Richard Parsakian to Grand Marshal Pittsburgh Pride Parade

Richard Parsakian with the flag that appears at the front of the Pittsburgh Pride parade.

Richard Parsakian moved to Pittsburgh from Upstate New York in 1971 as a VISTA volunteer with the Pittsburgh Architect’s Workshop, which provided free design services to low-income families and non-profits. His specialty of creating playgrounds from recycled materials was a feature for the children’s experience at the Three Rivers Arts Festivals in 1972, ‘73, and ‘74. Richard and his roommate, Tim Hare, published the first LGBTQ newspaper in Pittsburgh, “The Pittsburgh Gay Times,” in 1972, where he photographed Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community.

It was here that he began his many years of activism and service within the LGBTQ Community.

He was a member of the organizing committee with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC, now the Pittsburgh Equality Center) that helped bring Pridefest to its first urban space on Ellsworth Avenue. He’s also the creator and caretaker of the historic 30’ x 60’ Pride Flag that has made an appearance at most every Pride March and important political event for over 25 years. Parsakian constructed the flag from fabric he purchased at Jo-Ann Fabric and had a friend who was a fiber artist fabricate it at his studio. He financed it by getting donations from every merchant on Ellsworth.

Traditionally, Parsakian’s Pride flag would be right behind the Dykes on Bikes at the beginning of every Pride March, however in the 2010s, Parsakian’s flag was removed by the corporate Pride organizers. With the new organizers of Pittsburgh Pride, the Pittsburgh Pride Group, Richard and his flag were restored to the parade in 2021.

“I think the power of that flag is that I never made any judgement of who could hold it,” said Parsakian. During the marches, Parsakian would organize a group of 30 or more people for each section to help transport the enormous flag, but would then add people along the way and invite them to take part in carrying the flag along. “It was always an ‘anybody’s flag.’ It was our community flag, and I was very proud in that way.”

For his years of dedication and service to the LGBTQ Community of Pittsburgh, Richard will serve as Grand Marshal of the 2024 Pittsburgh Pride March & Parade on Saturday, June 1 at 12:00 pm as the parade marches down Liberty Avenue and the Andy Warhol Bridge to the Pride festival on the North Side.

QBurgh is your source for LGBTQ news and community resources in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want to write for us?