By Jamie Rhodes
WICHITA - Before Rodney King, shortly after the Civil Rights movement and during the sexual revolution of the 60s, there was the fight and struggle for equality and civil rights among the LGBT population.
On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn located in New York City had been raided by police for the second time that week, along with other gay bars in the area. Cross-dressers and staff who were in the club that early morning were arrested. During the arrests, the clientele erupted into a struggle with police, which eventually turned into violent riots.
Demonstrations and protests were held. A month later, the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was formed, which eventually spread into over 400 national organizations.
The Stonewall Riots were a turning point for the LGBTQ community and can be considered the start of the civil rights movement for homosexuals.
To commemorate the events at Stonewall, Gay Pride events started springing up across the country in June.
The events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.
According to the Library of Congress, “The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.”
Wichita has celebrated pride month off and on since the early 80s. The first actual Pride Festival in Wichita was founded by Wichitan Kristi Parker in 1994.
This year’s three-day event, held June 16-18, includes a festival, rally, parade, dance, family picnic, drag show and scavenger hunt. A full list of activities and the Pride Guide can be found at www.wichitapride.org.
Local businesses as well as the city of Salina will have other celebrations and activities throughout the month.
Pride is celebrated by many, but one of the main demographics the Wichita Pride board is trying to reach this year, is the younger generation. “Our brand [for this year] is to reach all aspects of the community. We want to make sure something is done for each age group. That’s why we need the community’s input for more ideas for each demographic,” Nolin Christensen, treasurer of Wichita Pride, said.
“The people who were involved [in the 90s] were all in their 20s and 30s. Now, we’re all in our 40s and 50s. A new generation has been born since. We want to get them involved and engaged since a lot of new rights have been issued and given. A percentage of their population didn’t have the struggles the older folks had. We’re hoping, and would like, to get a new generation into Pride for help, support and ideas,” he said.
There are many reasons to come out and support Pride. Christensen said, “We don’t have full equality yet, and until full equality is met, retained, and gained, I think it’s still important for us to celebrate our diversity. By doing that, it brings us together, binds us together as a community, and it proves to all by showing them we have numbers. We show we have support until full equality is reached. I think it’s important to always have a Pride Celebration. And even when we do have full equality, it’s always good to celebrate where we’ve come from and our history.” l