Pink Saturday lives, and is now “Pink Saturday Unchained.”
The annual street party that came out of 1990s AIDS protests is back, reimagined by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The sisters are self-identified queer radical nuns, a staple of San Francisco, and they ran the party known as Pink Saturday for years. As recently as May, Pink Saturday was deemed dead. But Sister Selma Soul, who’s organizing the new Pink Saturday with SF Eagle, said it was important the event continue and also transform.
“There’s an importance for tradition and continuity,” she said. “Just because we can’t do something the same way, doesn’t mean we can’t carry it on.”
Gerard Koskovich, a local historian, said Pink Saturday started in 1990 as an unauthorized street-party protest where supporters of ACT UP, an AIDS rights advocacy group, closed Castro Street “against the will of the San Francisco Police Department.”
“The party became a formal Pride event the following year and for several years remained a low-profile, low-key gathering with a strong spirit of LGBT community celebration,” he said.
Pink Saturday will no longer be a street party, which before drew thousands. The new Pink Saturday Unchained will be hosted in a parking lot across from SF Eagle, Soul said, a bar considered an LGBT community stalwart.
The event will feature drag aplenty, including performances by Monistat, Mutha Chucka, Kit Tapta, Cruzin C’Loo, Kylie Minono, and music from Jimmy Strand, DJ Mark Mark and DJ Spaztron.
Entry will no longer be free as it was in years past. Admission is $10, which will partially go toward security. Other proceeds will go to help victims of the Orlando mass shooting earlier this month that targeted an LGBT club, Pulse, and the LGBT Latinx community.
“Pink Saturday needs to evolve and change,” Soul said. “It’s just one of those things.”
The added security is meant to address a spat of homophobia seen in recent Pink Saturday events, including an incident where one sister was assaulted. Lack of safety contributed to the Sisters of Perpetual of Indulgence deciding to not run the event in 2015.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the Castro, tried to revive the street party but that effort didn’t come to fruition. Wiener was glad to see Pink Saturday revived this year, however.
“The sisters always do a fantastic job bringing our community together,” he said.
As the SF Weekly previously reported, Pink Saturday was also a place where LGBT youths first coming out could connect with gay elders.
“I got access and exposure to older generations who were on the political forefront of the gay rights movement,” Cristina Flores, a San Francisco native who self identifies as queer, told SF Weekly.
That spirit was lost as Pink Saturday grew in size, she and others in the community said.
Koskovich said in the last decade the party grew significantly “with an increasing percentage of people who clearly were not there to celebrate the LGBT community.”
Though Pink Saturday Unchained will be for those 21 and older, Soul said, she hopes the event is able to reclaim its original spirit as a place to celebrate among themselves.
For the first time in a long time, she said, “We hope it’ll really appeal to our core community.”
Pink Saturday Unchained will be across from SF Eagle on June 25, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.