Did you know that Reader’s Digest was first conceived in a speakeasy at 1 Minetta Lane by DeWitt and Lila Wallace? That Jane Jacobs set a national model of American urban neighborhood life and used her time tested concept to defeat Robert Moses—who wanted to build a superhighway through South Manhattan, which would have destroyed many aspects of Greenwich Village life as well as SOHO and the future Tribeca? Or that the street grid of New York—created primarily for the purpose of commerce—was planned in 1811 at the Street Commissioner’s office on the second floor at the corner of Christopher and Bleecker Streets?
So just how big have the contributions of the West Village been to our world?
In fact, the often quoted statement “America Begins in Greenwich Village” makes the point clearly.
So it is no surprise that the 21st-Century Civil Rights movement—the fight for Gay Rights—has reverberated from Christopher Street throughout the world.
Forty-six years after the Stonewall rebellion, in cities across America, in the streets of Kampala and Moscow—where LGBT people are threatened to this day—the fight for LGBT rights has become major news of our time.
The fight that started right here is still ongoing: throughout Asia and South America, where transgender individuals look to the U.S. for hope and courage; in Australia, where Mardi Gras is a great cause celebration every spring; in cities like Rega, Latvia and Vilnius, Lituania, where homosexuality is greatly suspect at best.
It all started here in 1969, just a month before the Woodstock Festival, the symbol of Sixties culture. We have great reason to celebrate the LGBT movement’s local story in the context of a large Civil Rights universe.
The annual Heritage of Pride march and week-long events in June attract two million people to NYC every year and lead the world Pride marches which take place in hundreds of cities and countries. The marriage equality, LGBT military rights and transgender rights movements are among many aspects of the LGBT civil rights movement that have created vast social change—and very quickly.
The country is also rediscovering what constitutes a family, and that same sex partners have a greater proven record for raising children than heterosexual couples.
Human rights is one of the great issues of our time, and what has evolved from five nights of resistance at Sheridan Square nearly half a century ago is one of the great legacies of modern history. The Village has once again moved the world forward.
A Brief History of the Gay Pride Parade
Excerpted from the upcoming book Out of the Closet and Onto the Streets: Gay Pride and the 21st Century by Suzanne and Bruce Poli
When in June 1969 the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village NYC was raided by the police, the community was emboldened to fight back and make the streets their own. Every June since, they have marched for their freedom in recognition of what we now admire as the 21st Century’s leading Civil Rights movement.
Today, more than 45 years later, the Gay Pride parade is an international phenomenon of spectacular color and drama, a feast for the eyes and all the senses, full of life, diversity and celebration. This iconic annual event represents the timely evolution of the Gay and Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community.
In the initial years of protest (1970-84) it was called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March; then the solemn and desperate era of AIDS (approx. 1984-2000+) dominated, with its devastating effect on the community; today, the dramatic, celebratory parade of nations and organizations from all over the world display their civil rights in living color and sound.
It has been an impressive journey—from Christopher Street to the world stage. And we will never forget its story.