The first Pride was a riot, and Tampa Bay should always remember the Black and Brown folks still fighting for the freedom to love

Pride was in fact never a party. The first Pride was a riot.

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click to enlarge Parade goers in St. Petersburg, Florida on June 25, 2018. - cityofstpete/Flickr
Parade goers in St. Petersburg, Florida on June 25, 2018.

Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered a speech in my hometown of Rochester, NY on July 5th, 1852 called “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” It discussed the dramatic irony of celebrating freedom while millions of Black Americans remained enslaved and brutalized.

For the better part of a decade, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay has worked in concert with St. Pete Pride on production and distribution of its event guide, and despite a pandemic that forced an all-out cancellation of Pride last year, CL and St. Pete Pride teamed up again in 2021 for a standalone guide on stands through the month of June. This piece by Tamara Leigh, Editor In Chief at Blaque/Out Magazine, is pulled from that guide.

I often consider it when I consider Pride. Pride is widely looked at as a celebration of freedom, authenticity, and acceptance. In the Intersectionality of being Queer and Black in America, those concepts are rarely fully realized within the QTPOC community.

One would imagine that marginalized communities would have learned through their own oppression how to uplift other marginalized groups amongst them. The all too unfortunate reality is that racism is alive and well in the LGBTQ+ community, just as it is woven through the fabric of American culture.

Pride was in fact never a party. The first Pride was a riot.

On a hot summer night in 1969, a collection of Black and Brown Trans folks and throw-away youth in the streets of NYC refused another night of being arrested, beaten, and harassed by the NYPD. After a raid of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, they said “no more” and ignited a revolution that would birth the LGBTQ Rights Movement and change the lives of the LGBTQ community around the world. Over time, that riot turned into a march, that march into a parade, and that fight of the most marginalized into a white-washed party that left behind the folks who put their bodies on the line to begin the revolution.

LGBTQ freedoms became fighting for marriage equality while a selection of the community continued to fight for life.

What is Pride?

In 2020, at least 44 trans and gender non-conforming individuals were murdered in this country and 95% of them were Black and Brown. Already in 2021, at least 15 people have been lost. The “at least’’ serves to illustrate that many of these senseless murders will be of folks who are misnamed, misgendered, and thrown away by law enforcement, our communities, and the media.

Pride will always be a celebration of triumph and of our love. It is SO important to remember and recognize how far we’ve come. It is also an opportune time to remember whose fight afforded us those rights and who among us are still fighting for their freedom, authenticity, and acceptance as we celebrate our own.

The fight for LGBTQ+ rights is also a fight for Black Lives, for women’s rights, for immigrants’ rights, to Stop Asian Hate and to keep our Trans siblings safe, housed, employed, and empowered.

If you have never been to a Pride, the love is overwhelmingly beautiful. There is something so incredible about standing in community, unafraid and expressing every ounce of your love and authenticity. This year, however, I ask you to take a purposeful moment to remember Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Storme DeLarverie, and the countless unnamed Black and Brown folks who fought for our Pride, and the individuals who are still fighting for the freedom to love and be who they are, even today. I am proud to count myself as one of them.

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