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Pride Month: History, Activists, and Impact

Pride Flag

As a community-driven and sponsored organization, Pride Month is another opportunity to amplify the voices of marginalized community members. So, for this Pride month, we’d like to highlight historical figures of the LGBTQIA community and talk briefly about the history of Pride.

Here’s what you need to know about Pride Month.

A Brief History of Pride Month

Pride month was first recognized on June 28th, 1970. Pride month is the result of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellions. The Stonewall Rebellion is more commonly known as The Stonewall. However, one of the key activist in the rebellion has stated, “It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience — it wasn’t no damn riot”. The Stonewall Rebellion attracted thousands of people who identify as LGBTQ and their allies and is considered the turning point for gay rights activists. The history of Pride Month and Stonewall are so connected that it’s impossible to mention one without the other. Stonewall Inn was a safe haven for the New York LGBTQIA community in the ‘60s. That changed when a series of police crackdowns in the area began targeting its residents. While these raids were not uncommon, typically bar owners were given early info that let them prepare their customers and business for them beforehand. On the night of the Stonewall Rebellion, no such information was given. Also witness testimonies state that a larger number of officers were assigned to the raid than usual, including undercover officers who infiltrated the Stonewall Inn. In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton officially recognized Pride Month on a federal level. However, by that point, Pride Month as we know it today had been around for roughly two decades.

Influential LGBTQIA Activists

Here are a few of the activists that are credited as the leading force behind both Stonewall and Pride Month.

Marsha P. Johnson

Perhaps one of the most well-known gay rights activists at the time, Marsha P. Johnson, is often miscredited as starting the Stonewall rebellions – a perception that she refuted. However, in her own words, she joined the rebellion on its first day but only after it started. She was also a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, modeled for artist Andy Warhol, and was an early AIDS activist for organizations like ACT UP. And to say that Marsha P. Johnson dedicated her life to advancing those who identify as LGBTQ is an understatement.

Stormé DeLarverie

Stormé DeLarverie is considered to be the spark that set off the Stonewall Rebellion. Witnesses state that in the process of her wrongful arrest, she yelled to the crowd, “Why don’t you guys do something?” These words, unintentionally or otherwise, spurred the Stonewall Rebellion. From the 1980s into well into Stormé’s 80s, she volunteered for neighborhood watch and patrolled her community to keep its inhabitants safe.

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera was a gay rights activist who is credited as being influential in the first half of the Stonewall Rebellion. Sylvia, the youngest of the three, considered Marsha P. Johnson a friend and mentor. She spent the rest of her life advocating for the rights of LGBTQ-identifying people as well as the rights of other marginalized communities, making her one of the early activists for intersectional equality. She also played a major role in organizing food pantries for the homeless.

The Takeaway

Pride Month, like other heritage and cultural holidays, is a chance to highlight community leaders. Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, and Sylvia Rivera are just a tiny portion of the activists that fight for the rights of LGBTQ people. However, like any activist, their struggle and accomplishments are awe-inspiring, as are the long-lasting effects they have on society as a whole. And we at NWCU are proud to amplify their voices.