The 49th annual Chicago Pride Parade is tomorrow, Sunday, June 24. The parade starts at noon at Broadway and Montrose. The international theme is "REMEMBER the PAST, CREATE the FUTURE.” Orlando "El Fenomeno” Cruz, the first openly gay active professional boxer, will serve as Grand Marshal. The parade will feature 150 registered entries, including floats, decorated vehicles, performance groups, a marching band and others walking in the parade.
Each year, around 1 million people attend this celebration in Boystown. Spectators enjoy the bright colors, costumes and performances. It's a celebration of uniqueness, individuality and the fight for civil rights.
The Pride Parade always takes place on the last Sunday of June, LGBT Pride Month, to commemorate The Stonewall Riots that started on June 28, 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village in New York City fought back against the police who were raiding the Stonewall. This was significant in the context of other civil rights, liberation and protest movements of the late 1960s and is seen as the birth of the contemporary LGBTQ rights movement because of the organizing and advocating prompted by the Stonewall Rebellion.
In 1970, there would be the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which would take place in New York on Sunday, June 28, 1970. That same weekend, gay activists in California organized marches in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In Chicago, the march was on June 27, the day before, so, in a way, the first march that would eventually come to be known as the Pride Parade, which now takes place all over the world, took place in Chicago.
The first march included approximately 100 to 150 people who marched from the Near North Side to downtown. The next year it moved to East Lakeview where it has continued to this day. Participation in the parade has steadily increased with more floats, performances, marchers and spectators. The very first marchers probably could not have foreseen a day when there would be so many organizations, businesses, politicians, allies and supporters who would want to make a public display of celebrating LGBTQ culture and advocating for gay rights.
Chicago was the first in other ways as well, including being the first city to have its own officially designated gay neighborhood, North Halsted Streetscape in East Lakeview, established in 1997. In 2007 The Center on Halsted opened as a community center and resource for LGBTQQIA of all ages and backgrounds. The center at 3656 N. Halsted includes a theater, meeting spaces and offices to serve as a host for smaller LGBT non-profit groups and social groups. The Center makes it a priority to provide help, support and services, especially for LGBTQ senior citizens and youths. Check out their website and Facebook page to find out about their building design, advocacy groups, and also opportunities for socializing and volunteering.
I recommend these books:
Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter
Come Out Fighting, an anthology edited by Chris Bull