On Friday, thanks to one of my “adopted” children and one of his good friends, I secured a press pass to shoot Pride Live’s Stonewall Day concert, held in Greenwich Village to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the riots that served as a turning point for the LGBTQ movement. The event featured a memorable speech by Lady Gaga, a three-song performance by Alicia Keys, and appearances by actors, musicians, models and political figures who are part of or are allies of the LGTBQ community.
Held as part of World Pride Week, which ends on Sunday, the midday celebration on Christopher Street was held outside the Stoneville Inn, the West Village landmark where six days of riots began on June 28, 1969. The Christopher Street Liberation Day March, held the following year, evolved into the annual Pride parades now celebrated around the world.
Sponsored by iHeart Radio’s z100 and United Airlines, Friday’s celebration featured speakers Chelsea Clinton, Donatella Versace, Whoopi Goldberg, Grace VanderWaal, Wilson Cruz, Pose stars Angelica Ross and Ryan Jamaal Smith, and Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s advisor who read a letter from him to those in attendance. Alex Newell, who played Asaka in the Tony-award winning revival of Once on This Island, performed a powerful version of “I’m Here” from The Color Purple.
Gaga and Keys, however, were the definite headliners. While she did not perform, Gaga gave an impassioned speech that lasted almost 15 minutes. She namechecked transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who helped lead the demonstrations, and noted that 11 trans women of color have been killed in the first six months of 2019.
“This community has fought and continued to fight a war of acceptance, a war of tolerance, and of the most relentless bravery,” a visibly moved Gaga told the crowd. “You are the definition of courage.”
Gaga, whose non-profit Born This Way Foundation benefits LGBTQ youth, said she will “continue to fight every day during shows, and even when I’m not on stage, to spread a message that’s actually quite simple: Be kind.
“And that kindness belongs to you,” she said. “It always has belonged to you, even when the world was not kind, it belonged to you.”
As the nearly two-hour event wound toward its close, RuPaul's Drag Race season eight winner Bob the Drag Queen came out to lip-sync Alicia Keys' 2012 hit "Girl on Fire." As it turned out, Keys was backstage performing the vocals live. She joined Bob on stage and then performed three more songs: a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," "In Common" and "Empire State of Mind."
At one point during her brief set, Keys pointed to the Stonewall Inn and smiled.
"Places are powerful. People are powerful,” she said. “And when we're together, we're even more powerful than imaginable.”
Thanks to Ginno Murphy and Tom Bagley for helping me get into the event and giving me the opportunity to chronicle this moment in time.
To see more photos from this event, go to my Facebook album here.