New York City Celebrates 50 Years Of Pride Parades The city's first parade celebrating LGBTQ identity took place a year after the Stonewall Uprising. Due to COVID-19, this year's event is virtual, featuring a 24-hour line up of global performances.
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New York City Celebrates 50 Years Of Pride Parades

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New York City Celebrates 50 Years Of Pride Parades

New York City Celebrates 50 Years Of Pride Parades

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This weekend is the 50th anniversary of New York City's Pride parade, that celebration of LGBTQ identity known for floats, feathers and corporate sponsors. Jennifer Vanasco from member station WNYC reports that pride, like so many things, has gone virtual this year.

JENNIFER VANASCO, BYLINE: Because of COVID-19, pride celebrations were canceled around the world. Instead, 500 international LGBTQ organizations have joined together for Global Pride - a 24-hour online extravaganza featuring celebrity performances, local drag queens and inspiring words. Cathy Renna is a co-organizer.

CATHY RENNA: Now you can be in Mississippi, or you can be in Kenya, or you can be in Eastern Europe, and you can access this 24-hour program. It's about helping individuals in the LGBTQ community know and understand that they're not alone.

VANASCO: Coming together as a community has been the driving force behind pride around the world for 50 years. But it all started as a protest march in one city against police violence and discrimination.

KARLA JAY: We set out to create a march on the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. And if we hadn't done that, nobody would remember the Stonewall today.

VANASCO: That's Karla Jay. She was the first woman to chair the Gay Liberation Front and a retired gender studies professor. She says after New York's Stonewall raids, activists created a new kind of movement that wasn't polite, that wouldn't stay in the shadows.

JAY: No, we're not going home. We're not going to be quiet. We're not taking this anymore.

VANASCO: The Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day march started in New York City's Greenwich Village.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #1: Gay and proud. Gay and proud.

VANASCO: It was June 28, 1970. As they gathered, the marchers were few and brave. They started walking very briskly. Martin Boyce was there. He says afterwards, they jokingly called it not the first march but the first run.

MARTIN BOYCE: I was worried about being single file because I had just watched a program on National Geographic about wildebeests. I saw the ones on the side get picked off. So I thought I would stay in the middle but there was no middle.

VANASCO: In archival film, the marchers look determined. They carried red, purple and yellow banners up Christopher Street. There was no rainbow flag yet. And they had signs on tall wood sticks that said things like Gay Pride. Boyce says on Sixth Avenue, other people started joining in.

BOYCE: All of a sudden, I realized in the excitement I was no longer alone. There were people on my left. There were people on the right. Gays were joining us with every three blocks.

VANASCO: The marchers started to relax and enjoy themselves. They held hands. In this Library of Congress audio, you can hear them chant things like say it loud, gay is proud.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #1: Say it loud. Gay is proud. Say it loud. Gay is proud.

VANASCO: And when the marchers got to Central Park, there were thousands of them. There were no speakers. They had a gay-in. There was casual folk music. Men rested on their lovers' stomachs. Women leaned on their partners' shoulders. They played games like Red Rover. There was a kissing contest. The relaxed happiness has some of the feel of Pride today.

VICTORIA CRUZ: It was liberating. Are you kidding?

VANASCO: Victoria Cruz has pictures from Central Park that day. It was the first time she had publicly declared her identity like that. She's transgender. But she says she wasn't scared.

CRUZ: I felt so liberated. So I felt like, you know, here I am in grade school saying the pledge allegiance to the flag. After Stonewall, I felt freedom and justice for all. And that freedom and justice included me. So I was kind of proud.

VANASCO: That evening, a similar march was held in Los Angeles. The following year came a march in Boston and soon Washington, D.C., London, Tel Aviv and, 50 years later, around the world. For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Vanasco in New York.

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