As June rolls around, here at Artisans & Adventurers we are getting ready for one of our favourite events of the year - Pride! Pride in our hometown of sunny Margate is always particularly special for us. With the current situation, Pride is undoubtedly going to look a little different this year, but we think it is really important to still celebrate and support our local LGBTQ+ communities and organisations. Pride, also known as ‘Gay Pride’ or ‘LGBT Pride’ has existed in it’s modern form since 1970, when a parade commemorating a year since the infamous Stonewall Riots took place in the USA, and later the first official UK Pride rally was held in London on 1 July 1972. Something you may not know is the reason why we celebrate Pride throughout the month of June. Well, the reason is the aforementioned Stonewall riots. The Stonewall Riots, also known as the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of 28 June 1969 when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among customers of the bar as well as neighbourhood residents as police roughly removed employees and patrons from the bar, leading to six days of protests and clashes with law enforcement. The Stonewall Riots is a pivotal moment in history that served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the USA and around the world. LGBTQ+ people have been at the heart of so many important historical movements and often go overlooked throughout history due to stigma and prejudice. That is why we wanted to take this time to celebrate LGBTQ+ icons through history and around the world.
Ifti Nasim was a gay Pakistani-American poet who moved to the USA at age 21 to escape persecution for his sexual orientation. As a gay man in Pakistan, Nasim says he often felt ostracised and alone as he was unable to live openly. He has received international acclaim for his poetry book ‘Narman’, a collection of poetry that was the first open expression of homosexual themes in the Urdu language. This pioneering piece of literature was met with immediate controversy in Pakistan and had to be distributed underground. The frank, open discussion of homosexuality within the book inspired many young Pakistani poets to write ‘honest’ poetry, a genre that would become known as ‘narmani’ poetry. The book helped to raise issues related to Islam’s tolerance towards homosexuals and brought awareness to a struggling LGBTQ+ Pakitani population. In 1993, he became the first Third World poet to read at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago. Also, he received the Rabindranath Tagore Award from Chicago’s South Asian Family Services in 1994 for his poetic work. Nasim’s contribution to the LGBTQ+ community was not only confined to his courage as an international ambassador of tolerance. He was also the co-founder of Sangat/Chicago (an organisation for Southeast Asian gay men), as well as being founder and leader of an organisation to provide education and support for gay and lesbian South Asians living in Chicago as well as being the president of the South Asian Performing Arts Council of America.
Did you know that the global environmental movement was founded by an LGBTQ+ person? American scientist and marine biologist Rachel Carson spent her life studying the effects of the chemical ‘DDT’ and other pesticides on natural habitats around the world. Her ground-breaking book 'Silent Spring' published in 1962 came at a time when countries around the world were shocked by the increasing number of the deaths of wild birds and other wild populations that could not be explained. She was also a lesbian, engaged in a highly secretive life-long relationship with Dorothy Freeman, a married woman, in 1953, at a time where same-sex relationships were considered taboo. Whilst keeping her sexuality and relationship a secret, Carson caused an international sensation with her book by proving a direct link between the use of pesticides in agriculture and the dwindling population of native wildlife. She managed to successfully argue that there needed to be true regulation and government supervision over the use of pesticides and chemicals for agriculture. Because of her pioneering research, many research institutions began investigating the impact of increased chemical exposure to medical health, such as cancer. The publicity around these issues was huge, and the public overwhelmingly supported Carson’s research and demanded change within the chemical industry. Sadly, shortly after the publication of her monumental book, Rachel Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away in 1964. Her work has been celebrated long after her death, with a flurry of recognitions and awards, including The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. Many conservation areas around the globe are named in her honour, along with research vessels, buildings, prizes, and more. Her pioneering work continues to be recognised by environmental activists to this present day, and without her research the sustainability of our future could have looked very different.
Bayard Rustin was a close friend and advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. in the 50’s and 60’s and helped organise the 1963 March on Washington which saw 250,000 people marching in opposition to employment discrimination and civil rights abuses against African Americans, Latinos, and other disenfranchised groups. Despite his ground-breaking work, he often went unacknowledged because he was an openly gay man and so he did not receive wide recognition for his integral role in the civil rights movement. Rustin’s sexuality was used against him and Martin Luther King by opposing parties, who threatened to spread lies about their relationship. This forced Rustin to work in the shadows to prevent bringing further controversy to both Dr. King and the March on Washington which may have jeopardised the movement. Despite this, Rustin still remained a fierce political and gay activist, working to bring the AIDS crisis to the NAACP’s attention. After the passage of the civil rights legislation of 1965, Rustin became the head of the Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of formerly all-white unions and the unionisation of African Americans. During the 70’s and 80’s Rustin served on a huge number of humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Communist Vietnam and Cambodia. He had been arrested early in his career for public displays of his homosexuality and often had to work from the sidelines after this to avoid slander and criticism due to his sexuality. Despite being an influential advisor behind many civil-rights leaders, most people never knew his name or his legacy. However, his achievements are celebrated today, including President Barack Obama posthumously awarding Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
We hope you enjoyed reading about some of these inspirational members of the LGBTQ+ community and how they had a profound impact on society. There are so many more wonderful people we could have included on this list so we encourage you to get researching and learn more about the wonderfully rich history of Pride. Who are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ icons? Please let us know all about them! Happy Pride month everyone.