June marks Pride month and amongst a global pandemic and ongoing protests, it didn’t feel right for us to post our usual #FeelGood content. Instead, we’ve chosen to use this opportunity and our platform to highlight the history behind the gay rights movement, as these events are as relevant now as ever.
In 1969, bars and restaurants could still be closed for serving gay patrons as homosexual acts were illegal in every state except Illinois. The mafia operated most gays bars at the time, as they were able to pay off police officers to turn a blind eye. Even so, New York was known for its strict enforcement anti-homosexual laws, and police raids were common occurrence at these bars, such as the Stonewall Inn.
On June 28th, 1969 eight undercover police officers stormed Stonewall Inn, arresting staff and drag queens, as “masquerading” was illegal at the time. But this time, the police encountered resistance. Crowds gathered outside Stonewall Inn and watched on as people resisted arrest. Two transgender women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, are often credited with instigating the uprising. In the six days that followed word of the riots spread throughout the city, and thousands of people began to gather, chanting “gay power,” “we want freedom now” and “Christopher Street belongs to the queens.”
Harnessing the energy and momentum from Stonewall, several rights activist groups were born, such as the the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance. These groups defied the stronghold the Mafia previously had on them and to forge their financial independence they held dances and fundraisers. Proceeds were used to fund an underground newspaper, a bail fund, and lunches for the poor. They began questioning mayoral candidates at forums about their views on homosexuality and took their voices to the voting polls.
On June 28, 1970, one year on from the Stonewall riots, thousands gathered in Greenwich Village for the first Christopher Street Liberation Day march. This went on to become an annual event known as the Pride parade, celebrated every year in cities across the globe.
This year several organizations, such as Reclaim Pride, have come together to stand in solidarity with the Black community by fighting for equal rights for all. As we look back at the events that unfolded during the Stonewall uprising, we’re reminded of the ongoing impact that can be made by the people. Continue to fight for what is right and hold brands and businesses accountable. Together we can make a change.