LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.

Music Pop Culture

If your favorite pop divas had a baby, it would be this Brazilian popstar: IZA

Earlier this month, my family and I were fortunate enough to spend two weeks in the beautiful country of Brazil. As a media-minded person, I often use our trips as a way to study what is popular in countries other than my own. Brazil is one of the most ethnically diverse places I have ever been and I wanted to measure how much the countries’ music, movies, and must-see TV reflected that. As a young woman of color, I am constantly seeking out mainstream images of myself. That is why I tend to follow singers, writers, actresses, etc. that look like me and the women that I surrounded myself with. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a young, dark complexioned girl growing up in Rio, and wondered what her options were; who would she gravitate towards? Fortunately, I did not have to wonder for long. A few days into my trip, I was enraptured by a confident, sexy, beautiful, dark brown woman whose bright pink, pop themed music video lit up my walk along Copacabana Beach. Instantly, I was left with two questions, who is this amazing talent and why doesn’t the world know about her?

Imagine if Beyoncé’s show-stopping moves, Rihanna’s swaggering style, and Nicki Minaj’s effortless flow were all wrapped up into one person. Imagine if this same person had Lupita N’yongo’s flawless skin and Kelly Rowland’s brilliant smile; I give you, IZA. Now, this is a very bold claim, but it’s also one that I am not afraid to make with regards to this soon-to-be international superstar. Born Isabela Lima, IZA is a singer/songwriter from Rio de Janeiro who first garnered attention online. After posting several covers of songs by Western artists, she signed with Warner Music Brazil and began her rapid ascent to fame. In only a few years, she has already garnered a massive following of 2.6 million on Instagram and a string of hit songs, including Pesadão, which has accumulated over 100 million views on YouTube.

Image result for IZA
[Image Description: IZA with a crown on her head looking up] Via The Apricity
I already know what you’re thinking; “Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ ALSO has over 100 million views. The number of viewers does not equal quality.” Fair point, but in IZA’s case, not applicable. A quick scroll through her YouTube and social media comments will prove that this superstar is adored by fans, near and far. After being exposed to her music and style, I completely understand why.

Not only is IZA beautiful and talented, but she completely embraces who she is. She cites her identity as a “Menina Negra” (black girl) as a driving force of her work and wants to encourage as many females as she can to be their best, bold, and brightest selves. For IZA to celebrate her identity and amass this amount of success can serve as an inspiring act, and one I hope sets a precedent for other artists of color. Although it’s fun to compare IZA to her American contemporaries, the singer is blazing a trail of her own in the most unapologetic of ways. She is not afraid to twerk, rap, or whip around her floor-length box braids when performing in music videos or onstage. And best of all, she looks like she is having an enormous amount of fun.

Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room; IZA is Brazilian and yes, all of her lyrics are in Portuguese. She has become a regular on my Spotify playlist, but trust me when I say I still have no idea what she is singing. At no point, however, does this take away from my enjoyment of her music. Hip-hop and popular culture are some of America’s greatest exports. This means, that people in just about every nook and cranny on Earth listen to and love songs that are sung in English. We should be able to do the same; after all, music is the universal language. I may not be able to understand every song IZA sings, but a bop is a bop, my friends. And bops can definitely break down barriers.