By Dee Jae Cox
In the 1950’s and 60’s, gays and lesbians faced not only societal disapproval, but also an onslaught of harassment, violence and legal challenges. Long before the Internet, bars were considered to be the only respite for those seeking to socialize with other likeminded individuals. But even the bars were not considered safe places. Police frequently raided them and the patrons were jailed. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of lower Manhattan, New York City, police raided a bar by the name of the Stonewall Inn.
As patrons were handcuffed and forced to wait for the arrival of wagons to haul them off to jail, the number of people around the bar swelled, sounds of the spiritual hymn, ‘We Shall Overcome,” began to reverberate through the crowd, a woman described as a ‘typical New York Dyke,’ was handcuffed and hit over the head with a police baton, she screamed out to the crowd, “Why don’t you guys do something?” And that was the match that lit the fire for the riots that erupted. The Stonewall uprising lasted for days and it is credited as being the beginning of the modern Gay Rights Movement.
A year later, on June 28th, 1970, Gay Pride Marches in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Within two years of the riots, gay and lesbian marches and organizations were springing up across the country. In the years since, Gays and Lesbians have worked together on common issues and lesbians have worked independently when they felt that gay men were more in line with the patriarchal system and counter productive to feminist goals.
Gay Pride parades evolved from primarily being political protests to festivals of celebration.
1986 marked the first year that Palm Springs established its own Pride celebration and it has continued to grow exponentially over the past 32 years. Though Pride festivals are traditionally held in June to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Palm Springs had to make a date adjustment and move their celebration to November in order to accommodate the desert weather.
There are a myriad of events going on during pride weekend this year, November 2-4, and several are designed especially for lesbians.
The Dyke March Picnic, Rally, March will be held on Saturday, November 3rd, from 12-4pm at Frances Stevens Park in Palm Springs. The Dyke March was created to increase lesbian visibility and activism. The first nationwide Dyke March was held in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1993. The event was planned by the Lesbian Avengers and over 20,000 women marched. Marches are held in conjunction with annual Pride celebrations all over the country.
The L-Fund Women’s Pride Dance will be held at Hotel Zoso, 7pm – Midnight on November 3rd. The L-Fund is a Lesbian Philanthropic Group that assists Lesbians in the Coachella Valley, Moreno Valley, Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and 29 Palms to resolve short-term financial crises. Their mission is to provide resources to lesbians in crisis, to empower lesbians through education, and to celebrate lesbians in the community. (www.l-fund.org)
The Lesbo Expo Launch Party will be held at Georgie’s Alibi Azul in Palm Springs, from 12-4pm on Sunday November 4th. The event will feature a buffet and wonderful entertainment. San Francisco Comedian, Marga Gomez, and the award winning blues singer/songwriter, Sweet Baby J’ai and her Women’s All Star Jazz Band from Los Angeles. Sweet Baby J’ai, was recently inducted into the California Jazz and Blues Museum Hall of Fame and is Nationally recognized as one of the country’s most talented Blues/Jazz performers. She has worked as the Musical Director with Palm Springs Producers, Gail Christian and Lucy DeBardelaben to present the annual Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival.
Palm Springs Pride will be celebrating November 1-4. For more information on Pride events visit www.pspride.org