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Proud Oak Parkers: Marches on Washington

October 11, 1987

The first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights took place on October 14, 1979, marking the tenth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and unifying LGBT voices from across the nation. Building on that framework, the second National March on Washington was the next major political rally advocating for lesbian and gay rights. Its success, size, scope, and historical importance earned it the name “The Great March.” The rally put the organized LGBT community on the national stage. It also marked the first national coverage of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and AIDS activists featured prominently in the march. Soon to be members and founders of OPLGA took part in the Chicago division of the march.  The sweatshirt and pink armband on the right were worn by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) member Nancy Johnson.

April 25, 1993

Still facing widespread discrimination and rising instances of LGBT-targeted hate crimes, the National Gay And Lesbian Task Force led the movement for a third rally in Washington. With between 800,000 and 1 million protestors in attendance, it is recorded as one of the largest protests in American history. This time, OPLGA made the historic trip to Washington, D.C. to take part in the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. Standing in front of the Washington Monument, OPLGA proudly held a banner declaring, “OAK PARK, ILLINOIS: SUBURBAN GAYS & LESBIANS THRIVING IN THE HEARTLAND,” and “LOOK IN THE MIRROR, AMERICA – WE ARE YOU!” Note the photograph below, which shows OPLGA member Alan Amato wearing a “SILENCE = DEATH” shirt emblazoned with a pink triangle.

Alan Amato in Washington D.C., 1993. Photo credit: OPALGA+ Collection

What did I get from participating in the march? I learned that no matter how much it sometimes feels like it, I’m never really alone. …I know now with more certainty than I ever have, that I am not alone in wanting to fight these injustices wherever they occur, especially when they’re committed by people who don’t even know the people they’re oppressing. Above all, the 1993 March on Washington was a very affirming experience. There really is hope for humankind.

-Phil Bellerive

march on washington, johnson
OPLGA members march in Washington D.C., 1993. Photo credit: Nancy Johnson.

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