There are people like Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard and Barbara Gittings that give meaning to our fight for equality. And there is no truer image of that struggle for equality than that of Stonewall, the bar in New York where, in June 1969, the community fought back when police raided it. One year after, to commemorate that night and the founding of a new community, Gay Pride was launched. The meaning of that and how we celebrate our community is in a state of rocky discussion; this on the heels of next June’s monumental anniversary, Stonewall 50.
At that very first march, it was a defiant one, to take a stand and take pride in what we had done in that first year. We had no corporate sponsors and we pleaded for donations to pay the meager expenses. That first march had anywhere from 3,000-15,000 marchers, walking united to proclaim pride and community. Today it’s a nine-hour parade with floats and many major corporations with a budget that stretches into the millions, leaving activists and those who created Pride feeling they are low on the organizers’ priority list.
Over these last almost-50 years, Pride has changed to the point that many view it as a party or corporate-advertising opportunity.
In New York, where in less than a year, millions from around the world will come to be part of Stonewall 50, a battle has broken out that might leave us with not one, but two, marches. The new organization, called “Reclaim Pride,” would like to put individuals first and bring back the meaning of that first Pride that Craig Rodwell envisioned.
A few years ago, many of us who created that first Pride marched under a banner that read something to the effect of “First Marchers 1970.” We were positioned between Delta Airlines and Kiehl’s cosmetics, and even at our advanced age, waited hours before we were allowed to march in a march that we founded.
That said, our members see merit on both sides of this issue. Guess what this is about is to ask both sides to come together and try to come up with a plan that works for all of us.
A few years ago, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “I have a dream” speech in Washington. While there were differences in organizing that event, the people involved knew that the symbolism of that day had to be a united one, and made that effort. Both sides have merit. It’s difficult to run a parade that draws millions, and our roots need to be recognized.
Let’s try to communicate and find a way to unite; after all, that’s what we did at that first Pride, and like today, we also had major differences of view.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.