First City Pride Center Celebrates Stonewall, advocacy and Five years of Community

First City Pride Center will commemorate Stonewall and celebrate their 5th anniversary with a free block party on Saturday, June 25 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Bull Street between E 31st and E 33rd Street.

“I think it's an interesting dynamic that our anniversary and the anniversary of Stonewall fall together. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Stonewall happened because of all the work that came before,” said Dusty Church, Board of Directors Chair at First City Pride Center.

The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began the early hours of June 28, 1969 when New York City police stormed the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid generated a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly dragged employees and patrons out of the bar.

This led to six days of protest and clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall uprising also served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

“All of that work was community organizing. It was local. It was building networks, serving individuals to make sure that not only were we advocating for change, but that we have the strength to continue on,” said Church.

Though the Stonewall uprising didn’t start the gay rights movement, it was a stimulating force for LGBT political activism, leading to many gay rights organizations, including the Gay Liberation Front, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD (formerly Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

“Some of those who are under 40 don't understand how to effectively advocate for change other than posting to social media and marching. Those are cathartic, but not always productive. There's got to be a next step,” said Church.

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Here in Savannah, First City Pride Center, an inclusive advocacy, social, and service organization is taking those next steps by working to meet the needs of the Greater Savannah’s LGBTQIA+ community. 

In 2017, the Savannah LGBT Center first opened its doors to welcome the community bringing together a collection of service providers under one roof and providing a home LGBTQIA+ Savannahians had difficulties finding.

“In most of Georgia, once you get outside of the Atlanta metro area, the services are very thin. We've been steadily trying to build those programs and continue to grow and transition our organization from a volunteer organization to meeting the true needs of the broader community here in coastal Georgia,” said Church.

Beginning in 2020, the Savannah LGBT Center became the First City Pride Center and united First City Network, Savannah Pride, Jeffrey’s Place, and the Center into one cohesive organization that would better live up to its mission of service to the community. 

“Getting to five years is remarkable. I always figured we'd be here in five years when we opened, we have really just been a response to the needs of the community. We just had no idea how much need there would be,” said Church.

The Stonewall-Anniversary Block Party event will feature musical entertainment, advocacy & community organizations, free HIV testing, lip-sync drag contests, interactive games, food trucks and drinks. Gilead Sciences is the presenting sponsor so there will be plenty information available about resources. 

“We have wonderful partners, from Planned Parenthood to Union Mission and others. Gilead is our presenting sponsor, so folks will certainly learn about options for prep which is Pre-exposure prophylaxis as well as management of care for folks who are HIV positive. There's a lot of really wonderful resources that will be available,” said Church.

The Department of Public Health will be there to provide information on services that First City Pride Center do not necessarily directly provide. Other partners with First City Pride also help those who are face housing instability, need access to medical treatment or may need additional medical care and HIV and other STD testing.

Georgia Southern University will be at the event as well. They have a partnership with First City Pride where they provide LGBTQ+ affirming mental and behavioral health services. While learning and finding out about resources, there will be a lot of fun activates for people to enjoy as well.

“We've got some really interesting performances being provided by Savannah Voice Festival. We'll have DJs, drag queens, we've got art installations, and we've got history installations. You can come and paint a Pride rock. There will games played that day and so much for the community to come and experience,” said Church.

Find our more information at firstcitypridecenter.org