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History of the Saint Patricks Parade in Queens New York


The parade is ‘The St Patrick’s parade and Irish Fair’ and takes as its theme the words of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic; "Cherishing All the Children of the Nation Equally". The parade takes place on the 4th of March and is organised by stpatsforall.com.

The fifth Avenue parade in New York City on St Patrick’s Day has long been a source of controversy as the Ancient Order of Hibernians refuse to allow any gay representation. There tends to be protests and politicians refusing to march in it etc. as a result.
In1999 a Drogheda man, called Brendan Fay, living in New York, decided to do something positive for the gay and other communities that feel marginalised by what tends to be quite a white dominated militaristic celebration of Irishness in a very diverse city.
He invited all the other communities that share the neighbourhood in Woodside/ Sunnyside, Queens with the Irish to join a parade that was open to all. The results were quite amazing. Not only did most of the groups want to celebrate with their neighbours, most of them had their own particular reason to celebrate with the Irish and had never been invited to do so before. Last year’s parade not only made every network tv station in America, it made history as the first Irish St Patrick’s parade that was open to all.

A History Lesson
Brendan is quite a keen historian but even he learned a thing or two about Irish history by calling around his neighbourhood. In the Chilean restaurant, he was invited into the back room where a picture of an Irishman, O Higgins hung on the wall, the proud liberator of their country. People of African origin, from the Caribbean, had shared the experience of slavery there with the Irish, the Choctaw native Americans had sent relief to the Irish during the famine, even the leader of the Korean traditional drumming band had been educated in Korea by Irish Christian Brothers and was touched to be asked to be part of an Irish event.

The Parade Participants
As well as pipe bands and theatre groups, the parade was endorsed by all the unions and by many of the most prominent politicians in New York, including Hillary Rodham Clinton who participated in the parade in 1999 and again as Senator two years later. In fact, one of the only groups not to accept their invitation to participate was the Ancient Order Of Hibernians. The only groups excluded were ones that carry guns.
Interestingly, there were some protesters with signs saying ‘sodomites!’. They were offered tea and coffee by the organisers who know well what it's like to be out in the cold.

De jimbe and the parade
Our participation in the parade is particularly significant in that we travel from the ‘old country’ to endorse the parade. Added to this are the facts that we are a mixed race group mixing Irish and African music and we bring letters of good will from supporters in Ireland such as the Lord Mayor of Dublin (2003) Dermot Larcey, Senator David Nerris and actor Brendan Gleeson.

© De Jimbe & Padraic Lavin 2001. Hosted by ForumCo