On Saturday afternoon, June 15, the combined Gay-Straight Alliances of East Ridge Middle School, Scotts Ridge Middle School, and Ridgefield High School held their first annual “Pride in the Park” celebration. It was a roaring success. Families and groups from across Ridgefield and nearby towns crowded Ballard Park to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride. On Saturday in Ballard Park, there was no culture war, no tribal rancor, no partisanship. Merely vibrant, happy displays of community in the best possible senses of the word. Viewed from a historical perspective, it was an extraordinary day; but from direct observation, it was wholly ordinary — and all the more wonderful and successful for that fact.
Pride in the Park was conducted as part of the nationwide celebration of Pride Month, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Despite routine and pervasive persecution, the LGBTQ+ patrons of Stonewall Inn in NYC’s Greenwich Village initiated active and determined resistance to brutal attacks launched by the New York Police Department on the early morning of June 29, 1969, and for several nights thereafter. Their resistance gained national attention, helping to trigger the modern LBGTQ+ liberation and rights movements.
The Stonewall resistors represented a true cross section of America, reflecting the human spectrum of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The resistors included people of all races, ethnicities, and regional origins, but especially individuals from very poor and marginalized communities. Each and every one of them a quintessentially heroic American fighting for their rights and dignity like so many others before and since.
The movements they triggered are crucial elements in our national fabric, essential milestones in our never-ending struggle to universally guarantee human rights and dignity, to secure “liberty and justice for all.” At this time, with those guarantees still substantially incomplete and far from secure, the crucially important gains of the last 50 years are under aggressive and open attack by hostile, regressive actors in our society, and by various governmental agencies under their control. This year’s Pride celebrations have thus taken on a poignancy and urgency even greater than the already substantial significance of a 50th anniversary commemoration.
In Ridgefield, in 2019, packing a picnic lunch and enjoying a glorious day in the park is the easiest, most pleasurable way possible to publicly affirm support for universal human rights, dignity, liberty and justice for every human being. In much of America and the world, however, it remains 1969, and such celebrations still risk severe social, legal, or mortal danger.
It is incumbent upon all Americans to remain vigilant in the struggle to demand, profess, preserve, protect, and defend the freedoms, rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals and every other threatened or disadvantaged person. As Martin Luther King Jr. profoundly observed, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Alex J. Harris is chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which provides this column.