JOSHUA TREE –– In the summer of 1969 a series of protests broke out at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City that was subject to a violent police raid targeting patrons who were primarily members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The events at Stonewall sparked a push for gay equality throughout New York City and are now considered the catalyst that drove the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement.
This June, thousands of cities across the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and last weekend, Joshua Tree joined in with a weekend full of art, music and camaraderie.
Joshua Tree Pride 2019 kicked off Friday with the opening of “Queerated,” an exhibit at the Arttrap in downtown Joshua Tree. Artists included Matt Blansett, who displayed a colorful acrylic painting titled “Big Gay Self Portrait,” and C. Bartholomew, who contributed an oil painting of Amanda Overmire called “Symmetry.” The show featured an array of artwork that tackled diverse topics, but many of the pieces focused on identity and self-expression.
On Saturday at the Shops at Zanny’s hundreds of people filtered in and out for a day of music and comedy. Musicians and bands including Ted Quinn, Loren Downer, Probe 7 and Blood Candy performed.
“We’re so happy to be here,” said Tara Jane, lead singer of Blood Candy. “We’ve attended many Pride events together throughout the years but this is the first one we’ve gotten to perform at.”
After the musical performances, a group of local actors performed the “Stonewall 50th Anniversary One-Act,” a play written by Peter Bolton that showed the Stonewall Riots from the perspective of Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was a transgender activist who stood on the front lines at the Stonewall Riots.
“Even in the darkest of closets, there is a light,” her character said in the production.
A group of around 40 people returned to the Zanny’s courtyard Sunday for a poetry reading. Three young people from the Los Angeles street poetry nonprofit Get Lit and Compton poet Claudia Rodriguez performed their original work.
Morongo Basin locals followed, reading works by iconic poets like James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg and Audre Lorde along with newer writers like Saeed Jones and Andrea Gibson.
As Angela Mia Torres, who managed the Pride celebration in Joshua Tree, operated the soundboard and kept a watchful eye, words about doubt, celebration, oppression and desire filtered through the sun-dappled air.
“Why do I have to prove my love is authentic?” Torres read when she took the mic, performing “Dear Straight People by Denice Frohman.
“But tonight, I am drunk in my freedom, grab her hand on the busiest street corner in Philadelphia, zip my fingers into hers and press our lips firmly, until we melt their stares into a standing ovation.”