Pride Week starts with a concert

A diverse group of musicians and some speakers opened a week of LGBT events

Prague Pride started its week of events with an open-air concert on Aug. 8, highlighted by performances from Adam Mišík and Jitka Zelenková. Several speakers including Omar Sharif Jr and US Ambassador Andrew H. Schapiro (picture), both of whom pointed out that a lot of progress on LGBT rights has been made, but that there was still a long way to go, as shown by the recent shooting incident in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 dead and 53 injured at an LGBT nightclub.

“The US Embassy has been proud to sponsor the Pride Festival every year since it began,” Schapiro said. “We have seen tremendous progress over the last five years and this is now the largest festival of its kind in all of Central Europe,” he said.

After recounting the incident in Orlando he pointed out the value of Pride events. “In the fight against hate and intolerance, love is our best weapon, because love is stronger than hate. Events like Prague Pride are important because they can show the power of love. And I want to celebrate that power,” he said.

The Glorietta, a small but highly visible pavilion on the US Embassy grounds, is being lit up in rainbow colors for the week of the Pride Festival as a sign of solidarity. Schapiro said he hoped people would find hope and inspiration in the symbol.

Omar Sharif Jr is the grandson of the famous actor and one of very few people form the Middle East to be openly gay. “Prague is one of my favorite cities in the world with some of my favorite men in the world, and women” Sharif said. “Pride is something that is so special and that is so often taken for granted. It is a celebration of love, not only for each other but also for ourselves,” he said before turning to his own story.

“Growing up in Egypt was very difficult. I wasn't able to live openly, authentically or happily even if I came from one of the most famous families, even if I was well-known and even if the country loved me,” he said. “So in 2012 I decided there were so many people without a voice, that weren't able to express themselves, that weren't able to love themselves, that weren't able to live openly and proudly so I came out publicly and I was the first public figure in the Middle East to come out openly as gay,” he said. “There are so many people around the world who still live in fear and in oppression.”

He said he was faced with death threats and intimidation after he came out, and had to move to America as a refugee to be able to live openly and authentically. “I was lucky to be able to do that,” he said, adding that he attended his first Pride in New York. He said he looks forward to doing the same things in Prague, which he called a progressive city in a tolerant country.

He also recounted the events in Orlando and added that the rates of LGBT youth homelessness and suicide have remained stagnant.

“And we still don't have full marriage equality right here in the Czech Republic,” he said. “So while Pride is a time to celebrate and be proud, it is also a time to reflect on all that we have to accomplish here, at home, and abroad around the world, at places in the Middle East where I come from, and even in America,” he said.

“This week we are going to march in pride, we are going to march with love but we are also going to march with purpose for all those around the world who cannot march, who cannot speak, who do not have a voice, we are going to march for them. We are going to be proud, visible, open, tolerant and happy,” he said.

The evening closed with Jitka Zelenková sing a Czech version of the 1980s hit “I Want To Know What Love Is,” with Czech lyrics that translate to “without love there is no love; we are all the same.” She followed it up with two disco-style songs. Zelenková's career dates back to the late 1970s.

Before that, current pop star Adam Mišík sang a full set of his own hits, capped off by covers of the Miley Cyrus hit “Wrecking Ball” and the Maroon 5 song “She Will Be Loved.”

The concert began with Jan Bendig, who brought several guest on stage including a backing singer in a nun costume. He was followed by alternative heavy metal band Vladivojsko.

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