The month of June has long been hailed as “Pride Month”, and the year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Pride celebration. It is typically a time for the LGBTQ+ community to gather and celebrate their history and rights. But why June? To understand the origin of Pride, one must start at the beginning: The Stonewall Riots, also known as The Stonewall Uprising.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969 New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar. This led to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement and members of the gay community outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park.
Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman was one of the central figures in the gay liberation movement for nearly 25 years is considered by many to have thrown “the first brick at Stonewall”, sparking the riots. No one truly knows for sure who threw the first brick, but what we do know is that the Stonewall Riots mirror the June riots we witnessed across the country in response to the unjust killing of George Floyd. In 1969, fed up with constant police raids, brutal beatings and harassment, a handful of people fought back and took to the streets. In 2020, fed up with constant televised police brutality, racial inequality, and systemic racism thousands have taken to the streets.
We have made great strides in the liberation of the American LBTGQ+ community since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. In 1982 Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. And most recently, on June 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-bias law covers millions of gay, lesbian and transgender workers, meaning an employee cannot be legally fired for their sexuality or gender identity. The 2015 decision ruling of a right to same-sex marriage marked a climax in domestic life, however Monday's decision ushers in equality on the job. This is a landmark motion, and something to be celebrated.
The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. These 1969 riots are largely credited with sparking the contemporary LGBTQ+ rights movement. The first Pride Parade was one year later in NYC, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, and has transformed into the Pride Month celebrations we know today. However, in the 51 years since, not everyone has benefited equally.
For the elders in our communities, the riots that broke out in response to the murder of George Floyd was not the first riot they experienced. In Los Angeles in 1992 there was a series of riots lasting 5 days in response to the arrest and brutality of Rodney King. Following the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 a wave of civil unrest and uprisings swept the nation. Miami in 1980 saw three days of riots in response to the murder of Arthur McDuffie, a black salesman and former marine that died at the hands of police officers. In every instance of riots one common denominator has been the economic, social, and political oppression of a people based on their race or sexual orientation. These conditions produce mass protests contoured by bursts of violence, that can only be quelled with revolutionary policy changes, like the ones we have seen for gay rights throughout the last 50 years.
As we come upon Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, and continue to celebrate Pride Month we look to the pioneers that sacrificed in order to push our country forward: the men and women who many of us now call Grandpa and Grandma. H.O.M.E. celebrates these individuals, and the community of radicals and leaders that have inspired progress and change in the United States. Without the Stonewall Riots, and people like Marsha P. Johnson & Harvey Milk, the LGBTQ+ community may not have the rights they have today. While our society still has a long way to go with mending the great racial injustices and disparities weaved into its core, we have our elders to thank for the progress that has been made and for inspiring a new generation of leaders.
Our LGBT pioneers are no strangers to coming together to overcome adverse circumstances. In these unprecedented times, we look to our elders and the lessons learned from the history of our community to support one another with strength and compassion. That’s why we are joining SAGE, to celebrate #PrideInPlace all June.
For every person there is a story and every story matters. Thank you to all of our seniors for paving the way for us today.