On June 28, 1970 in New York City—exactly one year after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village sparked the riots that marked the beginning of the modern LGBT+ rights movement—the first Gay Pride parade commemorated the event on what was called Christopher Street Liberation Day.
Though the Stonewall was a racially diverse space whose patrons included white, black, and Latino gay men, trans women, and lesbians, the parade and those that followed over the years across the country gave rise to criticisms that public Pride events most often reflected the experiences of white gay men, and to some extent white lesbians—an argument that reflects wider issues of representation that still resonate today.
Although the first Gay Pride parade was a key event in the progress of LGBT+ organizing, a lesser-known pivotal moment took place in Washington, D.C., in May 1991. Memorial Day weekend saw the city’s first Black Pride celebration, themed “Let's All Come Together.” It was organized with a decidedly different focus and intent than those stemming from Stonewall: to celebrate the beauty of a shared community and raise awareness and funding for HIV/AIDS. DC Black Pride, which now annually draws more than 35,000 participants, became the catalyst and model for similar events throughout the United States and around the world.
Nikki Lane, assistant professor of Black queer studies in the Comparative Women's Studies Program at Spelman College, examines how and why the District served as the founding place for Black Pride celebrations. She also discusses how the shifting nature of Pride events—and ongoing debates around their organization—reflect a political landscape that has been in flux for LGBT+ people throughout the country.
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