Comedian Tig Notaro, bounce music star Big Freedia, writer Roxane Gay and musician Rufus Wainwright are among the creatives slated to participate in “Project Pride,” a free show airing on YouTube this Sunday, May 31, from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern time. Organized by the Smithsonian Pride Alliance in partnership with Brightest Young Things (BYT) Media, the virtual concert and “time capsule” will celebrate LGBTQ history, heritage and culture through musical performances, conversations and highlights from the Smithsonian Institution’s collections, according to a statement.
Viewers can watch the free performance—timed to coincide with the start of National Pride Month, which takes place each June—via the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s YouTube channel. Registration is not required, but audience members can sign up for updates and reminders about the show by clicking this RSVP link.
“With Pride events around the world canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, it is more important than ever … to spend the month of June sharing our support in acknowledging and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community,” says BYT Media in a statement.
Ari Shapiro, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” is set to host the event. Guests include folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, singer-songwriters Joy Oladokun and Alex the Astronaut, activist and drummer Madame Gandhi, comedian Cameron Esposito, and electronic pop musician Bright Light Bright Light. A complete lineup can be found on the “Project Pride” website.
A representative from the National Zoo may also make an exciting cameo: “Let’s just say, we’re not officially confirming that there will be a clip of a panda ... eating a rainbow cake as part of this, but we’re also not NOT confirming that there won’t be,” hints BYT Media in the statement.
Smithsonian Pride Alliance has embodied excellence since its formation in 1988, making it one of the federal government's oldest LGBTQ+ affinity groups for employees. Celebrate #SmithsonianPride with their virtual concert, kicking off #PrideMonth. https://t.co/qrhwwYlHJe— Lonnie G. Bunch III (@SmithsonianSec) May 26, 2020
As JD Shadel reports for the Washington Post, more than 475 Pride events around the country have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This wave of cancellations comes on the heels of last year’s Pride Month, which marked the 50th anniversary of the pivotal Stonewall Inn riots and drew some of the biggest crowds in the celebration’s history. In 2019, around 20 million people attended U.S. Pride events, with an estimated 5 million traveling to New York City for Pride events alone, according to the Post.
Like many organizers switching to online programming, the team behind “Project Pride” hopes its event will serve as a rousing alternative to in-person events.
“‘Project Pride’ offers us a chance to create a digital time capsule of this particular, challenging but also inspiring moment in time, and showcase the creativity, resilience and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community on the evening that kicks off Pride Month in everyone’s hearts,” says the Smithsonian Pride Alliance in marketing materials.
Formerly known as GLOBE, the alliance was established at the height of the AIDS crisis; its membership spans all areas of the Smithsonian, including its 19 museums, 21 libraries, nine research centers and National Zoo.
Writing on Twitter, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch notes, “[The] Smithsonian Pride Alliance has embodied excellence since its formation in 1988, making it one of the federal government’s oldest LGBTQ+ affinity groups for employees.”
“Project Pride” marks the Smithsonian’s second foray into free virtual concerts. Last month, the National Air and Space Museum hosted “Space Songs: Through the Distance,” a two-hour event featuring performances by rock legend Sting, Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard, Best Coast vocalist Bethany Cosentino, and Hamilton star Daveed Diggs, among others. Guests shared “musical musings on space and isolation, … [celebrating] extreme circumstances’ capacity to bring out the best in humanity,” wrote Smithsonian magazine’s Meilan Solly at the time.
In a statement published ahead of the April 30 concert, the museum’s director, Ellen Stofan, said, “Although our locations … are temporarily closed, we wanted to continue our mission to engage the public with stories of people doing their very best work, wherever they are on Earth—or off of it.”