It is officially NYC Pride weekend, and this year is particularly important as it marks 50 years since the Stonewall riots, which began as a police raid at the Stonewall Inn and marked a momentous occasion in the gay rights movement.
But if you (like Derrick Barry) are a little hazy on the details, Peppermint and Tammie Brown have helped Billboard put together a Pride history 101 lesson on Stonewall to run through what happened back in 1969 and how that incident set a movement into motion that is celebrated annually around the world.
As Peppermint explains, the Stonewall Inn was a popular gay bar and the riots occurred shortly after the death of Judy Garland (which has been loosely attributed as one of the contributing factors leading to the riots). Four plainclothes police officers raided the bar, but it didn’t go as they had planned.
“All the queens, they were just not having it, and all the gays, they just weren’t having it,” says Tammie Brown. “And they came out pumping against these assholes that were not letting us be ourselves, do our thing, and wear dresses.”
She notes that in the United States, people would even be thrown in prison if they were seen wearing women’s clothing in public. “If you did a pageant or any of that stuff, it was all underground,” she adds.
When it comes to who actually threw the first brick or what exactly spurred the riots that night, no one really knows for sure. But we do know that there were a few notable figures who helped start the revolution, including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Stormé DeLarverie.
“After five nights of fighting back, we won,” says Peppermint. “Every year at the end of June in New York City is the Pride march, and it’s turned into a symbol of fighting for equality. It’s turned into a celebration. Now, more than ever, we’re able to tap into some of that resistance and defiance that prevailed 50 years ago. And we’re able to use that to fight for what we need in the future.”
You can watch the full video of Tammie Brown and Peppermint discussing the Stonewall riots above.