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Asians & Friends bringing colorful entries to the Parade for over a decade

Asians & Friends Chicago (AFC) is bringing an “Under The Sea” theme to the 2024 Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday, June 30, capping off the city’s proudest month of the year for the LGBTQ+ community.

Asians & Friends Chicago, since 1985, has been bringing together gay people who are interested in developing a greater understanding of the culture of Asians and Asian-Americans and in developing friendships through social, cultural and educational activities.

For the parade, AFC will swim everything from the ocean, from various fish, aquariums and everything blue.

AFC has been a Chicago Pride Parade fixture for more than 10 years and the group is a 2010 inductee into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.

“(AFC) started as a safe space for LGBTQ+ Asians. Now (the group runs) to be seen (with) more Asian love versus Asian hate, which was our theme a few years ago,” said AFC’s John McInteer. “We’re going all out with the float for this year’s parade, as we always do. We’re really taking some extra steps to show the Under The Sea theme.”

The AFC float will, no doubt, feature scantily clad group members, others in over-the-top attire, plus a DJ. About 15 to 20 will ride the float and many more will walk alongside, including other Asian groups from the city – all in blue t-shirts.

In addition to AFC members, their parade entry will feature members from Stir Friday Night (an Asian comedy troupe), Token Theater (an LGBTQ Asian theater group) and a University of Illinois LGBTQ group.

McInteer will be a roaming jellyfish.

“We’re a very welcoming group, showing everyone from the community coming together, especially in the current political climate,” he said. “When I talk to people not in Chicago, I tell them that we don’t just have one day of Pride, but rather, a full month of Pride, capping off the parade and the whole city celebrating being out loud and proud and just being who they are.”

McInteer, who has participated in the Chicago Pride Parade for close to 25 years, said he has too many memories to name just one. But one that always stands out is seeing families attend the annual June tradition with kids, such as his neighbors, he said. 

“Basically, seeing everyone come together and the amazing floats … that’s what stands out to me about the annual Chicago Pride Parade,” he said.

AFC’s early members were friends who wanted to provide a supportive, non-threatening environment for gay Asians. As an official chapter of the International Fellowship Alliance (IFA), AFC carries on the work locally of providing safe social environments to the LGBTQ+ community of Asian descent and supports IFA’s work in organizing an annual conference of LGBTQ+ Asians and those interested in Asian cultures. That conference, the International Friendship Conference or IFCon, has been held annually over the Labor Day holiday since 1988. Typically hosted by member chapters, its held in partnership with a similar, international organization called the Long Yang Club.

AFC prepped for the parade with its 2024 LGBTQ Prom – Pride Fundraiser on Saturday, May 18, at the Holiday Club (4000 N. Sheridan Road) in Chicago.

AFC will be fundraising at the parade for a local Chicago charity, Humble Hearts. (

“AFC has a long history of being in the Pride Parade,” said Angel Abcede, the AFC president. “When they were giving out awards, we won for Best Organization twice. One of our founding AFC members, William “Bill” Kelley, also helped organize and march in the first Pride Parade in 1970.”

Abcede has been president of the board of directors for Asians and Friends Chicago for 20 years. He will be stepping down this year. “I’ve participated in all of AFC’s entries in the parade since 2004,” he said. “We’ve entered the parade every year but for three since I’ve had this role. When AFC missed being in the parade one year, Bill Kelley said we should never miss another parade again. He said they had sacrificed too much starting with that first parade to not represent. I do believe that the essence and true meaning behind the parade has been lost over the years. We’ve become very comfortable with the layers of acceptance that the Pride Parade has engineered for us. We stand on the shoulders of others. So, we must keep reminding ourselves of the sacrifices people made for the relative comfort we enjoy today.

“I’ve encountered people, even our own members, who just think this is about having a party and nothing else. They wonder why we spend so much time raising money and building and decorating. I tell them that this is probably one of our biggest draws for our members. It’s their opportunity to express who they are publicly and while some folks think it’s just about fun and partying, it means much more to others. Much more. The parade helps our group build our own community and is invaluable. Now that the Pride Committee has had to cut the parade in half, it’s even more important to be able to march this year than ever.”

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The 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade starts at 11 a.m., Sunday, June 30th 2024 in Chicago’s landmark LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Lakeview. For more information, visit

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