Although the gay rights movement is now known to have its earliest roots in Philadelphia — specifically July 4, 1965, when a group of gay and lesbian protestors picketed Independence Hall — queer history buffs and the LGBT community at large look to June 1969, when an angry group of gays, lesbians and drag queens rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. That period is considered to be perhaps the most important moment in queer culture and the catalyst for what would later spawn thousands of gay Pride celebrations around the globe.
Still the ultimate symbol of LGBT pride: the rainbow flag.
The late Sylvia Rivera, a transgender rights activist and founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, is credited by many as the first to actually strike back at the police and, in doing so, spark the rebellion.
Brenda Howard (who passed away in 2005) was often referred to as the “Mother of Pride.” An early leader of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance in the early post-Stonewall era, Howard coordinated the first month anniversary rally and then the “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day March” on June 28, 1970, to commemorate the first year anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.
First year anniversary marches organized by other groups were also held in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1970.
Howard also originated the idea for a week-long series of events around what is now known as Pride Day; this became the first of the extended annual LGBT Pride celebrations that are now held around the world.
In New York and Atlanta the annual day of celebration to commemorate the Stonewall Riot came to be called “Gay Liberation Day,” while in San Francisco and Los Angeles it was called “Gay Freedom Day.” Both names spread as more and more cities and towns held similar celebrations.
As the decade progressed gay and lesbian Pride celebrations popped up in major cities across the North American continent: Boston, Dallas, Houston, Toronto and Denver, among others.
By the 1980s there was a major cultural shift in the ever-growing LGBT movement. The previously loosely organized marches and parades were taken over by more organized and “less radical” elements of the gay community. The marches began dropping names like “Liberation” and “Freedom” from their names under pressure from more conservative members of the community, replacing them with the name “Gay Pride” (in the more liberal city of San Francisco, the name of the gay parade and celebration was not changed from Gay Freedom Day Parade to Gay Pride Day Parade until 1994). The Greek lambda symbol and the pink triangle which had been revolutionary symbols of the Gay Liberation Movement were tidied up and incorporated into the Gay Pride movement, providing some symbolic continuity with its more radical beginnings.
By the 1990s, practically all major cities in the United States hosted their own Pride celebrations — with most groups dropping any reference to sexual orientations or gender in the name of the events.
The lambda symbol has almost completely fallen into disuse — although the pink triangle is still fairly commonplace. The most commonly known symbol today associated with Pride celebrations is the rainbow flag.
First used to symbolize gay pride and diversity by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, the different colors symbolize diversity in the gay community. The design consists of six colored stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. It is most commonly flown with the red stripe on top, as the colors appear in a natural rainbow.
As for celebrating Pride in the 21st century, these days you can find it just about anywhere — from small towns like Boone, N.C., to exotic locations like Reykjavik, Iceland.
If you’re looking for Pride celebrations in our region, check out our comprehensive list included below.
• D.C. Pride • June 2-10
Participants will be united in conveying the theme “Together we can…Together we will!” with events like the wellness awareness clinics, a youth prom, bachelor auction and Pride pageant. More details are available at www.capitalpride.org.
• Boone Pride • June 8-9
The traditional weekend celebration will begin on a Friday and end on a Saturday, so mark your calendars accordingly. For periodically updated information on events, see www.boonepride.org.
• Columbia, SC Black Pride 2007 • June 18-24
For their second annual black gay Pride celebration, the organization has decided to adopt the universal “Celebrate Love” theme. More plans and updates can be found at www.carolinasblackpridemovement.com.
• Atlanta Pride • June 22-24
Atlanta holds the crown for one of the most anticipated and talked about Prides in the country. This year’s agenda should not disappoint with a commitment ceremony, a youth prom, theatre productions (on the lake), and a Lambda car show. www.atlantapride.org will hold details and events.
• Charlotte Black Gay Pride • July 19-22
Now celebrating their third year with the theme “United Together.” This fun and exciting celebration includes dance parties, spoken word performances, live theatre and more. Get details at www.myspace.com/charlottencblackgaypride.
• Triad Pride • August 23-26
The Triad Pride Celebration encompasses events for the Greensboro area and surrounding cities (Winston-Salem, High Point, etc.). This year, events will include the ever-so-lively Queen Bingo, club events at Club Odyssey, Q Lounge, Time Out Salon and Warehouse 29, and speakers. There’s something for everyone. More information can be found at www.outgreensboro.com.
• Pride Charlotte 2007 • August 25
Charlotte’s annual rally for rights and awareness is always a blast with live performances, a non-stop dance party and a vendor fair that includes arts and crafts, unique retail goods and refreshments. Their website is www.pridecharlotte.com.
• SC Pride • September 22-24
With a rally on the 22nd, a parade the next day, and a festival to culminate, there won’t be one dull moment during the festivities of South Carolina’s Pride celebration. This year’s theme is “Equal rights are human rights.” More details at www.SCPride.org.
• Virginia Pride • September 29
Award-winning comedienne/film star Coco Peru will be just one of the many features of this year’s Virginia Pride, held in Richmond. Sony recording artist Adam Joseph will perform, as well as singer-songwriter Eric Himan. Visit www.gaypridevirginia.org for information.
• Pridefest 2007 • September 29
The Raleigh/Durham Pride celebration is sure to attract supporters from all corners of the region. If you would like to be one of them, visit www.ncpride.org.
• Asheville Pride • October 13
The gay-friendly city commences its celebration in the cool of October. Visit www.ashevillepride.org for details.