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On Independence Day, Philly Fêtes Half-Century of Activism

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Reenactment of the first Annual Reminder on July 4, 1965. | DONNA ACETO
Reenactment of the first Annual Reminder on July 4, 1965. | DONNA ACETO

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO | In a Fourth of July Weekend celebration, the city of Philadelphia marked the 50th anniversary of the first Annual Reminder demonstration. Organized by gay and lesbian activists from that city, New York, and Washington, the Reminders, held in front of Independence Hall on July 4 from 1965 through 1969, represented the first time the community staged a civil rights demonstration that was repeated on an annual basis. Equality Forum, a Philadelphia group that produces a week of LGBT-focused activities each May, put the four-day program together as a National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration.

The centerpiece of the weekend was a July 4 ceremony that honored the Annual Reminder pioneers, presented a reenactment of the ‘60s pickets, and focused on leading challenges facing the community today. There were also panel discussions on legal and political issues, an interfaith service, history exhibits at major museums across Philadelphia, and a concert, parties, and a Sunday afternoon street festival.

Emcee Wanda Sykes. | DONNA ACETO
Emcee Wanda Sykes. | DONNA ACETO

The Fourth of July ceremony was emceed by Wanda Sykes with events ranging from the Annual Reminder reenactment (top) to presentations from leaders including Amanda Simpson, who heads the US Army Office of Energy Initiatives and is the highest ranking transgender federal government employee.

Amanda Simpson. | DONNA ACETO
Amanda Simpson. | DONNA ACETO

John James. | DONNA ACETO
John James. | DONNA ACETO

Edie Windsor with Annual Reminder veteran Ada Bello. |DONNA ACETO
Edie Windsor with Annual Reminder veteran Ada Bello. |DONNA ACETO

The weekend brought together activists who made their mark at a variety of points in the past half century, including original Reminder participants John James; Ada Bello, seen with Edie Windsor, the victorious plaintiff in the 2013 case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act; and James Obergefell, the named plaintiff in last month's marriage equality win.

James Obergegell. | DONNA ACETO
James Obergegell. | DONNA ACETO

The exhibit at the National Constitution Center. | DONNA ACETO
The "Speaking Out for Equality" exhibit at the National Constitution Center. | DONNA ACETO

A “Speaking Out For Equality” exhibit at the National Constitution Center highlighted prevailing attitudes from the mid-20th century that homosexuality was a mental illness that could be cured and also documented the New York Daily News response to the Stonewall riots.

How the New York Daily News reported the Stonewall riots. | DONNA ACETO
How the New York Daily News reported the Stonewall riots. | DONNA ACETO

A July 3 interfaith service at Christ Church brought together (below, l. to r.) Reverend Jeff Jordan-Pickett of the Metropolitan Community Church, Tynan Power of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Bishop Gene Robinson, the retired head of the New Hampshire Episcopal Diocese, and Rabbi Linda Holtzman and Rabbi Margot Stein, both from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Faith leaders at the Christ Church service. | DONNA ACETO
Faith leaders at the Christ Church service. | DONNA ACETO

Bishop Gene Robinson. | DONNA ACETO
Bishop Gene Robinson. | DONNA ACETO

At a discussion July 3 about the movement’s earliest pioneers, Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim moderates a panel that includes (from left) San Francisco State University professor Marc Stein, who is a biographer of pioneering Philadelphia activist Barbara Gittings, Malcolm Lazin, the head of Equality Forum and chair of the 50th Anniversary Celebration, and Michael G. Long, a Elizabethtown College professor who is a biographer of Washington, DC, activist Frank Kameny.

A panel on movement pioneers. | DONNA ACETO
A panel on movement pioneers. | DONNA ACETO

Philadelphia’s downtown Gayborhood. | DONNA ACETO
Philadelphia’s downtown Gayborhood. | DONNA ACETO

Updated 5:14 pm, July 20, 2018
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