Our great city of St. Petersburg, Fl is having its annual Pride Festival this weekend, and it got me thinking– exactly when was the very first gay pride parade in America, and where was it?
Civil rights activism was went from a bubbling cauldron to an erupting volcano in the 1960s. People were banding together to form groups of likeminded individuals in order to have a larger voice in society. Nowadays, this same concept is often referred to as social justice and it is a phenomenon that is sweeping over social media sites like wildfire, with the intention of opening minds and hearts to the struggle of others.
In the early 70’s, the civil rights movement for queers was dubbed the gay liberation movement, then in the 80’s it became the gay freedom movement and in the 90’s until now, it’s been known simply as gay pride. Just the shift in terminology from the word, “liberation,” to, “pride,” shows how far we have truly come.
A precursor to the first pride parade was called the Annual Reminder, which was a solemn picketing event in which conservatively dressed people gathered together and protested with reserved demeanors and a quiet dignity (which sadly meant that there weren’t any sexy dog collars or strap ons being worn at the Annual Reminder). It did serve its purpose of being a reminder of their existence, however, it was largely ineffective in changing policies or the public perception.
In Greenwich Village, New York gay bars have been around since Prohibition. One particular bar, which was more of a dance club than a bar, was called the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. One evening during a routine cop raid of the bar, patrons were assaulted and arrested and the over 200 patrons eventually stood up to the forces that be.
Methods of retaliation by the crowd included throwing objects, breaking window, starting fires, and initiating catchy songs whilst kick lining. I absolutely love this impromptu reaction. Even one of my personal literary heroes, Allen Ginsberg, was in attendance that night after stumbling across the crowd in front of the Inn. He famously quoted, “…the guys there were so beautiful– they’ve lost that wounded look.”
We were standing up for our rights and fighting back. Finally. But, like all fights, people got hurt and several other mini-riots ensued later that same week in the Village as a reinforcement of Stonewall. The Stonewall Inn closed later that same year, but it has recently been declared a National Historic Landmark.
First Pride Parade
At an important meeting in Philadelphia in November of 1969, organizations for gay liberation and acceptance declared that they intended to have an Annual Christopher Street Parade to mark the date of the riots. And ever since– mark it, we have!
The very first pride parade took place in 1970 in three cities in America: Chicago, San Francisco and New York City– exactly one year from the Stonewall riots, as planned. What a poignant and deliciously flamboyant way to mark the occasion. It’s almost as delicious as Swiss Navy Very Wild Cherry!
Of course, AIDs awareness is a focal point of parades, which wasn’t the case in the early 70s. The CDC still sites using condoms as the best way to protect against AIDs, so be sure to stock up a 100 Condom Sampler Pack to pass around the crowd, or to decorate your outfit or float with.
Without a doubt, I plan on doing my part for the continuing on of this valuable tradition by attending the Pride Fest 2014 this weekend. Show your support by participating in your local parade this year, and we will keep the significant and glorious custom of gay pride parades alive and well for generations to come!