Looking back and looking forward, Philly to host celebration of 50 years of LGBT activism

 (Emma Lee/WHYY)

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

The 50th anniversary of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement in Philadelphia will be commemorated this July 4 with a series of special events and celebrations.

Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum, has assembled an extensive coalition of local and national organizations to participate in the four-day celebration.

“The buy-in for this celebration has been just absolutely remarkable. Everybody gets it,” said Lazin. “It raises all boats and gives us a remarkable opportunity to remind people what it was like in 1965 — what was happening between 1965 and 2015 that got us here.”

The celebration will specifically highlight the “annual reminders” that were first held 50 years ago in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Each July 4 between 1965 and 1969, the reminders were silent pickets organized by a small group of activists including LGBT heroes Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny.

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A gay pioneers historical marker at Sixth and Market streets notes the annual reminders were the first public demonstrations advocating for LGBT rights in the world. Along with the Stonewall riots of 1969, they paved the way for the modern LGBT rights movement.

Sporting a pink tie, Mayor Michael Nutter expressed his enthusiasm for the celebration and the legacy of historical “firsts” that have occurred in Philadelphia.

“The Human Rights Campaign named Philadelphia the best big city in America for LGBT equality,” said Nutter. “So, of course, it is fitting that Philadelphia will host the largest celebration of the 50th anniversary of the LGBT right movement next July.”

Moving forward, Lavin said the celebrations will be a crucial opportunity for the LGBT community to reflect on the progress of the LGBT movement and organize for future goals.

“This will be really, we believe, a historic moment for the LGBT community,” said Lazin.

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