stonewall celebration

James Brown, 34, raises his glass Saturday night in a toast to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the progress the LGBTQ+ community has made during the Building on Our History Stonewall 50 Celebration party organized by the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida. The toast came after three speakers talked about the past struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, the progress the community has made and how to move forward. Over 50 people attended the event which offered food, refreshments and music.

The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida (PCCNCF) held Building on Our History — Stonewall 50 Celebration Saturday night to honor the anniversary of the uprising seen as the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement.

The Stonewall rebellion centered around protesting police raids on gay bars and consisted of violent demonstrations. The rebellion started on June 28, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village, New York City.

A video of Walia Moffett, a 21-year-old UF women’s studies junior, reciting the poem “Stonewall” by Roz Kaveney played as an introduction to the scheduled speakers for Saturday’s event.

Moffett said she found the poem inside a book at the PCCNCF’s library about a month before the anniversary event.

“I was really touched by this poem, and other board members said this is a really powerful poem,” Moffett said.

After the video, speakers came to the middle of the room to talk about the work the LGBTQ+ community has put in to obtain the rights they have today and the work they still need to do. 

The co-president of the PCCNCF, Terry Fleming, 57, brought up concerns of LGBTQ+ people’s rights at the state and federal level. He said there is still a long way to go in order to obtain equal civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

“The folks at Stonewall didn’t look like me,” Fleming said, “and they were not rioting for marriage. It was not the purpose of the gay rights movement. It was a wonderful outcome, but that was not where we started, and that was not the intention.”

He encouraged attendees to get involved in the PCCNCF or local government.

“You have got to do something,” he said. “You have got to talk to your legislators. You have got to run for office.”

The PCCNCF’s work for the LGBTQ+ community includes organizing Alcoholics Anonymous groups, Gainesville’s annual Pride parade and festival and health-based programs like Gainesville Area AIDS Project, which helps give food and support to people with AIDS.

Clare Holman, a retired computer programmer and now a volunteer for the PCCNCF, was at a party blocks away from the initial rebellion 50 years ago.

“We were hanging out, hearing all these sirens and all this ruckus coming from a block or two away,” Holman said. “We knew something was happening, but we didn’t know what it was.”

Holman said as a transgender woman volunteering for an organization which serves the LGBTQ+ community is how she shows appreciation for the activists who paved the way for her rights.

“Stonewall Inn was a turning point,” she said. “It's a sign post. It’s the beginning of not hiding and fighting for your right.”