Its roots, its power, and its future.

 

Marching Toward Pride Day 1: A Call To Community

To celebrate the history and roots of Pride, we will be publishing a series of commentary on issues of rebellion, coalition building, and identity each day this week leading up to the Opening Ceremonies of ROC Pride 2017. Please join us as we explore our community’s past, present, and future and strengthen our commitment to each other.

 

On Friday, July 7, 2017 the D&C published a piece about ROC Pride 2017 which included comments from Scott Fearing (Alliance Executive Director) and Adrian Elm (Rochester Black Pride Chair) about the importance of creating spaces that are compassionate, authentic, and responsive to the needs of our diverse community. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/lifestyle/2017/07/07/15-different-lgbtq-events-roc-pride-week-2017/458299001/

Pride celebrations of all types remain an important undertaking for LGBTQ people. Some people focus on the parties and dances, some on the political and social justice activism. Some still watch from afar, afraid to identify and be out. This is why we want to take time today to make a further statement about the role of coalition building and the importance of the sense of community that should permeate Pride activities.

As we come together in the spirit of ROC Pride 2017 theme of Summer of Love, the Alliance remembers the activists that laid down the path we continue to build towards full liberation and justice.

We remember that there have been many attempts at encouraging LGBTQ acceptance across times and cultures. Many point to the start of the “modern day” LGBTQ movement as the flash point that occurred in New York City in June of 1969. That first act of pride was, as Stonewall veteran Storme DeLarverie said, “a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience.”

We remember Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, Daria Modon, MissMajor Griffin-Gracy, Storme, and countless others who stood together, pushed back against state-sanctioned violence, and said: “do something!”Stonewall

The Alliance’s connection to Stonewall is a very personal one. Rochester activist, Patti Evans was at Stonewall that hot June night in 1969 and brought that sense of rebellion and disobedience with her to Rochester, helping build the Rochester chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, which would become the Gay Alliance just a few years later. In 1970, one year after the Stonewall Rebellion, the Rochester chapter traveled to New York City, and was one of the few groups to march in Christopher Street Liberation Day – the first Gay Pride.

The Alliance has a long history as a rebel in Western New York; we have pushed and encouraged systems to change. We have had a presence in schools, colleges, health care, businesses, community organizations, law enforcement, court systems, and more places.

Stonewall stands as a turning point to many within our community. It was a direct response to the tireless harassment and brutalization of the LGBTQ community by police. For many in our community it still echoes a daily reality.

Nationally the diverse view points on the presence of police at Pride activities are as numerous as the expressions and identities within our community, we at the Alliance want to recognize and hear the voices that are directly impacted by this violence.

“Our call is for our community to listen to the experiences and truths being shared among us and extend understanding across our intersectional identities. We at the Alliance support LGBTQ people of color and others’ concerns over the role of law enforcement in our community events – be they celebratory or commemorative. More than ever we feel it is critical that all of our community members and our friends and family members listen, lift, and bring to the forefront the voices of those who are sharing their truths,” said Scott Fearing, Executive Director of the Alliance.

As we experience, celebrate, and advocate through ROC Pride we publicly recommit to the work of justice, liberation, and healing for all of our community. It is with these conversations, hard work, and coalition building that the Alliance will continue to be a champion for LGBTQ life and culture.

Together, we are authentic. Together, we move forward.

 

Marching Toward Pride Day 2: The Evolution of Pride

To celebrate the history and roots of Pride, we will be publishing a series of commentary on issues of rebellion, coalition building, and identity each day this week leading up to the Opening Ceremonies of ROC Pride 2017. Please join us as we explore our community’s past, present, and future and strengthen our commitment to each other.

 

Pride has operated as an act of awareness, survival, rebellion, and community since its inception in 1970. It has been a time for our community to come together, united, and demand equal rights and recognition. Today we want to honor the journey of Pride from the earliest days in the streets of New York City and L.A. to the Pride we know today: a celebration of queer life and sexuality in addition to a political and social demonstration.

Though language and understanding has shifted with the times, we want to recognize that Pride has always been open – that transgender, gender non-conforming, asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, and queer people, as well as drag performers, have always been there. Many of the major actors and initiators in the Stonewall Rebellion were transgender women, specifically transgender women of color, and drag performers.

The first few marches, though often referred to in hindsight as parades, were filled with a sense of courage and audacity. It was truly a test and act of rebellion – what would happen if thousands of LGBTQ folks visibly took to the streets?

Fred Sargeant – who attended that first Christopher Street Liberation Day March in which the soon-to-be Gay Alliance marched – wrote that there were “no floats, no music, no boys in briefs.” Instead, they held signs and banners, and chanted: “Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.”

As the Christopher Street March took the streets of New York, the LGBTQ community of Los Angeles marched that same day in solidarity. The city of L.A. added permit fees exceeding $1.5 million in an attempt to curtail the march. It took the ACLU – one of ROC Pride 2017’s Honorary Grand Marshals – stepping in to ensure that the LA pride event would be possible at all.

While most major cities in the U.S. held a pride march or parade by the early 1980s, it has changed shape and language multiple times throughout the country and around the world. Brenda Howard, known as the Mother of Pride for her work in coordinating the original Christopher Street Liberation Day march and dozens of Pride marches after, worked tirelessly for decades to have bisexual identities included in Pride. Many organizations and marches across the country did not change their names to be more inclusive of the myriad of identities within our community until the early 2000’s.

Organizations across the country, including our own ROC Pride, have used ‘Pride’ as an inclusive name to ensure that the full spectrum of identities within our community feel welcomed. So that our queer, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, genderfluid, Two Spirit, same gender loving, questioning family know they too are, and always have been, a vital part of Pride.

We still need Pride, all these years later. As it has grown from direct action and political demonstration to encompass celebration of life and culture, it is still a lifeline. For many, Pride is a place to find family – to find home. As long as there is rampant homelessness for LGBTQ youth, we need Pride. As long as there is racial injustice, we need Pride. As long as HIV and AIDS are part of our reality, we need Pride. As long as our transgender siblings are routinely brutalized and murdered, we need Pride. As long as anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, poverty, and violence exist, we need Pride.

Pride symbolizes that we are here, and we will not go away quietly. We exist and resist together.

 

Marching Toward Pride Day 3: Honoring Our Trans Community

To celebrate the history and roots of Pride, we will be publishing a series of commentary on issues of rebellion, coalition building, and identity each day this week leading up to the Opening Ceremonies of ROC Pride 2017. Please join us as we explore our community’s past, present, and future and strengthen our commitment to each other.

 

“We were the ones who stood at the forefront, […] we were the ones who didn’t mind getting our heads bashed” – Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P (“the P stands for Pay It No Mind”) Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Daria Modon, and other transgender women and men of color were some of the first to act in igniting what we know as the Stonewall Uprising.

In fact, both Johnson and Rivera are credited with starting the physical rebellion, as police advanced on the crowd gathered inside and out of the Stonewall Inn that hot night in June 1969, while Storme DeLarverie was hauled away yelling “Do something!”

While their stories have often been hidden and washed out of our collective history, their contributions to the liberation of our community are seen to this day.

As we march toward Pride here in Rochester, it is paramount that we recognize the transgender community. Especially our transgender siblings of color, who face multi-layered oppression across race, gender, sexuality, expression, and more.

Transgender people of color have existed throughout our community’s history and were the revolutionaries who sparked the rebellion that began our modern movement.

The reality is we would not have Pride organizations without transgender people. Without transgender people of color. Without transgender women of color. We owe so much of our movement to their contributions and commitment to the struggle.

There have been 15 known murders of transgender people in the United States this year alone. All of those people have been women of color. The youngest was 17. We want to take this space to say their names and honor their memories:

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28| Mesha Caldwell, 41| JoJo Striker, 23| Keke Collier, 24| Chyna Doll Dupree (Gibson), 31| Ciara McElveen, 21| Jaquarrius Holland, 18| Alphonza Watson, 38| Chay Reed, 28| Brenda Bostick (identified as Kenneth at death), 59|Sherrell Faulkner, 46| Kenne McFadden, 27| Josie Berrios (Kendra Adams), 28| Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17| Ebony Morgan, 28

As we remember and honor our siblings let us also commit to honor and show up for them in life, as well. We need to show up for more than memorial services – more than the Transgender Day of Remembrance, held annually in November. As a community we need to speak out when we see misgendering, discrimination, transphobia, racism, and violence. We need to celebrate the resilience, achievements, and lives of our transgender siblings.

It is crucial that we join in solidarity with our transgender members, recognize and combat the oppression of transgender people of color, and fight for the dignity, liberation and healing of the transgender community; which has been too often denied and is so greatly deserved.

Today and every day, we remember our roots.

 

Marching Toward Pride Day 4: Pride as Rebellion

To celebrate the history and roots of Pride, we will be publishing a series of commentary on issues of rebellion, coalition building, and identity each day this week leading up to the Opening Ceremonies of ROC Pride 2017. Please join us as we explore our community’s past, present, and future and strengthen our commitment to each other.

 

The first Pride was a rebellion.

Though enormous social change has been made since those first steps in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Pride remains an act of rebellion.

Stepping outside, walking, marching, sitting, reveling, protesting, or simply existing at a Pride event is a continued act of rebellion. It is a constant reminder of our past – of those who came before us to secure the liberty we know today – a statement of endurance, and encouragement for the work still to come.

Pride says that we are here. It denies attempts to erase us, or to put us in the shadows.

In corners of our world, even in the United States, being authentic carries a death sentence. Many international Pride parades only began within this millennium and countless Pride events are continually met with violence – often state-sponsored violence.

While we race closer to ROC Pride 2017 let us remember the millions across the world who do not have a Pride celebration, or LGBTQ organizations to give them support or life-saving resources. Let us hold up those who do not have the recognition of their existence and endure active efforts to eliminate them.

Pride is the passion and energy of those who laid the initial path that we are still building towards full equality. Pride is the strength and spirit of activists as we call on the government to recognize our existence, to answer the AIDS epidemic, to recognize love and families, demand civil rights, an end to discrimination, and the right to live without violence.

Pride is celebration; that despite all that is against us we are resilient and we persist.

We see strength, courage, passion, and excitement in every person who attends ROC Pride.

For many attending this weekend, it is an act of rebellion. To be visible to a world that tells them they should not exist is the spirit of a rebel. Their love, their expression, and their identity is revolutionary. It is resilient.

Pride should remind us that we are powerful together. None of us should feel alone.

Our existence and visibility is still a revolutionary act. Let us continue to see Pride as rebellion and march together for justice and liberation.

 

Marching Toward Pride Day 5: Together in Solidarity

To celebrate the history and roots of Pride, we will be publishing a series of commentary on issues of rebellion, coalition building, and identity each day this week leading up to the Opening Ceremonies of ROC Pride 2017. Please join us as we explore our community’s past, present, and future and strengthen our commitment to each other.

 

Tomorrow afternoon more than 140 contingents will step off and march in this year’s Pride parade. Thousands of Rochestarians and visitors from all over New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada, and beyond will experience ROC Pride throughout the weekend.

All through this week of activities, games, and events, we have seen dancing, reflection, comfort, connection, and…pride.

We know more is yet to come.

With the ROC Pride 2017 parade and festival upon us, we at the Alliance want to thank our community for its resilience, its dedication to progress, and its commitment to solidarity.

As we have reflected on Pride’s roots as a rebellion, its evolution to the events we see today, our transgender siblings’ immeasurable contributions, and its place as a continued act of rebellion, we want to cap off this week of commentary with an enduring message of unity.

Our greatest strength is each other.

The key is connection and courage – to look at our community and see the myriad identities and struggles that exist beyond ourselves. Our liberation is tied to one another and we need to do the work to ensure that each member of our community is seen and heard.

Pride does not end when the parade and festival wrap up. Pride does not come only once a year. Pride is an enduring part of our community and our movement. It unites us, invites us, and challenges us to recognize our authentic selves and do better for each other.

We need to work to join with as many other people from as many other movements as possible – people fighting racism, climate change, poverty, Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism, and sexism, because injustice for any one of us is an injustice to all of us.

Let’s take time to reflect on our past, honor the shoulders that we stand on, mark the progress we have made, and focus on the future of our community.

We echo our statement from earlier this week: As we experience, celebrate, and advocate through ROC Pride we want to recommit to the work of justice, liberation, and healing for all of our community. It is with these conversations, hard work, and coalition building that the Alliance will continue to be a champion for LGBTQ life and culture.

We are connected. We move forward together. Happy Pride!