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Pride Meets BLM

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

This is the time of year that the LGBTQ+ community brightens the world with rainbows, glitter, and parades. We throw open the closet doors and proudly greet the world as our most authentic selves. It’s a time of fabulous parties, fabulous food, and fabulous people.

This year Pride has arrived during a time of protests and demands for change, reminding us that Pride was not born from joy and celebration, but from insisting on the right to exist safely and with the same rights as everyone else in our community. At the heart of this, and leading the fight, were black members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there were few places for members of the LGBTQ+ community to gather and the police frequently raided gay bars. Greenwich Village in New York City was one of the most open places for the gay community, but was not immune to the effects of homophobia, transphobia, and the threat of police raids. Within Greenwich Village: The Stonewall Inn.

The Stonewall Inn was far from the bars and clubs that the LGBTQ+ community know today. Owned by the Genovese crime family, who would pay off the police to turn a blind eye to the clientele and lack of a liquor licence, there was no running water behind the bar, no fire exits, and only mostly working toilets. It was, however, the one gay club that allowed dancing. This was a huge draw, making the Stonewall a popular place to visit.

On June 24th, 1969 at 1:20 am, four plainclothes officers, two uniformed officers, and two detectives entered the Stonewall Inn and announced that they were raiding the bar. The bar management were not tipped off that a raid would be occurring, as they often were, and were caught off guard. Approximately 205 patrons were in the bar that night, including Marsha P. Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie. As the police confiscated the alcohol from the bar and arrested employees and patrons alike, the crowd grew angry and restless. What happened next would start a movement that gave birth to the Pride that we celebrate today.

It’s hard to know exactly who acted first, but Marsha P. Johnson (a black member of the trans community) is often credited with throwing the first brick (of the first shot glass). Stormé DeLarverie, a black drag king, is credited with throwing the first punch. The riot that was sparked from these acts of defiance in the face of discrimination would give courage to the LGBTQ+ community and inspire generations of activists, including those who were witnesses to the events of that night.

Marsha P. Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie continued to work in the gay rights movement. Stormé DeLarverie would patrol the streets of Manhatten, making sure that any bullying or intolerance of “her girls” was quickly stomped out. Outside of her work as a gay superhero, she also planned and hosted many benefits for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Marsha P. Johnson went on to co-found the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organization, established the STAR House (a shelter for gay and trans street kids), and played an active part as a respected organizer and marshal with ACT UP during the 1980s. Marsha P. Johnson is remembered especially as a beloved drag mother to young transgender, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQ+ youth looking for love with their chosen families.

Marsha P. Johnson once said:

"History isn't something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities."

I believe that is where we are now. At this time of the year when we are celebrating the events and outcomes of the brave choices made by black members of the LGBTQ+ community, we are seeing the black community demand the respect and rights they are owed as human beings. They are protesting relentlessly and we, the LGBTQ+ community at large, MUST stand with the black community and protest alongside them with equal passion.

Without the black community, Pride would not exist. Without the black community, we would not have had the foundation we needed to build towards equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s time to be allies that show up ready to act.

It’s time to stand against racism loudly.

It’s time to pay it back.

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