On June 28, 1970, thousands of LGBT New Yorkers marched from Greenwich Village to Central Park to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It was a gallant acknowledgment of the brutal treatment of LGBT citizens; an assertion of their human rights. The years of living a clandestine lifestyle were over—they were out, and they were proud.
Since then, the LGBT community has rallied around its darkest times, including the assassination of Harvey Milk and the AIDS epidemic. Homophobic legislation, job discrimination, and repeated acts of violence have only served to fortify the movement.
Now in its 46th year, Pride marches on after the LGBT community experienced yet another devastating attack—the deadliest mass shooting in American history. On Sunday, June 26, throngs of supporters filled the streets of New York from Midtown to Greenwich Village with rainbow flags and glitter—ever the flamboyant festival, but with a somber undertone.
“This year is going to be a lot more significant, a lot more important,” said New York Pride March Director Julian Sanjivan. “It’s painful, but at the same time, we want to show it’s all about love, it’s all about equality. We’re not going to cave to fear.”
I have aligned myself with the LGBT community since college. Growing up in suburban New York, I struggled to find my place in the social hierarchy. I was an athlete and an artist; a voracious reader who liked going to concerts. Today, those characteristics might seem insignificant; as a teenager they were profound contradictions. I masked layers of my personality depending on which group of friends I was hanging out with. In college, I met a group of queer students who became my closest friends. They embraced my genuine persona and encouraged me to do the same.
I’ve attended Pride events in both New York and Washington, D.C. since 2010. Nothing compares to the sense of altruism and empathy at Pride. It’s a rare moment when some of society’s most vulnerable members feel safe enough to flaunt their authentic selves—along with celebrities, politicians, corporations. Even the police officers and EMTs paid to work the event get into the spirit of Pride.
— MET LGBT Network (@MetLGBTNetwork) June 27, 2016
That’s why Pride is such a precious event. As an ally, I feel grateful to have a safe space for my friends to embrace their relationships and lifestyles. At Pride, nobody hurls gay slurs at my best friend when she kisses her girlfriend. Fraternity brothers and drag queens walk side by side. Puppies trot around with rainbow bandannas. For many, Pride is utopia.
On Friday, June 24, The WNBA celebrated Pride Night at Madison Square Garden
The New York Liberty’s winning game against the Chicago Sky was fiercely competitive, but off the court it was all about inclusion. The Liberty partnered with Resorts World Casino NYC for the event, and together made a donation to OneOrlando, which provides financial assistance to the victims of Orlando’s attack.
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 26, 2016
I attended the game and was struck by the sense of intimacy at the Garden, a venue normally known for its pandemonium. Before the game, I watched beaming couples line up for a photo shoot in the lobby with the NOH8 campaign. The proceeds of the snapshots went to NOH8’s humanitarian mission.
It’s popular for couples to propose at basketball games at halftime, but in true Pride fashion, the jumbo-tron featured a same-sex couple getting married in the locker room. The fans cheered louder than they did when the Liberty made their winning shot.
A rainbow revolution spread around the world in honor of Pride Fest and Orlando
New York radiated rainbows—literally—in the days leading up to the parade. Viacom headquarters, the Empire State Building, and One World Trade Center swathed the skyline with poly-chromatic light. Niagara Falls, The White House, Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building, and many more international landmarks followed suit.
As I walked to the train station from the Liberty game, I passed by the Helmsley Building and was struck by its florescent glow. I stared at the brilliant colors, mesmerized by the incandescent light, but also by the sense of community. On most days, I walk through New York with my head to the ground, ignoring those who pass by. It’s a city of monochromatic skyscrapers, and a city where it’s easy to feel isolated.
Staring at the Technicolor skyscraper, I felt a sense of kinship with my fellow New Yorkers, and the rest of the world.
— Newyorksurfer (@newyorksurfer) June 28, 2016
As a company that champions equality, diversity, and freedom of expression—as well as the only media conglomerate with a network entirely devoted to the LGBT community—Viacom was heavily involved in Pride. Logo commemorated pioneers of the LGBT movement at the Trailblazer Honors show on Saturday, June 25. Emerge, our employee resource group for LGBT employees and allies, set up a series of bi-coastal LGBT events throughout the month of June.
After the devastating attack in Orlando, Viacom used its global platform to condemn gun violence and reinforce its commitment to the LGBT community, as well as universal civil rights.
— Viacommunity (@Viacommunity) June 17, 2016
On the day of the parade, our manager of social responsibility, David Corpuz, marched with Viacom, Emerge, and Logo. Over 150 Viacom employees marched and celebrated from Midtown to Christopher Street wearing shirts emblazoned with the simple, but powerful message of LOVE.
— Viacom (@Viacom) June 26, 2016
Logo led the charge with its fierce RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars float.
— Emerge @ Viacom (@ViacomEmerge) June 26, 2016
All Stars Roxxy Andrews, Detox, Tatianna, and Coco Montrese vogued and slayed while Younger’s Nico Tortorello and celebrity hairstylist Kyle Krieger helped pump up the crowds. All in all, this year’s Pride March was one for the books, filled with love, joy and of course, pride.
Hear from some of our marchers on why they took part this year and what Pride meant to them.
“Pride took on a new meaning this year in the wake of the devastating loss in Orlando. More than ever, our community and allies should be proud, united and visible. It’s clear that Viacom is a place that not only understands that, but prioritizes and celebrates LGBT visibility. LGBT Pride and Viacom Pride go hand in hand!” – Richard Ferraro
“Pride for me is a chance to come together as a community and celebrate everything that we have been told all our lives to be ashamed of. It’s a dancing, glitter-filled political statement that we are here and we refuse to be ashamed of who we are.” – Bradley Little
“I’ve marched in New York City Pride Parades before, but this year was unlike the others. Not only was the turn out incredible, but all I felt and saw throughout the streets of the city was pure happiness and freedom. The community was vibrant with color, music, and dancing truly living and celebrating that #loveislove ” – Ariana Saccente
“With the most recent events and all the craziness in the world right now, being able to march in Pride lets me know that people of many cultures, beliefs, and political views can unify and stand for the LGBT community.” – Michael Gentilucci
“The last time I marched in the Pride Parade with my daughter it was 25 years ago and she was 3 years old. I’ve never been prouder to be who I am and to see all the out and proud people celebrating who we are.” – Dewanda Howard
“I’ve always gone to the parade and loved being a spectator, but this year given the recent events involving the LGBT community I felt it was the perfect time to show my full support of the community and march with pride.” – Daniel Stokes
“I felt it was necessary to march in the Pride parade especially this year due to the tragedy in Orlando. In order to be strong we have to stick together and show our love to the LGBT community now more than ever. There was nothing but love from spectators and marchers down on Fifth Avenue on Sunday. It was truly heartwarming to see this all in person.” – Maribel Giraldo
I went out to cover the parade as reporter. My plan of following the action from the starting point of 36th Street and Fifth Avenue was squelched by police barricades preventing spectators from moving freely along the parade route and road blocks on surrounding streets. However, I was able to make it to Greenwich Village, where I watched the end of the parade from Christopher Street and Waverly Place. Thanks to Twitter’s live feed and texts from friends marching in the parade, I captured some of its most stimulating and somber moments.
The parade began at noon on Sunday, June 26 after a moment of silence for the victims of Orlando’s tragedy.
— Mary Georgantopoulos (@marygeorgant) June 26, 2016
The lead float carried Pulse Nightclub owner, Barbara Poma and entertainment manager Neema Bahrani. The float was bolstered with a color guard carrying orange flags with a rainbow stripe—a powerful combination of the LGBT symbol and the Wear Orange gun control campaign.
— Gilad Thaler (@GiladThaler) June 26, 2016
In a sea of multicolored floats and rainbow flags, a ghostlike assembly of marchers veiled in sheer white cloth captivated the spectators without saying a word. “The Angels of Orlando” marched in camaraderie as their leader carried a silver disco ball like a torch. Stark white posters with the portrait and name of each Orlando victim hung from their necks.
Pride is more than a city-wide carnival; it’s a time to address grave issues facing the LGBT community. In years past, marriage equality laws and discriminatory legislation like the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy were targeted.
This year’s cause is more urgent than ever. Gays Against Guns was formed in the weeks after the Orlando shooting. The grassroots organization is inclusive of any LGBT person or straight ally with the common goal of ending gun violence. The contingent staged multiple “die-ins” across Fifth Avenue at various spots along the parade route.
— PIX11 News (@PIX11News) June 26, 2016
The jubilant chaos heightened towards the end of the parade as Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, emerged from her motorcade to join the demonstration, marching four blocks along with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It was an unexpected yet welcome appearance. Shouts of “I’m with her” echoed through the crowd, and spectators watching above from a rooftop apartment unleashed confetti into the air as she passed by Bleeker Street.
Scenes from New York City Pride with Team Hillary.https://t.co/nYWRrJiU40
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 30, 2016
In addition to Secret Service, she was flanked by supporters carrying signs sending a thinly veiled jab at her principal opponent, Donald Trump.
“Love trumps hate” shouts Hillary Clinton supporters marching in parade pic.twitter.com/63vME9HQCV
— Jacob Wittich (@JacobWittich) June 26, 2016
The march ended where it began 46 years ago—the red brick tavern on Christopher Street that has been the locus of LGBT solidarity for decades.
The Stonewall Inn was officially recognized for its cultural significance on Friday, June 24. President Obama decreed the Inn to be the first national monument dedicated to LGBT history. The newest addition to the national park system will include the Inn, Christopher Park, and a stretch of Greenwich Village.
— Sebas van der Sangen (@sebasvds) June 27, 2016
“I believe our national pa
rks should reflect the full story of our country,” said Obama. “The richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us, that we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.”
Viacom consistently uses its platform to fight for human rights and equality. Find out more about Viacommunity initiatives here.