One year after the famous Stonewall Riot Brenda Howard worked as part of the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee to organise the first Pride March in the US. Her work coordinating the event and her idea that there should be a week of pride events around the march would earn her the title ‘Mother of Pride’.
Without the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee’s work Pride as we know it wouldn’t exist. They brought local queer groups and individuals together in a public celebration to make a vital political point: we should not have to hide. There’s nothing shameful about our genders, sexualities, or presentations.
Brenda Howard’s activism wasn’t limited to making sure that Stonewall was remembered. In Remembering Brenda: An Ode To the ‘Mother of Pride’ Brenda’s partner Larry Nelson wrote “You needed some kind of help organizing some type of protest or something in social justice? All you had to do was call her and she’ll just say when and where.”
Brenda was a fierce activist for bisexual rights. She founded the New York Area Bisexual Network, which fought for bi visibility and helped bisexual people in New York find bi-friendly events and groups. She was also part of the push for the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights to be renamed to include bi people, and in 1993 it was. The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation saw queer people from across the country marching to demand political and social changes towards queer liberation.
According to Larry Nelson Brenda Howard “was an in-your-face activist” who “fought for anyone who had their rights trampled on.” In 1988 she was arrested at a demonstration for national health care and the fair treatment of women, people of colour, and people living with HIV and AIDS. Three years later she was arrested again in Georgia while protesting with ACT UP after the state attorney general’s office fired a staff member for being a lesbian under Georgia’s anti-sodomy law. These weren’t the only times she was arrested for her activism, but she never stopped fighting.
We owe a lot to the people who fought for queer rights before us, and Brenda Howard is one of those activists. Bisexuals still face biphobia from straight people and from other queer people and queer Jews still have to deal with antisemitism and erasure in queer communities. Every single person who’s ever marched at pride, attended a Midsumma or Pride Month event, or appreciated seeing these huge public celebrations of queer identity has Brenda Howard to thank. The next time you hear someone question a bi person or queer Jew about their identity or their place at a pride march remind them that without a bisexual Jewish woman there wouldn’t be anything to march at.