On the night of June 27, 1969, the usual crowd gathered at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. New York Beverage Control Board agents and NYC police officers raided the bar to enforce an alcohol control law that was seldom imposed anywhere else in the city.
Raids on Gay establishments, however, were common at the time and were conducted regularly with little or no resistance. Fearful Gay patrons were often physically forced out of their gathering places, sometimes beaten, and arrested, with no just cause just for simply congregating.
On this historic night, Lesbians and Gay men together fought back against police harassment for the first time. The crowd inside and outside of the bar erupted into violent resistance against the officers.
Word spread quickly about the confrontation and outraged crowds gathered on subsequent nights to protest the mistreatment historically inflicted on the Gay community. These protests came to be known as the Stonewall Rebellion, with the uprising serving as the catalyst for the modern political movement for Gay and Lesbian liberation.
Now, Gay and Lesbian Pride events are planned annually each June throughout North America to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and to continue the GLBT community struggle for equality.
In 1985, a relatively new organization, the Michigan Organization for Human Rights (MOHR) hired an Executive Director from Ohio, Craig Covey, in part because of the large and successful Gay and Lesbian civil rights marches he organized in Columbus.
In 1986, Craig Covey and MOHR organized Michigan’s first Gay and Lesbian march in Detroit.
From 1986-1988, the civil rights march took place down Woodward Avenue followed by a rally at Kennedy Square. A party took place at the McGregor Center on the campus of Wayne State University following the rally, organized by a small number of dedicated Gay and Lesbian groups and volunteers.
In 1989, the Gay and Lesbian civil rights march was moved to the more central location of Lansing to attract statewide participation and political awareness as well as to celebrate the 20th anniversary of New York City’s Stonewall Riots, the beginning of the modern day movement of equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender citizens. Metropolitan Detroit was left without a LGBT march, rally and party, so during this same year, the first official Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival was founded and chaired by Frank Colasonti, Jr. and sponsored by the Detroit Area Gay/Lesbian Council (DAGLC). It began the tradition of being held on the first Sunday of June. That year the Pride Festival took place on the Dearborn Campus of the University of Michigan in the gymnasium.
In 1990, the event’s name was officially changed to PrideFest, and was relocated to the Royal Oak campus of Oakland Community College.
In 1992, the new chairman Michael C. Lary broke away from DAGLC and created the independent organization South East Michigan Pride to continue the mission of bringing the GLBT community together. His leadership continued until 2001. During this time period the official name of PrideFest became PrideFest Celebration!
In 2002, the PrideFest Celebration officially transferred to the Triangle Foundation as part of Triangle’s community outreach activities.
In 2003, it was officially renamed Motor City Pride and moved to downtown Ferndale. From 2002 to 2008 it was chaired by Fred Huebener and Jackie Anding, and coordinated by Kevin McAlpine, Development Director at the Triangle Foundation.
Since 2009, Motor City Pride has been headed up by a core group of volunteers that form the Motor City Pride Planning Committee.
In 2010, The Triangle Foundation merged with Michigan Equality to become Equality Michigan and Motor City Pride became a project of the new Equality Michigan.
In 2011, Motor City Pride relocated to Hart Plaza in Detroit and expanded the festival to two days with the parade returning to the official lineup of events.