It is my second Pride in Baltimore. Since the pandemic shut down festivities for two years, I decide to live-sketch the event, on-site.
Ten minutes into my first sketch, I realize how nothing could prepare anyone to sketch in such a loud, chaotic, beautiful atmosphere. I drop pens while trying to switch colors as colorful people strut by.
I stub my pencil’s nib and then my toe. I blink sweat out of my eyes and watch it drop onto the page. I find my already overheated brain crumbling under the challenge of having to document the sensory — lace and tulle and sequins and velvet and fur and how on earth does one visually translate metallic lipstick into a quick scribble?
While I sketch and weather a minor breakdown about not having more hands, I overhear a conversation about how many think Pride is about love — but it is actually about bodies.
To put your queer body out in public is to defile the ordered humdrum of everyday life, and (as one of the voices pointed out) most of us do this on our own during our uncharted everydays anyway. But when many bodies gather together to do this, it becomes a way of occupying space, of aligning body with body until our collective queerness is also body, spilling out of the folds and bursting at the seams till it wriggles and throbs down the street, textural and tangible.
I hoist my body off the pavement and walk it through the parade to the Ynot Lot, thinking about how this sea of vibrant bodies exists today as a place of celebration and dissent.
I think of it at night when I see people link hands and dance during Version, the queer dance party hosted by The Crown that also made a comeback this weekend. I think about it on Sunday when I look at all the bodies peppering the grass at Druid Hill Park, having picnics and playing soccer as music flows out from the stage and through the trees.
Pride is about bodies taking up space because these have habitually been bodies that have been smudged into the dark, swept into bathrooms, stuccoed into the cracks. Pride is about bodies because it is queer bodies that first started this scuffle to declare themselves worthy of taking up space in the face of colonization and imperialism.
It has since grown into a skirmish and a struggle that feels especially critical this year because Pride is coming at such a pivot — at a moment of bodies that suddenly have bans upon them joining ranks with bodies that have routinely found themselves banned. It strikes me that the only unbanned body as we know it today, the straight white cis male form, has been making itself scarce during this year’s festivities.
And if we were to pause and think of the celebratory body that is Pride itself, this city’s form continues to be joyful and divergent; a marbled, melanated entity dancing fiercely under the Baltimore sun. May we continue to hold this space for every single body that needs it.
Priyanka Kumar is a Baltimore-based illustrator and instructor at Maryland Institute College of Art.