Antwerp Pride 2019 commemorates Stonewall riots

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The twelfth edition of Antwerp Pride will take place from Wednesday 7 to Sunday 11 August 2019.

The theme this year will be RIOT. After all, in 2019 it is 50 years ago that the Stonewall riots broke out in New York, which meant a turning point in the emancipation struggle of LGBTs. With this theme Antwerp Pride returns to the roots of the international pride movement.

That the LGBT community in Belgium today has acquired a large number of rights and that we can organize an Antwerp Pride today is due to that eventful Saturday night on June 28, 1969 in New York.

Stonewall Inn

When the New York police held yet another raid in the Stonewall Inn gay bar in Christopher Street, the customers no longer tolerated this police brutality. Gays, lesbians, transgenders, sex workers and homeless people revolted together. Black and white stood side by side against a discriminating government. The sometimes playful skirmishes grew into the so-called Stonewall riots.

A few weeks after the riots, the first American LGBT organizations were founded and a year after the riots the first gay pride parches were organized. The gay and transgender movement was born.

2019 thus becomes a special year for all LGBTs who are lucky enough that they can openly be who they are. It also becomes a year of solidarity with those who continue to be prosecuted, criminalized and excluded because of their sexual orientation.

With RIOT as a theme, Antwerp Pride looks back with gratitude on the enormous journey that has been made within our society, but at the same time we turn the pilot flame higher.

Then and now

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“50 years is not that long ago, not even a human life”, says Antwerp Pride chairman Bart Abeel. “What has changed for the better in those fifty years is one of the great social changes in our history. It is important to think about this. But at the same time we want to see what those riots mean for a new generation. We should not forget the recent cases of gay bashing in our country, the precarious situation of LGBT refugees or LGBT sex workers. Disturbing polarizing statements by certain politicians at home and abroad – just think of Brazil – must keep us alert.”

Riot does not only mean riots, but ‘to cause a riot’ or ‘to be a riot’ also has the connotation of fun. Turning things up quite a bit. “And we can do that very well at Antwerp Pride,” smiles Bart Abeel. “Besides the seriousness there will also be a lot of space for music and color.”

Antwerp Queer Arts Festival

The idea for the theme comes from the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival (AQAF) that starts on 5 August. AQAF will also pay a lot of attention to the Stonewall riots as an arts festival.

“Over the years, AQAF has become a good partner for Antwerp Pride,” Abeel says. “The fact that we are now coming out together with one common theme can only strengthen our cooperation.”

Traditionally Antwerp Pride takes place during the second weekend of August. Antwerp Pride 2019 will therefore start on Wednesday 7 August and close on Saturday 11 August.

The permanent ingredients such as human rights activities, the parade, the Love United Festival, Pride Night and the Closing Festival remain. “Like every year, we think of a few surprises and that will not be different for this edition, but more about that later,” says Abeel.

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