On June 28, 1969, LGBTQ folks rebelled against a system that violently oppressed them. Deep within the walls at the Stonewall Inn, their spirits remain enshrined in history. A beacon of hope and freedom, the inn continues to stand tall and proud, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors every year — all of them eager to walk the same cobblestones iconic activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera once trod.
Now, 50 years later, thousands have gathered outside the Stonewall Inn, only this time they’re not rebelling. They’re celebrating.
For the first time, New York City is hosting WorldPride and has welcomed thousands of LGBTQ people and their allies around the world to witness the second annual Stonewall Day, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
At 1:15 p.m. Eastern, Elvis Duran hosted an epic Stonewall Day concert just outside the inn in the West Village, which featured a special performance by Alicia Keys and A-list speakers.
Just before the concert, organizers held a private reception at the Inn, where activists and renowned allies spoke about the importance of today. The Advocate received exclusive access to the reception.
Geena Rocero started the reception with an eloquent speech about her life in the Philippines as a trans woman, before introducing the winner of Eurovision 2014, Conchita Wurst, who spoke about their life in Austria and encouraged attendees to remember the power of what Pride means.
Grace VanderWaal also hit the stage with a beautiful number.
The co-owner of Stonewall Inn, Kurt Kelly, was presented with a photo of Madonna when she appeared at the inn on New Year’s Eve.
“I'm very young,” Kelly quipped. “The meaning of Stonewall means strength in numbers. I want to thank everyone out there for your numbers on the wall to fight for equality. Happy Pride 2019, 50 years later. Thank you everyone!”
“Stonewall is the gravitational center of our community," added Jordan Roth, renowned Broadway producer and theater owner. "It pulls us home, whenever we have cause to celebrate, whenever we need a home, whenever we need to mobilize. Stonewall is all three.”
Roth then introduced Alex Newell, who sang “I Know Where I’ve Been” from Hairspray.
A couple hours later, the free concert, which was streamed on The Advocate’s Facebook page as well as the Z100 website, aimed to elevate awareness and support for the Stonewall legacy and the continuing fight for full LGBTQ+ equality.
Presented by United Airlines, the event was launched by Pride Live, a social advocacy and community engagement organization for the LGBTQ community, iHeartMedia New York’s Z100, and 103.5 KTU, with support from GLAAD.
Many passersby are dubbing the event the “Gay Woodstock.” And it certainly shaped up to be that.
“The Stonewall riots are widely considered to represent the beginning of the fight for full LGBTQ+ equality,” said Havilah Clarke, Pride Live board president. “While the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of that historic night, Pride Live will help continue that legacy in a way that best responds to today’s community and ever-changing world. We are extremely grateful to United Airlines and iHeartMedia New York for supporting this historic event and the Stonewall legacy.”
Pride Live is also inducting new Stonewall Ambassadors, a group of activists, celebrities, and community leaders who work throughout the year to elevate awareness and support for those who fought for equality against intense discrimination and aggression.
This year’s inductees included Hillary Clinton; Donatella Versace, chief creative officer of Versace; Bozoma Saint John, chief marketing officer of William Morris Endeavor; Conchita Wurst, global LGBTQ+ activist and recording artist; Samira Wiley, activist and actor; and Stuart Vevers, executive creative director of Coach.
As the sun shone down on thousands of onlookers, speakers shared coming out stories and call for action around issues including hate violence, immigration, and global LGBTQ rights.
In another milestone, United Airlines was the first public company to be inducted into Pride Live’s Stonewall Ambassador program in recognition of the airline’s commitment to LGBTQ equality — from being the first U.S. airline to fully recognize domestic partnerships in 1999 to the first U.S. airline to offer nonbinary gender options throughout all booking channels earlier this year.
“We have long believed it’s important to support the LGBTQ+ community by upholding inclusive policies and practices, and are honored to be the first public company recognized as a Stonewall Ambassador from Pride Live along with an extraordinary group of trailblazers,” said Jill Kaplan, president of New York and New Jersey for United Airlines, who represented the company at the induction ceremony along with members of EQUAL, United’s resource group for LGBTQ and ally workers.
“The United team is committed to doing more than just raising the flag for Pride in June — we’re committed to creating an inclusive work environment for all of our employees regardless of race, color, creed, background, religious belief, origin and/or sexual orientation while contributing to the diverse communities we serve.”
Furthermore, the New York Red Bulls will also team up with Pride Live as well as other local nonprofit LGBT organizations to host the third annual Pride Night presented by Bayer.
Tickets can be purchased at www.NewYorkRedBulls.com/pride.