The 25th annual Rainbow Pride Parade in Fresno’s Tower District is this Weekend.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Remembering: Riots! Rebellion! Revolution!”, reminding us that the parade isn’t just about being proud of who you are, but it’s also a demonstration of resistance.
The Klan continued to make appearances through 1998 in attempts to intimidate the LGBT community and force them back into the closet. But the parades continued and grew in popularity, drawing a diversity of Central Valley residents.
Event organizer Jeffery Robinson says the theme “symbolizing the strength and vigor this community has maintained while relentlessly striving to attain justice, representation and equal rights.”
Similar events take place across the country to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots between members of the gay community and police in New York City; setting the stage for the modern gay rights movement.
Robinson told the Fresno Bee, 25 years ago there was backlash against the parade, even from local LGBTQ leaders.
Robinson, who runs the local nonprofit Community Link, said that when the AIDS epidemic hit in the 1980s, it shoved the gay community back into the closet.
“Come 1991, the more progressive of us wanted to come back out and be more visible,” he said. “We wanted to come out in daylight and we wanted our community to celebrate that.”
Some felt the time was not right. Fresno, they said, was still too conservative. Organizers pushed on and at the end of the first festival, which attracted some 300 participants and 700 spectators, they deemed it a success.
The community united around activism, Robinson said, and this year’s parade theme is a call to action.
“When things start going our way people have a tendency to start getting complacent,” he said. “People feel like they’ve reached the promised land, but they haven’t.”
Robinson said Fresno’s overall acceptance of LGBTQ community members has changed tremendously.
“It used to be an act of political rebellion to hold your boyfriend’s hand or kiss your lover in public,” he said. “It really was something we did out of a political statement. Now it’s an afterthought. With caution to being safe, we can really kind of go anywhere.”
The Stonewall activists are senior citizens now, he said. Others need to step up.
“We are nowhere close to the final end,” he said. “This world could be a much better place for all of us in many different ways.”
The GLBT Pride Parade draws up to 5,000 people to the Tower District each year.