First-hand accounts of the Stonewall Riots describe ‘a feeling in the air’ just before the rioting broke out. According to Sylvia Rivera, ‘You could feel the electricity going through people. You could actually feel it.’ There was a connection buzzing between the patrons of that bar, not just an anger at the injustice being carried out, but a genuine concern and care for those being harassed and arrested by the police that night. The spark that set fire to the queer liberation movement started not just with a fight, but with that electric moment of community connection immediately beforehand. And I believe, personally, that the electricity felt that night, that true spirit of Pride, is still around today.
I felt it myself at the Manchester Pride Festival this year. I felt it when I heard Chloe Cousins’ powerful words read by Suriya Aisha at the Human Rights Forum: Pride is a Protest. I felt it when I danced with the Black Queer Joy panel at Superbia’s Feel Good Fest. I felt it on Community Lane in the personal work of local queer artists and activists. I felt it when I watched our local LGBTQ+ community groups and grassroots organisers in our first Pride parade in years. All weekend there was an electricity in the air, a buzz of passion, a warmth of community connection.
I think it helps that there were so many different ways to celebrate Pride in Manchester this year. Whether you wanted a loud rave, an engaged protest, an interesting panel talk or a quiet art exhibit, there were so many different opportunities to connect with the queer community. Which I think allowed for authentic connection. You didn’t have to force it. You could find a space that worked for you and live your queer truth in an honest way. From there you could connect, and then, hopefully, find that electric spirit of Pride waiting for you.
To me, this is one of the most important elements of any Pride celebration. I need to feel a genuine connection to my queer community. Because I think that’s where liberation finds its roots. When we think of any social movement in history we often make the mistake of giving too much (if not all) credit to a single individual. But Marsha P. Johnson, Emmeline Pankhurst, Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and all our other heroes in history didn’t work alone. Not one of them. They all worked with their communities. Their liberation movements were a collective effort. And so too must ours be.
With the 2022 Festival having come to a close, the spirit of Pride must live on in the work that we do for the other eleven months of the year. At Manchester Pride, we’re doing this year-round by engaging with our communities, listening to their needs, platforming their work and funding their initiatives, all while collaborating with other queer organisations in the continued fight for a world where LGBTQ+ people are free to live and love without prejudice. As you too enter the post-Festival period, how will you keep the feeling in the air and the spirit of Pride alive? How will you continue to connect with your community as we work together for collective liberation?
How will you feel the electricity?