As many people— many queer people— know, Pride can be seen as rooted from the Stonewall Riots, famously led by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Although this is true, the Stonewall Riots were just one of several protests that led to the fight for LGBTQ+ individuals’ rights. We can tie this to current issues; one can see how protests around the country, fighting for Black lives and fighting for lives that were unlawfully taken by police forces in the U.S., are not all that different from the protests led by the noteworthy LGBTQ+ activists that brought attention to and allowed for the rights of our community members. Seeing that these are not the first protests, nor riots, to take place in fighting for rights, one can go back and can see that protests and riots work in securing power and a place in society.
We know that there were protests before Stonewall, such as the Cooper’s Do-nuts riot of May 1959. Cooper’s Do-nuts was a popular meeting place for transgender people in Los Angeles at the time, as queer bars usually did not allow transgender individuals inside; it was deemed unlawful in L.A. for somebody to have a different gender presentation than the gender noted on their ID. Likely due to this fact, police would regularly arrest people just for gathering at this place, harassing people for ID. Sick and tired of this, a group of individuals fought against the police, and the block of Coopers Do-nuts shut down all day, as a riot broke out. This is seen by some as the first LGBTQ+ uprising in the United States.
The Stonewall Inn was a popular bar for queer individuals in New York City’s Greenwich Village in a time where bars and restaurants could be shut down for having queer employees or serving queer patrons. Fast forward to June 24, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, where police officers raided the popular queer bar, arrested employees, and confiscated alcohol. As the days progressed, people grew more and more agitated by the police presence at the bar. Eventually, a riot entailed, with LGBTQ+ activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera present. After the riots were through, the gathering of individuals fighting for rights at Stonewall wasn’t over; as people gathered and shared information to push the LGBTQ+ rights movement forward, it became a place for people to come and share such information— a place where knowledge was shared and learned, and a place where the beginnings of the movement took shape.
If it weren’t for these riots against the police, the LGBTQ+ rights movement might not have been able to be pushed forward so soon, possibly taking years longer for any traction to be gained. More precisely, the conception of Pride parades across the nation would have never taken place. Demonstrators filled streets the year after the raid of Stonewall and thus the anniversary of their fight demonstration against the police. We can see this same thing happening today. As people are going out to protests fighting, frankly, for their right to live, and sharing information on how to push the movement forward and keep its traction even when these intense moments have died down. By standing in solidarity with black people, nonblack queer people must recognize the effects in which these riots and protests in the past significantly moved the LGBTQ+ rights movement forward. The activists previously mentioned, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, were transgender women of color, Johnson being a black woman. In recognizing the efforts of people from the past— people of color, specifically black people— in the LGBTQ+ rights movement and Pride’s creation, it is critical for one to recognize how queer people must also stand up for black people. As pride month ends, we must remember these things and build solidarity with other marginalized groups.
Nonblack individuals can show their solidarity with black folks in a number of ways. Attending protests, although not doable for all during this current pandemic, would be the first way to demonstrate solidarity. In participating, nonblack folks should realize this is not about them. This is not their fight, but it is a movement they are standing up for. It is not any nonblack person’s place to begin any chants or to speak above any black people, or incite any type of destruction. To help out on the frontlines, protests need donations of food, water, and masks, as well as medics who can help injured individuals.
For those unable to physically go out and protest or aid protestors, and for those who are protesting, it is always and incredibly important to share, share, share. There are many resources being shared by individuals on social media. Partaking in the sharing of these resources allows for the education of people, nonblack and black, on current issues, of ways to help, of what to do to keep fighting.
One other incredibly important thing to do is to donate. Donate time, if possible, to organizations in your local area that are teaming up with protestors. Donate items, such as those listed above, but others, too, which may be more specific depending on the organization. Donate money, if possible, to local or otherwise non-local organizations who are working with protestors, or to funds that help the planning of funerals for the various black individuals killed by police. If you’re unable to contribute money, too, there is still a way to donate money through watching specific videos where the ad revenue is donated to such places as the ones listed above—support black-owned businesses. And finally, sign petitions for change, and vote for change. Together, we must stand in solidarity with black people to fight for change.