The Pride Service has become an East Shore tradition! Join us for a special celebration of the many contributions the LGBTQIA community has given and continues to give to the human family. Special guests will join Eric Lane Barnes in presenting this service.
Revenge (excerpt) by Elisa Chavez
We didn’t manifest the
mountain by speaking its name,
the buildings here are not on your side just because
you make them spray-painted accomplices.
These walls do not have genders and they all think you suck.
Even the earth found common cause with us
the way you trample us both,
oh yeah: there will be signs, and rainbow-colored drum circles,
and folks arguing ideology until even I want to punch them
but I won’t, because they’re my family,
in that blood-of-the-covenant sense.
If you’ve never loved someone like that
you cannot out-waltz us.
We have all the good dancers
I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.
But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the hell out of people by spreading,
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety.
What can I call us but ‘lighthouse?’
Of course I’m terrified. Of course I’m a shroud.
And of course it’s not fair, but rest assured,
anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential.
We have always been
what makes America great.
See the full poem performed by the artist here. Note: explicit language.
LGBTQA+ People of Color
Ernest Owens recently wrote an article in the Daily Beast. I’m quoting a lot of his words in what I’m about to say.
Had it not been for People of Color, LGBTQA+ people would not be where they are today. This is not an exaggeration. It is simply the truth of history. The LGBTQA+ rights movement started with the Stonewall riots. And it was transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who, that night, essentially said: ‘ENOUGH!’ Enough police brutality and harassment. Enough raids and arrests. Enough sexual favors demanded and expected by police. Enough. They fought back, with their black and brown voices, with their black and brown and trans bodies. And they were soon joined by the dozens of other black and brown and trans folks gathered there that night. That night, the word ‘fierce’ was truly born.
While many had hoped for a beautiful rainbow of racial harmony within the LGBTQA+ community, there has been an astonishing amount of racial discrimination and disparity in our own rainbow flag-waving backyard. The fight for diversity and inclusion is not just happening outside of the LGBTQA+ community, but also within it.
Sadly, this is nothing new. History has shown us that queer and transgender people of color have always had to remind the rest of the community of our prominence—despite the fact that the movement was co-led by us since the beginning.
We all know and love – and rightfully so – Harvey Milk. But how many of us know about Bayard Rustin? Throughout the 1940s until his death in 1987, black and queer Bayard Rustin was a steadfast revolutionary. He led the effort to get the historic 1963 March on Washington off the ground and advocated for equal legal protections for LGBTQ people before it was ever a thing.
Co-founded by acclaimed black lesbian activist Barbara Smith, the Combahee River Collective gave a voice to black queer women at a time when they were excluded from mainstream movements. Some of the intersectional values expressed by this trailblazing group can be seen in many movements today, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, whose founding leadership include black queer women.
Such activism wasn’t just projected in policy and direct action, but through pop culture. The legendary James Baldwin and Alice Walker weren’t the only black queer writers who spoke truth to power—the 1986 anthology ‘In The Life’ edited by black queer activist Joseph Beam, redefined how we saw ourselves as well.
Fast-forward to recent years. Films such as the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, books such as Charles Blow’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, and the rise of black LGBTQA+ public figures such as Billy Porter, Lena Waithe, Roxane Gay, Janet Mock, Janelle Monáe, Laverne Cox, Sharron Cooks, Raquel Willis, Tre’vell Anderson, Don Lemon, and countless other activists and entertainers give me hope.
But again and still, we still have a long way to go.
Right now, LGBTQA+ progress is being threatened under the presidency of Donald Trump. We have witnessed ongoing federal setbacks to policies impacting the transgender community and those living with HIV. Hate crimes against LGBTQA+ people from all backgrounds are on the rise; those impacted the most are People of Color and transgender folks.
We can do better. We need to do better.
As we move into the next 50 years, let’s not continue to ignore and silence the accomplishments of black and brown LGBTQ community members. Give them a seat at the table and a mic at the podium. Pay them in equity and access, not tokenization and exploitation. It can’t be a true Pride celebration until we are all free.
This is what Marsha P. Johnson would have wanted. As she herself once said,
“As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America, there’s no reason for celebration.”
A brief history of the Rainbow Flag
The iconic rainbow flag was created in 1978 by artist, designer, Vietnam War veteran and drag performer Gilbert Baker. He was commissioned to create a flag by another gay icon, politician Harvey Milk, for San Francisco’s annual pride parade.
With the help of close to 30 volunteers working in the attic of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco, Baker was able to construct the first draft of the now world-renowned rainbow flag. It was first showcased at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.
The flag soared in popularity. A mile-long version of the flag was created in 1994 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which began the LGBTQ+ movement in 1969. The rainbow flag has become an international symbol for LGBTQ+ acceptance and rights.
LGBTQ+ People of color have reported feeling historically alienated and marginalized within a community that purports to be all-accepting and inclusive. Rather than standing for a symbol of unity, many LGBTQ+ people of color have felt the rainbow flag has served as an emblem of white queerness only.
To this end, Portland artist and designer Daniel Quasar redesigned the rainbow banner in 2018. This new design includes black and brown stripes, as well as pink, white and blue stripes, to represent Black, Brown and trans people.
Many advocated that LGBTQ+ communities embrace Quasar’s banner during the 50th anniversary of Pride month in 2019, as a tribute to activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who were instrumental in leading the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn. Without these pioneering trans activists of color, we would not have LGBTQ+ pride as we know it today. Many have since adopted this new flag design as a standard for Pride.
Today, more than ever, it is important that we center and embrace People of Color within the LGBTQ+ community, in our country, and in our world.