The History of Pride Month And What It Can Teach Us About Moving Forward Today

Question of the Week

The History of Pride Month And What It Can Teach Us About Moving Forward Today

We celebrate June as Pride Month in most years with joy and excitement.  However Pride Month 2020 has started on a much more difficult note. We’ve spent the last few months quarantined in our homes trying to slow a pandemic. We’ve experienced the highest unemployment rate since The Great Depression, and many self-employed individuals are struggling to keep their businesses open. To add to all that, this past weekend, protests and riots raged all over the country sparked by the abhorrent treatment of Christian Cooper and the murder of George Floyd last week. It’s hard to feel hopeful or celebratory amid so much pain, turmoil and unrest.

It may be helpful to remember that we have been here before. Throughout history, periods of upheaval moments have often given birth to genuine progress and change.  Pride Month commemorates one such time, where riots and protests created awareness of deep seated problems and energized people to take action to create substantial change. So as the crowds march and the fires burn in many places like Minneapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia and my home in Chicago, this feels like the perfect opportunity to revisit the history behind the Pride Month and use some lessons from it to move forward today.

The Catalyst

In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, eight officers from the New York City’s Public Morals Division, a unit of the police department, raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. This raid wasn’t unusual in New York (or many other cities). Back then, the Public Morals Division enforced all laws for vice and gambling, including prostitution, narcotics and homosexuality. Cops could arrest and even force hospitalization of gay people.

On this particular evening, however, the bar patrons fought back. It started when Marsha P. Johnson cried “I got my civil rights!” and threw a shot glass into a mirror (now known as “the Shot Glass that was Heard Around the World”). More and more patrons joined the fight, including people from neighboring bars, and mayhem ensued. Hundreds of people resisted arrest and fought against police oppression. Rioters broke windows, set cars on fire and injured three police officers. The police ended up barricading themselves inside the Stonewall Inn.

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Quote of the Week

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced” – James Baldwin


Task of the Week

We can’t control everything that’s going wrong in the world. It’s easy to get discouraged about the lack of coordinated effort from our federal, state and local governments or a President fanning the flames of division or the groups using protests as an opportunity to create unrest.  But let’s not get stuck feeling helpless.  While we are in this together and change will have to come from the collective, in moments like these, I keep the focus on me.

I use what I call my three commitments — three commitments I can make to help with the problem. Here are mine:

  1. Increase awareness of this inequity through my various platforms
  2. Provide as much information and education as possible to help
  3. Help connect people to resources that can help them through difficult times like this.

Keeping the focus on ourselves and letting others do the same can have a compounding effect. What are your commitments? Specifically, what actions can you take to create awareness or encourage acceptance. How can your actions create the change you want to see?