Pride in the Park, the first-ever Northport Village Pride event, will be held on the afternoon of Saturday, June 17. The celebration is being organized by the Village of Northport and Northport Chamber of Commerce, and spearheaded by Village Trustee Meghan Dolan and Chamber Vice President Joe Schramm.
“We don’t have a lot of diversity in Northport as far as ethnicity is concerned, but I can bet that the majority of minority residents in our community are LGBT,” Schramm said at last week’s first Pride event committee meeting at the Northport Public Library. Schramm said that he’s been thinking about organizing a local Pride event for years, so when he was approached by Trustee Dolan with the idea, he agreed to join forces right away. Northport Village Mayor Donna Koch has been supportive of the event and the Village’s participation.
This June, to mark the beginning of Pride month, the Pride flag will be flown at Northport Village Hall and remain there all month long. Leading up to the Pride in the Park event, local businesses will also be asked to put posters in their windows, stating “All are welcome here,” with the Northport Pride logo. Schramm hopes businesses will get involved and celebrate Pride during June with small events or specials.
A balance of celebration and education on what has occurred in the LGBTQ+ community since the inception of Pride marches in 1969 will take place on the day of Pride in the Park. There will also be a professional DJ, vendors, exhibitors and entertainment.
In addition to commemorating the presence and unity of LGTBQ+ residents and allies, committee members hope to make note of the struggles people within the community are facing today, as national laws continue to threaten their lawful existence.
“The Village is excited and proud to be a host of this inaugural event. It’s so meaningful to see all members of our community being celebrated and coming together for a positive cause. These types of events are what make a safe community for everybody,” Trustee Dolan told the Journal.
When did Pride marches begin?
The first Pride marches began in response to the Stonewall uprising in New York City, a series of events between police and LGBTQ+ protesters that lasted over six days. The Stonewall Inn was a popular gay bar in Manhattan; at the time, homosexuality was considered a criminal offense and until 1966, it was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person – which meant that most LGBTQ+ friendly establishments were operating without a liquor license and subject to frequent raids.
On June 28, 1969, plainclothes officers from the NYPD raided Stonewall to investigate the illegal sale of alcohol. Patrons were violently interrogated and those without ID were prepared for arrest. All “crossdressers” were also detained, according to reports. News of the raid traveled and within 24 hours, thousands of protesters gathered at Stonewall. The protests continued into the next week, with another outbreak of violence occurring half-way through.
In the aftermath of the Stonewall riot and protests, Pride marches served as a symbol of support for the gay liberation movement. The first Pride events were held in Manhattan, Los Angeles and Chicago on June 28, 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, and they’ve continued to this day.
Long Island Pride
According to a 2021 article posted by the Northport Historical Society, this isn’t the first time Northport was considered for a Pride event location. Some of the first public instances of LGBTQ+ presence in the Northport area began in 1991, when a group of Stony Brook University students and other locals formed a committee to create the first Pride parade on Long Island. The committee reached out to multiple towns, including Huntington and Northport. Fearing a negative community response, according to the article, Northport denied the group on the grounds that hosting an event organized by non-locals would set a bad precedent.
Northporters had mixed reactions to the decision, with one resident Michael Carr writing in an April 1991 edition of The Observer, “It is my opinion that any group dedicated to the goals of promoting greater understanding among people, installing a sense of pride and self-worth in those that have been let down by society, education of the general public, and working towards achievement of mutual respect, understanding and friendship, should always be welcome in any area, for the good of humanity.”
The Pride parade committee eventually focused on Huntington as its location, but faced further backlash when the town supervisor refused to grant them a permit because it was not considered a traditional parade, such as those for St. Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day, according to a report from Stony Brook University.
The committee founders took the town to federal court, with the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union. The judge heard both arguments and granted the committee its permit. Reports indicate that about 3,000 people attended the first Long Island Pride parade, which included both supporters and protestors. Eventually, the event came under the leadership of the Long Island LGBT Network and in 2017, it was moved to Long Beach, where an estimated 30,000 people participated. Today, the LGBT Network coordinates with towns and villages across the island to host Pride events on dates within the month of June. As a contributor to the Northport event, the network will promote Pride in the Park on their events calendar.
Northport’s Pride in the Park will take place on Saturday, June 17 from 1 to 4pm in Northport Village Park. The event committee is seeking sponsors, or financial and in-kind contributions. To inquire, email firstname.lastname@example.org.