June is officially Pride month, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern gay rights movement. Each year since 1969, NYC has held a month-long celebration to call for equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community, and this year will be the first time the U.S. hosts the global WorldPride event.
(ICYMI, the Stonewall Inn is a Greenwich Village bar that welcomed New York’s underground gay community during the era when the police continuously raided the bar and tried to arrest its patrons. On June 28, 1969, the community members fought back during a police raid and launched a widespread rebellion for human rights.)
So, how can you participate in Pride? Personal Space spoke to Donna Guzzardi to get a better sense of just that. Guzzardi is the development volunteer captain for Heritage of Pride, the nonprofit organization that plans and produces New York’s annual LGBTQIA+ Pride celebrations, and she's been volunteering with NYC Pride since May 1995. In her role, Guzzardi is responsible for recruiting, assigning roles, and training volunteers for 14 events over 18 days in June. Guzzardi has 23 years of wonderful memories of volunteering with NYC Pride, and this year she feels “excited and rewarded” to be a part of this historical NYC WorldPride event.
Here are some facts about Pride and the organization behind the celebration that Guzzardi wants everyone to understand, no matter where they live or what Pride event is closest to them geographically.
Pride Is More Than a Party
First and foremost, Guzzardi noted, “Pride is personal and has a different meaning for every attendee…. but it’s not just a party.” Guzzardi explained she wishes “more of the young people would get involved, and not just running-in-the-street partying... once you get involved for the first time, most people get very inspired. You have to really be in it to experience that feeling and motivation to want to help out... and not just within the local community, but worldwide.”
Guzzardi wants everyone to understand what Pride really is: “a celebration of our diversity” working “towards a future without discrimination, where all people have equal rights under the law.”
Volunteers Make a Big Impact
Guzzardi also wants everyone to know that “volunteers are a vital part” of the celebrations, because “they are the ones who make it happen.” Guzzardi explained that as a retired teacher, she’d like to see the younger generation “join the movement” behind the scenes. That’s why Guzzardi is most looking forward to working with volunteers who are first-timers and those who are in the 18-21 year-old range. She’s hoping “they will feel inspired to get more involved with Pride” and continue to be involved in the future.
Guzzardi also explained that the people behind the scenes are part of the “NYC Pride family,” who form close-knit bonds with peers. “Volunteering, you create a new family, you have your Pride family and an international pride family all over the world through InterPride... it's very special to be a volunteer, it’s very rewarding and makes me feel happy.”
NYC Pride Isn't Just For New Yorkers
Just because you are not from New York, or even the United States, doesn't prevent you from being part of the Heritage of Pride organization. Guzzardi shared that “there are people from around the world signing up to volunteer.” She also explained that it’s not just for the month of June — NYC Pride is a year-round organization.
“Our general membership meetings are held at the LGBT Center on the second Monday of every other month... everyone is welcomed to attend.” Guzzardi also shared that the “committee meetings have remote access, so aside from different time zones, anyone can participate.”
Over the years, the internet has helped the organization connect with more like-minded folks and allows “global access for people anywhere to get involved.” This is one of the major ways Guzzardi has seen Pride evolve over the years she has been volunteering. There are also 11 committees who meet monthly, which provides even more opportunities for involvement for those interested.
Volunteers Help Other Communities, Too
In addition to helping with Pride events, volunteers also “perform community service” by connecting with various organizations that need help. Guzzardi shared that she loves what she does as a volunteer and is “proud to be a full voting member of Heritage of Pride.” All of the other ways they contribute to the community just makes the experience even richer.
Guzzardi encourages everyone to check out the website and learn how volunteers help their local community. Guzzardi has been volunteering for so many years because of the wonderful feeling she gets helping, and she knew from that first experience that volunteering her time toward the movement for “civil, human and equal rights was for me.”
The Fight Isn't Over Yet
Guzzardi also wants the younger generation to be more involved in the behind-the-scenes action of the Pride organization because they are the ones who will continue the fight for freedom. She explained that although “we have made progress since 1969… we are not there yet.” She sees that the “kids today are walking around holding hands and kissing, and it’s wonderful, but they have to remember where we came from. It wasn't always like that.”
Guzzardi remembers that when she was younger, she had to hide. She recalled going to the “back staircases, hiding in doorways, just to kiss each other or even look at each other in a certain way.”
Despite the progress so far, “the fight isn't over yet... today the kids have freedom, and they need to be educated and know where they came from… my hope is to get these people more involved.”
She added it’s also important to recognize that “in many parts of the world you can be considered a criminal and go to jail, or even be killed for being LGBTIA+.... some organizations celebrate Pride with a parade [but] NYC has a march [because they] will march until everyone on this planet has equal rights.”
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