239 years ago yesterday, here in Philadelphia ~
A group of educated, landed white men signed a document declaring the American colonies independent from British rule. While the “all” whose inalienable rights were asserted in such dramatic fashion was limited in unconscionable ways at the time — and remains so today, despite expansions — the second sentence remains a powerful aspirational statement.
A promise of what I’d like to see these united states be for truly All.
50 years ago, also yesterday, also at Independence Hall in Philadelphia ~
A group of forty gay and lesbian activists picketed outside the building that held the Liberty Bell in what was, at the time, the largest demonstration for gay rights in world history.
This protest by members of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) was the first of what became known as the “Annual Reminders,” held on July 4th from 1965 to 1969. The final picketing was held shortly after the Stonewall riots, which occurred on June 28, 1969.
In 1970, organizers suspended the Annual Reminder and instead organized a march to celebrate the first anniversary of Stonewall, an event now known as the first NYC Pride Parade.
4 years ago last Wednesday ~
I took a bus from Philadelphia to NYC to sign the divorce papers that freed me legally (if not yet in mind) from the control of the sadistic sociopath my once-beloved husband had revealed himself to be.
Over 7 years, I had allowed this man to separate me from friends, family. and even myself. But I walked away on my own two feet at the end — and found many of the people I thought I’d lost waiting for me, a community of support right outside the walls I had believed unbreachable.
2 years ago last Friday ~
I signed out of a psychiatric hospital and into the therapy group where I finally began learning how to heal. During my time with these fellow survivors of trauma and brains gone haywire, I also found unexpected depths of human power and beauty.
I have seen people at their most broken and vulnerable forge from that pain the most profound, riotous love — hope-driven, compassionate, and at once selfless and self-directed.
Today, in the streets below where I now sit ~
A large and raucous block party is still happening to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Annual Reminder, celebrating the foundations of the organized LGBT civil rights movement and also (although originally unforeseen by the party’s planners) the recent victory at the Supreme Court.
While marriage equality remains a single link in the complicated pattern of victories and losses — and urgent work yet to be accomplished — to secure the inalienable rights of everyone, it nonetheless marks a decisive step forward and carries for many people deep significance, both symbolic and material.
~ ~ ~
However you marked the weekend now finishing — celebrating with friends or not-celebrating by choice; contemplating the promises of our nation or making plans for the next steps needed to bring that promise closer to reality; alone with your computer or dancing in the street with joyful strangers — I hope your days were good. Good days. With plenty of pie.
And if you missed out on the pie?
I made enough to share.
Featured image: “Liberty Bell 2008” by Tony the Misfit on Flickr – . Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons