At 1am on June 28, 1969 at The Stonewall Inn in New York City, police raided the gay-friendly bar. Such raids were, sadly, not uncommon at the time. But that night, a long simmering tension over unjust police treatment—targeting homosexuals and trans individuals—came to a full boil.
Patrons were resisting and a crowd began to coalesce outside. As the arrested were taken away, shouts of support rang out. A full-fledged riot ensued, one which would forever crystalize the LGBTQ rights movement in this country.
A year later, gay rights organizations in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York held marches in commemoration of the Stonewall riots. As the years have passed, the marches have continued, adding locations around the country. Ideas of
protest, liberation and visibility have been distilled down to a single word: Pride.
Celebration and commemoration
Dr. R.G. Cravens, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Bowling Green State University, has a long personal history with Pride, having started a celebration himself in 2012 in his native Tennessee. He notes earlier incidents of civil unrest, but says that none had so galvanized the movement as Stonewall:
“There is now a much longer history of political and social organizing for LGBT folks, but Pride can be related to what happened at Stonewall. The people who were there, the vanguard of this event, were gender non-conforming, many were people of color, most were young, many were homeless. They were people who had been severely harmed by politics and society at that time. Their families, their jobs, their homes, had all been stripped away by an unjust system. And they were willing to risk their lives to stand up for their right to exist, and to not be intimidated.”
Lexi Hayman-Staples, Toledo Pride event coordinator, has been involved since Toledo Pride began in 2010 as a small event held at the then Erie Street Market. Hayman-Staples recalls the first year generating little more than a few hundred bucks and a small crowd, but seeing the event blossom into a popular area tradition has been heartening.
“We have a committee that plans everything from the performers to the volunteers, to the social media and graphic aspects of making Toledo Pride happen. It’s a big undertaking, but it’s alot of fun, and it’s grown leaps and bounds since we began. I think it just shows how important Pride is in general, but how amazing the support of our city is… I think it’s an important part of celebrating not only where our community is, but the history of where we came from.”
Analese Alvarez, executive director of Equality Toledo, is a California-native who moved to Toledo in 2015. Alvarez has worked with Toledo Pride to organize an entire week of events leading up to the parade. Equality Toledo’s events include a “Tie-Dye for Pride!” event, at the Collingwood Arts Center, on Wednesday, and a candlelight vigil held at the Love Wall on 13th and Adams St. on Thursday night.
“Pride was something pretty important to me when I came out. I was 20, living in Los Angeles, and going to college. Being surrounded with a community and a support system was very, very new to me. To me, Pride has always been that balance. It’s a mixture of understanding, tracking where LGBTQ people have come from, where we are and where we are going. Even all these years later, we’re still fighting for equal rights while at the same time taking a moment to celebrate each other.”
Pride is who you are
“People take pride in who they are, and being able to live their life, true to themselves, without having to live a lie,” said Toledo area Allstate agent Jamilynn Fox. “So basically, taking pride in who they are, and living true to themselves.”
Fox, who operates two different Allstate offices in the Toledo area, has worked in insurance for over 15 years. A trans woman, Fox has been attending Toledo Pride celebrations since moving to the Glass City from New York in 2011.
“I think that there’s a far greater acceptance of the LGBT community, compared to what it was 10 years ago, or especially 20 years ago. And Pride events help to bring the rest of the community out, and bring everybody together,” said Fox. “I hope people realize that we’re all human, and we need to celebrate our differences Humanity is one big, giant mosaic and it’s a good thing that we’re not all the same. I think it’s what makes life interesting.”
Pride belongs to everyone
“Pride belongs to everyone. It’s not just the gay community, black community, white community. It stands for everyone,” said George Thompson, owner and operator of Georgjz419.
Opened in 2016, Georgjz419 has established itself as a popular LGBT-friendly bar and dance club. “We are doing extremely well, and the club has been very well received. We now have people coming from Detroit, Columbus and Cleveland. So that’s a good thing for Toledo.”
Georgjz will host a post-parade street party on Saturday, August 18, beginning at 8 pm. “We’re going to have beer trucks and food trucks on Adams and 13th St. and the parking lot. All of the proceeds from the sales go to Equality Toledo. “Everyone should feel good, feel happy, enjoy the night, enjoy the company. I think it’s going to be a great turnout.”
“It’s not just the gay community, the black community, the white community. It stands for everyone.”- George Thompson
Where we’ve been and where we’re going
Beyond a celebration of the history and heritage of the LGBTQ community and honoring the legacy of those who took a stand at the Stonewall Inn that night in Manhattan, events like Toledo Pride act as a touchstone for those in the community to note how far things have come and how far we all still have left to go.
“It’s sort of a responsibility to celebrate where we’ve been, where the movement is currently, what we still have to work on. We also have to educate ourselves, which is hugely important,” Dr. Cravens said.
“ From a bigger scope, it’s celebrating community, and each other. And it’s not just about the LGBTQ people, but it’s about our allies who are straight, who are married, who are in the grey area—it’s about celebrating each other and supporting each other, and recognizing this community,” Alvarez concurs.
“Truly being able to feel, for one day, like you’re the majority, or like your voice is the loudest. It is kind of a different feeling for most people in minority groups. That goes for not just the LGBT community, but minorities in general,” said Hayman-Staples.
For more information about Toledo Pride, the parade and affiliated events andorganizations, please visit toledopride.com.