This Motor City Pride 2013 I am closing my eyes – I invite you to mentally close yours as you read – and counting back 44 years, 35 years, 20, 10, five years, cold months, heated days to June 28, 1969, when in a Sunday morning’s wee hours Judy Garland’s fiery, long-dreamed-of rainbow lit a raucous sky, following her untimely death just the week before.
Instead of her eternal song, angry voices of discontent, ages-long frustration, pent-up hurt and rage, are heard – I add my voice; I invite you to add yours.
For the first time we are collectively fighting back in response to yet another police raid, yet another hate-filled harassment of gays, lesbians, drag queens, yet one more abducting paddy wagon howling through the streets on a bar raid, wailing entrapment, incarceration, beatings, abuse, fag arrests.
We’re part of the loud, vocal crowd that’s gathered outside the Stonewall Inn, watching as its gay patrons are bully-clubbed outside the bar to await arrest. Eight cops surround, prod, harass these frightened patrons in line. Someone to my right yells, “You bastards!”
Another throws a handful of pennies. Soon someone tosses a brick. Things are getting out of hand. In the distance a siren sounds. Oh. my God!
The police wagon arrives. The crowd outside keeps growing, as nearby parks and bars feed into the tension filled area. There must be at least a couple hundred here. (We’re surely seeing history – maybe a revolution – in the making. Can you believe this! Just maybe it’s finally time to fight back. Hey! Fuck you, Dick Heads! we brazenly shout.)
As a feisty, young dyke is shoved screaming into a paddy wagon, more rocks and bottles are thrown. About 400 are now crowding the narrow, dim-lighted street. The cops make a hasty retreat back into the bar. Whistles blow.
Wow! Hey, guy. This is show down time. Inside you bastards, we shout loudly, waving arms and fists. Time to settle an old, old score.
A drag queen pops into view on the other side of the Stonewall window. Boldly she signals, giving the finger, before being pushed aside by one of New York’s finest. Our crowd roars approval, as we move as close to the bar as we can safely get.
The tension is tactile. Contagious. Sweeping. This is bigger than any of us could imagine in our wildest dreams. We wonder, is there now possible such a thing as our liberation? GAY LIBERATION!
It’s 3:30. Wide awake. Energetic. More police are arriving. More black vans. Gays, lesbians, shrill-voiced drag queens, raucous bystanders are being shoved, forcefully, billy-clubbed into subjection. The war-mongering cops are tense. They look straight ahead. Come hell or high water, as the saying goes, they have a nasty, bad-assed job to do. Some officers smirk.
Including the two of us – assuming concerned PG reader that you’ve still along for the mental ride into our liberating past, however momentarily – we are now surrounded by a crowd estimated at 600. We are angry. Damned angry because of years of abuse, brutality, being put down as inferior. Marginals. Name called. Perverts. Fairies. Fags …
And, as our shared imagination wakes into the present – remembering written approximation is never reality, only suggestive of how it might have been were we there in 1969 – let us honor those countless many who were there fighting for us that long-ago, hot summer night, as we celebrate Motor City Pride 2013.
(Last year over 40,000 rallied.)
Judy’s rainbow once more is touching down at our river’s edge. As it arcs into the sky, it shines brighter, more radiant than ever. (Are you with me? Rhetorical question. I know you are.)