Poor turnout for Dead Pride Parade

deadprideTORONTO – Canada’s first Dead Pride parade in Toronto’s downtown was a bust this past weekend with no participants willing to come out publicly as dead in front of the whole community.

Charles Dukowski, organizer of the event said he was very disappointed by the low turnout, but put the blame on society`s attitudes rather than a lack of enthusiasm from the dead.

“It is tremendously difficult for a dead person to show up at an event like this. There are so many barriers they must overcome – psychological, emotional, and even physical.”

Dukowski added that the dead are discriminated against when it comes to jobs, housing, even dating, “There are still parents today who would not allow their daughter even to be friends with a dead guy.”

This fight is a personal one for the 38-year-old organizer. His own grandfather and great uncle are dead, as are many of the family members who came before them. “When something like this runs in your family,” he said, “you feel a responsibility to raise awareness. This parade, this whole event, was for my grandpa and Uncle Dave, but they themselves didn’t attend. That tells you how deep this problem runs.”

Toronto officials had approved blocking traffic for the parade, despite protests from a number of city councillors, who Dukowski described as ‘Live-ists’. The 6 km route ran east on Queen Street, then north on Yonge, before curving east into the city’s historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Mount Pleasant lies in the heart of the dead district, and is home to over 168,000 of Toronto’s large dead community.

It was Dukowski’s hope that momentum from the parade would encourage the more reserved members to join in, but acknowledged that it was a difficult struggle. “A lot of those people have been there a long time, and discrimination against the dead was even more shocking a hundred years ago. You can’t change people’s minds overnight, especially when – and I’m not judging here – many of them have been cremated and have dust instead of brains.”

Although most of Dukowski’s criticisms were aimed squarely at the living, he did single out several prominent dead leaders on their lack of participation, including former Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, concert pianist Glenn Gould and former Canadian retail giant Timothy Eaton, all longtime Mount Pleasant Cemetery residents.

Said Dukowski, “It is time for the celebrity dead to get out of their fancy crypts and lead the way.  I guess they take that whole ‘resting place’ thing literally.”

Despite this year’s setbacks, organizers are optimistic about the prospects for Dead Pride. Statistics show that numbers of the dead continue to rise, and recent celebrity additions to the international dead community, including TV star Farrah Fawcett and “King of Pop” Michael Jackson, have put death in the media spotlight.

Dukowski is confident the tide of discrimination is turning. “Michael Jackson is making more money now than when he was alive. It is time for people to see that.”

Dukowski vows that he will stage the event again next year despite the amount of work involved in getting permits, arranging publicity, and hiring post parade cleanup.

“I’ll keep fighting, even if it kills me. And if it does kill me, then I’ll lead the parade.”

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