Each June LGBTQIATS+ voices, experiences, and identities are lifted up and honored during Pride Month with festivities, parades, and events. Not only an opportunity to celebrate but an opportunity to draw attention to the challenges and issues LGBTQIATS+ community members still face today. While a lot of work has been done, there is still more to do. It wasn’t until June of 2020 that it became illegal across the country to fire someone for identifying as LGBTQIATS+.
PRIDE MONTH ORIGINS
In June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar frequented by New York City’s LGBTQIATS+ community. During that time businesses could be shut down for having LGBTQIATS+ employees or serving LGBTQIATS+ patrons. Violent police raids on gay bars, restaurants, and establishments were common but that night in June the LGBTQIATS+ community decided to stand up and fight back.
As former employee and Big Brother Avery Green shared in 2020, “The LGBTQ+ community is no stranger to riots. The first Pride was a riot, after all. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 served as the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ equality movement when Marsha P. Johnson, a Black Trans woman, threw the first brick at police officers who were brutally arresting LGBTQ+ people for just existing.”
Over the next few days the Stonewall Inn became a gathering place for the LGBTQIATS+ community and the site of multiple violent confrontations with law enforcement. The “Stonewall Riots,” as the protests are referred to, became a turning point for the gay rights movement.
In June 1970, the first Pride parade set off from the Stonewall Inn. Celebrations of Pride quickly spread to major cities across the USA. The “Stonewall Riots” spurred the development of gay rights activism and today, Pride Month is celebrated around the world.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan, we recognized the LGBTQIATS+ community in June with our Celebrating Pride campaign, featuring profiles of local members of the LGBTQIATS+ community. Click on the links below to read their full stories.
Each of our featured Pride community members are people who have made a positive impact in Southwest Michigan. Each of their stories also shares reflections of mentors in their lives.
Dr. Michelle S. Johnson is changing Kalamazoo through her focus on play, preservation, and space-making. She hopes to inspire and create space for people to be their true, authentic selves.
David Feaster is a fierce advocate for public health and community. “I give back every day, through my work, and by living an out life. It is so important for there to be openly gay and visibly happy people in the world…”
Dell Darnell, owner of the Dapper Hammer, recognizes the power of mentoring. They share, “Through each season of trauma in my life, I have had at least one mentor who was a safe person – a soft place to land when life felt hard and heavy.“
J. Kyon noticed their community was missing a queer/LGBT elder. This led them to become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters in the Big Pride program.
BIG PRIDE MENTORING
Pride Month at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is also a time for us to shine a spotlight on our Big Pride mentoring program. This program matches LGBTQIATS+ mentors (Bigs) with LGBTQIATS+ mentees (Littles).
Learn more about our Big Pride program here. In Kalamazoo, the program is in partnership with OutFront Kalamazoo; in Battle Creek, it’s a partnership program with Battle Creek Pride (coming up this month on 7/14!).
The community members highlighted last month are the tip of the iceberg in Southwest Michigan. Their impact on our community makes a difference every single day. Their influence and presence here makes our community a better place.
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