On the morning of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was raided. Riots and protests broke out. Although there had been previous raids and protests, the Stonewall raid is most often credited as being the catalyst for organizing pride marches to seek LGBT rights. Brenda Howard called the “Mother of Pride” coordinated that first march in 1970. It’s grown every year since and is celebrated in many countries.
Because of the pandemic and health care guidelines, last year, Sonoma County Pride events were muted. Large crowd gatherings weren’t allowed. The usual Santa Rosa Old Courthouse Square event was cancelled as were other related events. Fund raising was difficult. Planning meetings, corporate donations, and other behind the scenes activities stifled. So last year – the community celebrations were small and mostly online. But that was then, and this is now. Sonoma County Pride is back. Shelter-in-place orders are being lifted, events are being allowed with safety precautions still recommended. So, the large Old Courthouse Square event isn’t back yet, but others are going to happen.
According to the Sonoma County Pride website at: www.sonomacountypride.org , the theme this year is “Beyond the Rainbow: Surviving, Reviving and Thriving.” The mission of this organization is “to promote equality for all.” They work with community leaders to support the “non-profit community and to preserve and educate the community about the rich LGBT history of Sonoma County.”
This year they are holding a month-long series of COVID-19 aware micro-events in varied venues throughout Sonoma County. The theme was inspired by “The Wizard of Oz” and offers “renewal and support to the LGBTQ community.” Cheryl Kabanuck, their Secretary, put it this way, “There’s no place like home being back together with our community. Courage leads us here, knowledge is how we survive and heart is what keeps us together.”
And it’s not just the LGBTQ community recognizing the importance of visibility, inclusion and equality. The City of Rohnert Park declared June 2021 LGBTQI Pride Month at their last council meeting. So did the City of Cotati at their May 25 council meeting. On June 1, a Petaluma Pride Picnic was held at their city hall. Also on June 1, the City of Healdsburg raised the Progress Pride Flag at city hall. This was the first ever official Pride Flag Raising Ceremony in Healdsburg.
The Rainbow Flag has been the most traditional flag, however over the years other flags are now in use. The Progress Pride Flag, designed in 2018 by Daniel Quasar, adds a five-color chevron to the traditional six-color rainbow flag. This was to honor the transgender community and LGBTQ+ folks of color.
Other communities and organizations in Sonoma County also have events planned. Sonoma County Pride raised the Pride Flag on top of the Rosenberg Building at the corner of Mendocino Avenue and 4th Street in Santa Rosa on June 1. This is an annual event. The rainbow flag was introduced by Gilbert Baker in 1978 when he was asked by the San Francisco Pride committee to come up with a new symbol to represent the community’s fight for equal rights. The flag represents diversity and acceptance. It is associated with love, and tolerance and peace. It’s now an internationally recognizable symbol for this community.
Another event is the “Beyond the Rainbow” Drive-thru Annual Parade. It will be held at the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park on Saturday June 5 from 11a.m. until 2p.m. Planned with COVID-19 safety and social distancing requirements in mind, organizations will occupy defined spaces for their floats and celebrants. Attendees will drive through to experience the excitement and community of Pride in a safe manner. There is no admission fee, but donations are appreciated. If attending, register for a time slot to help with traffic flow and safety. The link is on the Pride 2021 section of the web page.
Other events include a series of “Friends of Dorothy” Community conversations throughout the month of June. There is a film festival schedule from June 10 through June 13. Comedian Jason Stuart has a show scheduled. Sunday “Friends & Fitness” gatherings are planned. On June 26, Todrick Hall will headline the “Rainbow City Concert.” A “Drag me to the River Brunch” is schedule in Petaluma on June 27. There is even a Wizard of Oz sing-along movie and dinner. Details of all these events are found on the website.
We’ve come a long way since the riots and protests; but more needs to be done. If you follow the news at all, hate and discrimination haven’t gone away. Pride Month today is more a celebration than a protest, but until all members of our communities are secure in their rights and safe to live their authentic selves, we have more work to do.