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Marking Stonewall’s 50th, Vassar Shows its Pride

Vassar alums were well represented at New York City’s World Pride Parade on June 30, while two longtime gay rights activists, Eric Marcus ’80 and Ann Northrop ’70, took part in an alternative march on the same day that was organized to protest what they called the over-commercialization of the main event.

Vassar alums and students get ready to march

Lisa Malachowsky ’83, co-chair of Vassar’s LGBTQ Network, was one of about two dozen alums and students who marched with an estimated five million others in the 2019 World Pride event in Lower Manhattan. The parade route took marchers past the Stonewall Inn, scene of riots on June 28, 1969 between police and gay and transgender patrons that many say sparked the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States.

“It was really an emotional day,” Malachowsky says. “I recently had hip surgery, so I was riding on a scooter, but many people in the crowd reached out and touched me as I rode past them. I felt proud of everyone there for expressing themselves about who they are.

“We still have a lot of work to do as a subgroup of the population in this country,” she adds, “but it was great to be able to celebrate.”

Vassar’s contingent celebrates at Pride 2019

Susan Quade, Senior Associate Director for Alumnae/i Education and Affinity Programs, organized Vassar’s participation in the event. She said the group waited for about four hours before they finally stepped off, but added it was worth the wait.

“It was joyous,” Quade says. “There was lots of cheering from people along the route and those standing on balconies above us as we marched. There was a big police presence, but many of them were cheering us too. And walking past the Stonewall Inn and remembering what had happened there 50 years ago brought tears to many of us.”

Marcus, founder and co-host of the Making Gay History podcast and founder and chair of the Stonewall 50 Consortium, said he chose to march in the alternative Queer Liberation March, because he thought the large corporate presence at the Pride parade was detracting from the remembrance of what had happened at Stonewall 50 years ago. “I don’t think the Pride march should be a celebration or a demonstration of corporate support for pride,” he says. “The Queer Liberation March was a more appropriate and multifaceted expression of the pride movement.”

Eric Marcus ’80 and Ann Northrup ’70 at the Queer Liberation March

Marcus praised Northrop for her part in organizing the protest march, which ended with speeches in Central Park. “Ann is an incredible organizer and role model for many of us,” he said. “I greatly admire and respect her for what she has done. She has so much to be proud of.”

Following the Queer Liberation March, Northrop said she and her co-organizers were pleased that so many people had chosen to march with them rather than participate in the Pride event. “The Pride Parade used to be a glorious community event,” she said. “Unfortunately, it has evolved into a commercial extravaganza, led by an endless line of corporate floats. The magic of our alternate Queer Liberation March is that it brought an amazing and beautiful array of people back into the streets—to celebrate themselves and each other and to protest injustice. I was tremendously moved that 45,000 people would take that leap of faith to come together like that.”