The first Pride march was held over fifty years ago in New York City on June 28, 1970. LGBT Pride Month occurs in the United States to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred June 28, 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBTQIA+ people have had in the world and across our culture. Our own executive director, Kate Neubert-Lechner, is proud to be one of the co-hosts for Erie’s own Pride this year.
By 1961, anti-gay laws in the US were “harsher on homosexuals than those in Cuba, Russia, or East Germany,” all objects of American criticism for “their despotic ways,” notes David Carter, who wrote Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.
It’s incredibly important to remember that Pride began in 1969 as a riot. “The riots spanned six days and included three nights of so-called rioting between police and a diverse community of LGBTQ+ protesters. On the first night, the same police that had shown up to harass patrons, arrest a few gay people, and collect some cash, were overwhelmed,” according to Gideon Grudo.
Michael Fader, a patron of the Stonewall Inn that night, remarked:
“We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place and it was not an organized demonstration… Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.”
We celebrate and honor pride for the progress we’ve made, and as a reminder for the work we have and will continue to do to ensure that those universal rights remain for every member of our Erie Playhouse community. We would not be the organization we are without the LGBTQIA+ community, and we realize that we need to use our voice to empower those marginalized groups that need our support. The Erie Playhouse is a refuge for all, and a place where anyone can be themselves, even if only for a moment. We thank the brave activists who fought for equality and equity, and continue to uplift those who are doing the work that needs to be done today – not just through words, but through action. Not simply by changing logos into rainbows, but by advocating for our community every single day of the year. Theatre is a space for all, and the Erie Playhouse will remain an inclusive and inviting space as long as our doors are open.
Activism takes energy – and so we want to give back. If you need to embrace self-love and give yourself a laugh – use our promo code for 28% off a ticket to A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM – a show that allows laughter to take center-stage as we strive for self-care.
Activism also takes passion. If you feel you need a show that will whip you off your feet and into a dancing frenzy of identity confirmation, use our promo code for 28% off tickets to the acclaimed show KINKY BOOTS – a show that shows that we can all grow, learn, and be our best selves.