In acknowledgment of the shared interests and concerns of the Black and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans plus communities, Homer last Saturday held a parade and rally celebrating Juneteenth and Pride month. About 200 people marched from the west end of Pioneer Avenue to Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love Park. There they listened to speakers and visited information booths.
“Both have a lot of the same things and issues to work to, and both are working toward equality,” said co-planner Josephine Ryan of her group’s decision to hold a joint event for Juneteenth and Pride.
“We want to acknowledge Juneteenth and the LGQBT plus community have overlapping oppressions and overlapping liberation,” said Xochitl Lopez-Ayala in a speech at the event. “And that’s why we wanted to combine both of our events today, to make sure both were heard and both were recognized.”
Another Pride event will be held starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 27, with a march at Bishop’s Beach and ending at Alice’s Champagne Palace. Organizer and longtime Homer gay rights advocate Tony Stanfill said he began planning the June 27 Gay Pride event before hearing about last Saturday’s event. He called Sunday’s event “an opportunity to have a celebration, to dance and get loose.”
“If there’s two events, so be it,” Stanfill said. “It’s Pride Month, not Pride Day.”
Rainbow flags and clothing symbolizing the LGBQT+ Pride movement dominated Saturday’s march, but other flags and clothing showed the crossover between the two events. Some rainbow flags had the symbol of the Black power fist. Speaker Xochitl Lopez-Ayala wore a T-shirt that read “Black/LGQBT Lives Matter.” Intersections with other movements also could be seen, such as the presence of disability rights advocates in wheelchairs. Many people wore clothing and hair in festive colors and styles.
Juneteenth — June Nineteenth — commemorates the day on June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and U.S. General Gordon Granger read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Or, as Winter Marshall-Allen, another co-planner of Saturday’s event, described it, “that they were no longer the property of someone else.” Marshall-Allen noted that slavery wasn’t formally abolished until the formal ratification of the 13th Amendment on Dec. 6, 1865.
Last Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a bill from Congress establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Homer held its first Juneteenth celebration in June 2020, a smaller event of about 50 people that happened despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Homer held its first Pride March in June 2018, partly in response to a canceled meeting of the Homer City Council when three council members made themselves absent to keep then-Mayor Bryan Zak from making a formal recognition of Pride Month. Zak instead read the proclamation in the Homer City Hall parking lot.
Pride Month is part of international celebrations “in which the LGBTQ (community) and supporters come together in various celebrations of Pride,” the 2018 mayoral recognition read. The first Pride marches happened in 1970 on the 1-year anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City in which LGBTQ supporters protested over six days against police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar. Stonewall is considered the catalyst that sparked the American lesbian and gay rights movement.
Stanfill noted that gay rights movements preceded Stonewall, including the work of the Mattachine Society. In 1966, gay men held “sip ins” at New York bars to protest liquor laws that prohibited serving openly-gay people because it was seen as disorderly conduct. One event made the New York Times when a bartender refused to serve gay men at Julius’s Bar in Greenwich Village, New York.
Saturday’s Juneteenth and Pride event also celebrated another milestone: the first large political protest held during the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccination rates increasing in the Homer area, most people did not wear face masks or practice the rigid restrictions of a year ago.
One person, Augustine Randt-Reidell, came to honor a friend who died of COVID-19.
“This is kind of my connecting to her spirit,” Randt-Reidell said.
Val Sheppard, who identifies as nonbinary, or a gender outside male-female, carried the yellow-white-purple-black nonbinary pride flag. They came to show the presence of nonbinary people in Homer, Sheppard said.
“A lot of it is about inclusiveness and visibility,” they said. “… Progress is progress. I’m happy to see it. We still have a lot more progress to make.”
In her speech, Lopez-Ayala mentioned another common history between the Black and LGQBT+ communities.
“Many of you know the Stonewall Riots were incited by Black and Brown drag queens and trans women as a reaction to police violence,” she said. “Considering the particular way in which the police harass, assault and victimize Black trans women, it is impossible to extract race from our conversations about Stonewall.”
Lopez-Ayala spoke of how history omits certain events, like the fact that George Washington’s dentures were made from the teeth of slave or that “state’s rights” is cited as the cause of the Civil War when slavery was mentioned 80 times in the Confederate Articles of Secession.
“Privilege is having history rewritten so you don’t have to acknowledge the uncomfortable facts,” she said. “Racism is perpetuated by people who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality.”
In a speech, Marshall-Allen said people came together “to celebrate our freedom from oppression.” She said that the struggle for Black and LGBQT+ people continues.
“What are we doing to change it?” she asked. “What are we dong to look at each other, and look differently at each other, and say, ‘I love you because of who you are. I love you because you make me feel valued, you make me feel safe, you make me feel wanted,’ right?”
She said not just Black people want these things, but LGBQT+ people, Indigenous people and people with disabilities.
“Everybody who has a heartbeat wants those things,” Marshall-Allen said. “And we have a responsibility as a community to provide a space for that to happen.”