person, I myself can be in the community and see so many people who are part of our community but also neighbors, on the right, like, supporting, being allies. It’s good.”
She called the parade an act of resistance rooted in love and community and that it contrasted with Staten Island’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which once again excluded LGBTQ+ organizations from participation.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards noted that Queens, one of the hardest hit boroughs during the pandemic, represents 190 countries and that the parade was a true testament to the borough’s diversity and of the love Queens has for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Queens is back,” Richards said proudly. “It feels good to be here, to celebrate our inclusiveness, unlike some other boroughs.”
His message to St. Patrick’s Day organizers in the “forgotten” borough was clear.
“We are in 2022. Follow the program. Stop with the division. We are in 2022,” Richards said. “It was never right before another year either, but not including the LGBTQ+ community in a parade is shameful. And they have to follow the program. It’s New York.
Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas recalled that the last time they marched was in 2020, shortly before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she was “thrilled” that the event is back. She also pointed out that there was no place for hate in New York City and highlighted the historic aspect of the St. Pat’s for All Parade.
“I’m proud to be part of Queens, that we’ve created the first-ever inclusive St. Pat’s for All Parade,” González-Rojas said. “And how things have gradually changed, it’s a sign of the times, but it’s such a shame that they still exclude the LGBT community.”
New York City Councilman Keith Powers, who is Irish-American and leads the Irish caucus on the city council, said St. Pat’s for All was symbolic for his inclusion.
“First, this community was a large Irish community where my family lived when they came here to New York, so it’s nice to be here in a place that has a long Irish tradition,” Powers said. “And also, this parade was symbolic for his inclusiveness throughout his time here and really at a time when we need him to embrace and show every New Yorker that they can be part of our community. This procession served as a sign.
He said he was still speechless that a St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York did not include all New Yorkers, especially since the Irish American community has a strong and vibrant LGBTQ+ population.
“It’s disappointing that the Staten Island parade still wants to exclude New Yorkers and deny them that they’re part of the Irish American community. It’s ridiculous,” Powers said.
Before the parade began, speakers paid tribute to the late LGBTQ+ activist Tarlach Mac Niallais, who died of COVID-19 on April 1, 2020 at age 57.
Mac Niallais immigrated from Ireland to New York in the 1980s. The LGBTQ+ and disability rights activist campaigned tirelessly to allow LGBTQ+ organizations to march under their own banners in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade At New York.
His two brothers recalled that he had become politically active growing up in Belfast and described him as warm and intelligent.
“His legacy will live as long as we do,” said one of his brothers.
US Senator Chuck Schumer recalled being in the parade in 2020, the last time Tarlach Mac Niallais marched in the parade.
“It was an amazing day,” Schumer said. “And we remember those who have been lost in COVID. Too many, many more who mourn those who are lost. Any of us can fall into this category, unfortunately.
Schumer also called on the crowd to think and pray for the “brave people of Ukraine who are fighting the good fight.”
He said he spoke to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on Saturday, who told him he needed planes.
“I lobby our administration and work with our administration to get them the planes they need,” Schumer said. “Because they cannot allow the slaughter of their people to continue.”
Along the parade route, which stretched from 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue to 58th Street and Woodside Avenue, many onlookers – decked out in emerald green, waving Irish and LGBT flags – cheered the many marching bands, Irish bands and LGBTQ+ organizations like Lavender and Green Alliance.
Jay Walker, co-founder of Gays Against guns, was thrilled to be part of St. Pat’s for All and glad the weather held.
“I expect to see tons of gay people and our allies. And just fabulous New Yorkers together,” Walker said. Asked about Staten Island again refusing LGBTQ+ organizations to participate, he laughed and said, “It’s Staten Island. It’s exactly what I would expect from Staten Island.”