Sacramento Pride: Legacy of Stonewall, grounded in a revolution alive today.
Many people are familiar with the police raid at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 credited with igniting a revolution for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) equality. Transgender women, queer folks, and drag queens fought back against the pervasive harassment and abuse they endured on a daily basis living in the Village of New York City. Lesser known, but predating Stonewall by two years, at the Black Cat Tavern in Los Angeles plainclothes LAPD officers infiltrated the bar and beat patrons, arresting 14 people charged with lewd conduct for same-sex kissing on New Year’s Day 1967.1 On Feb. 11, 1967, protesters took a bold step for that era and grabbed their picket signs, publicly protesting the police raid outside the bar.
Sadly, the abuse by police, discrimination, and inequality has continued across America in many institutions for decades. On March 11, 1979, Sacramento police raided the Upstairs/Downstairs, a gay disco located at 1225 K Street (previously known as Hickory House and the Underground Shingle), requesting identification from each patron but not disclosing any offense committed by the bar. The next night, police returned to check whether the bar was violating its alcohol license, which was limited to beer and wine only. Police opened every bottle in the building to check them for liquor, effectively destroying the bar’s stock of beer and wine.2 Incidents of hate, discrimination, and disrespect for queer and transgender folks in our community, especially people of color, continue in our own community today.
Following the raid on the Upstairs/Downstairs, on June 17, 1979, Sacramento organized its first Pride parade of 500 marchers marching from 14th and I streets down J street and ending at Capitol Park. The theme of the march was “It’s About Time,” and it became the first of many LGBTQ+ parades and marches. Each June, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center hosts Sacramento Pride to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the continued struggle for visibility, positive affirmation, equal rights, and justice in every aspect of LGBTQ+ people’s lives that would help create a region where LGBTQ+ people thrive.
Sacramento Pride, since its conception, has consisted of equal parts activism and celebration of LGBTQ+ culture, demonstrating how far the community had come while also providing visibility to the barriers that have yet to be crossed. Over its 40+ year history the event has grown from a small hidden away event in a neighborhood park to a highly visible community driven event on Capital Mall that welcomes more than 22,000 guests from all of Northern California. Our vision is to make Sacramento Pride the largest celebration of diversity, inclusion, LGBTQ+ culture, and community pride in the Sacramento Region.