Reflecting on resistance—51 years ago, and today
We are in times that are simultaneously painful, but beautiful. People are not just listening to the pain, but taking action to speak for those who feel they don't have a voice. We are in times where people are standing and demanding justice—reminiscent, or rather, a continuation of what the world witnessed from 1954 to 1968 in the United States.
We are in times that are historic.
Historic not just because we are living through a global pandemic, but because we have so many intersectional identities coming together to stand as one against systemic racism. Standing against police brutality. Standing against injustice and oppression towards marginalized communities, not just in America, but around the world.
Our voices are loud when we stand together as one.
Global Pride’s 2020 theme is exist, persist, and resist. This could not be more pertinent as we address the very clear and violent racism we are seeing towards our Black communities today.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents, as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar. Stormé DeLarverie, a Black Lesbian reportedly ignited the riot after being one of the first arrested from the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar and on neighboring streets.
Known as the Stonewall Riots, this rebellion served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. Since this historic day, our LGBTQ+ community has existed, persisted, and resisted against police brutality and societal oppression.
These resistance efforts were led by Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ leaders. In addition to Stormé DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera both, Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ gay liberation leaders, were also greatly influential in this movement. All three of these leaders helped to build the safety we have in our community today. So many marginalized leaders, especially those who were Black and Brown while openly LGBTQ+ identifying, risked or gave their lives for our collective future. They left legacies to build the leaders of tomorrow.
In fact, the Stonewall Riots were built off countless other protests and demonstrations that were led for years by Black activists of the Civil Rights Movement. This is an important reflection to have as we celebrate 51 years of resistance towards oppression and a demand of equality that we were able to model from Black leaders years before the early morning of June 28, 1969.
What if our diverse LGBTQ+ community, as loud as we are today, could have walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the streets? Black lives matter and are not expendable. It's important to remember, especially today, is that without Black leaders at the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement and the Stonewall Riots, we wouldn't have gay liberation in the United States today.
So as we light the Spheres in rainbow, the symbol of our movement and our freedom, let us also reflect on history and the necessity to address systemic racism to honor the Black activists and leaders who gave us that freedom to love so loudly today. Let us do what we do best, learn from those that came before us, and stand in unity with our Black brothers, sisters, femmes, and thems.
With love to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, James Scurlock, Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells, Riah Milton, and the countless others who have lost their lives in this fight.