Back in 1969 as Neil Armstrong was taking a first step for man and a giant leap for mankind, Craig Rodwell, Fred Sargant , Ellen Birody, and Linda Rhodes took their own first step, and made a giant leap for LGBT communities everywhere. The group at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations meeting in Philadelphia had an idea …
“We propose that a demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday in June in New York City to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street and this demonstration be called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY.”
The demonstration they were referring to was better known as the Stonewall Riots, a large and sometimes violent demonstration in Greenwich Village, New York. It erupted after a police raid to enforce anti-homosexuality laws at the Stonewall Inn, a popular spot for members of the LGBT community.
Brenda Howard, who some call the “Mother of Pride,” was given the task of coordinating the march. She also proposed a week-long series of events leading up to the parade. The parade was scheduled on Sunday, June 28, 1970, because it not only commemorated the start of the Stonewall Riots but they also figured more people would turn out because most people would be off work.
The organization of the festivals and marches wasn’t easy. Organizers of a parallel march in California faced multiple legal obstacles to obtaining permits to march through Hollywood, although most of them were cleared by the courts.
The marches in support of LGBT rights began to spread with names like Gay Freedom Marches and Gay Liberation Day — fitting names for a movement that began in the turbulent era of the late 60s and early 70s. The marches were not only rallies for civil rights but served to bring the LGBT community into the public space. In the 1980s the event names including words like “liberation” and “freedom,” which some could have seen as confrontational, were gradually replaced with the word that represents the movement today: Pride.
We are now 47 years removed from the Stonewall Riots, and parades and festivals are embraced by many communities from New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington DC to Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona and London.
Many of us in the United States see the festivals not only as an LGBT celebration, but also as a festival of love, understanding and acceptance. We don’t just tolerate each other, we accept each other.
I was there that day in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the human rights and dignity of my LGBT friends by saying they enjoy all the rights I do. That was the day my country stood up and said we ALL are EQUAL. That was my day of PRIDE!