June signifies Pride Month, a month-long celebration of being your true self. This year things are quite different. People around the world, including here in Cincinnati, have raised their voices — and in some cases their hands — to protest for racial equality and to champion the Black Lives Matter movement.
Let’s be clear: There is a difference between the two movements but it is no coincidence that, this year, Pride organizers are looking through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The pain being expressed in our society makes it difficult to celebrate your true self, but lest we forget, that the gay rights movement also began with protests — led by black members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Through activism, led by these black community members, folks were steered towards riots, marches, and protests to spark the modern gay rights movement. In doing so, they spurred awareness of the need for change.
Our society now is making the same cry for change by taking to the streets to protest and demand rights for the black community, so its nothing but appropriate to look back at the history of the gay rights movement and how their actions are connected to mobilizing the community during our current civil unrest.
A popular gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, The Stonewall Inn, is where it all began. A riot ensued after NYC police raided the bar. A usual occurrence at the time, but on this particular night, the night of June 28, 1969, the black gay men, lesbians, drag queens, and trans women could not take the insurgence any longer and led the fight against the brutality towards the gay community. The riots lasted for several days becoming what we now know as the Stonewall Uprising, and serving as the start for the modern gay rights movement.
Two members of the black gay community who led the way during the Stonewall Uprising were Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffn-Gracy, two Black trans women who became activists and community leaders for transgender rights, focusing on women of color.
The protests that we have seen over the last few weeks across the country are, more specifically due to the police involved killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor; calling for equal rights and protection of all Black people — but we should not shutter the fact that this call should include those who are trans, gay, lesbian, and gender non-conforming. Therefore, fighting for black rights means fighting for gay rights, especially since the two movements both use activism to bring about swift change for equality.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that trans women are disproportionately affected by violence. Twenty-six trans people were killed in 2019, and trans women face higher rates of homelessness and incarceration.
Yes, Pride will look different this year. Some cities are postponing Pride until a later date and other cities are cancelling official 2020 Pride celebrations entirely. But almost all Pride organizers, including those in Cincinnati, have addressed the current protests taking place, and recognizing the black activists who’ve lead the gay rights movement for equality.
Here in Cincinnati, Pride celebrations have traditionally been an event held to raise awareness and create a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community. With Cincinnati Pride being postponed until October, Cincinnati Black Pride is taking the lead in June, hosting its very first all-virtual Black Pride.
The multi-day virtual festival, kicking off on June 25th, will feature the 3rd Annual Black Alphabet Film Festival, an awards reception celebration of the rich legacy and promising futures of black LGBTQ+ families in Cincinnati, community town hall meetings, multi-generational music experiences, expressions of spoken word, and faith-based programming.
We can all agree that 2020 has grated down our souls to slivers of their former existence, challenging us to look within ourselves more than many of us have done in a very long time. We all can seek to make a real difference in advance of Pride 2021, beginning now by highlighting how you are changing the paradigm and moving the needle towards equality. For all.