On Stage

Bellingham Pride

A date with diversity

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tree Sequoia was at New York City’s Stonewall Inn in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.

He didn’t know it, but many of the gay men, lesbians dressed in men’s clothes and drag queens in attendance at the dingy West Village bar that night would be part of history by evening’s end, when a police raid at the venue turned into a five-day riot by citizens tired of being discriminated against simply because of who they loved or what they wore.

Almost 50 years later, Stonewall is seen by many historians as being the center of the gay rights movement by kick-starting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fight for equality.

“I was in jail about 12 times for being in gay bars,” Sequoia said in a recent interview. “Some nights they’d throw us out and we’d go back to the bar the next time. Sometimes they’d take everybody in the bar into the wagons and we’d spend the night in the holding cell. The night of the rebellion, I was there dancing with my friends to a Lindy Hop or a stroll when the cops came.”

After a fire broke out in the bar, Sequoia escaped the building and watched a mob of hundreds gather outside—many of whom were more than willing to take on the cops. Not long afterward, he left with friends, not realizing the significance of the night’s events.

Before Sequoia takes on the role of Grand Marshall at the Bellingham Pride Parade Sun., July 15, he’ll find time to discuss the events of that night at 7pm Fri., July 13 at the Mount Baker Theatre (and also at a meet-and-greet at Miller’s Back Door following the talk). Attendees at the free events will also likely hear about the decades he spent working as a bartender at the Stonewall Inn—which still serves as a central gathering place when tragedy strikes or celebratory milestones are reached within the community.

Between the night of the talk and before the parade and subsequent Pride Festival, additional events taking place in Bellingham will also provide ways not just to celebrate equality, but also to have a good time while doing it.

At 8:30pm Fri., July 13, a free Pride Youth Dance featuring DJ BigBoi will see dancers of all ages getting their groove on for a few hours in a safe, welcoming atmosphere at Make.Shift Art Space.

On Sat, July 14, a number of events will fill the calendar. Start off your evening by attending the annual Bellingham Pride Drag Show at 6pm at Rumors Cabaret before heading to the 21-and-over Whatcom Pride Dance happening from 7:30-11:30pm at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship (http://www.pridedance.brownpapertickets.com). At 8:30pm, Frisky Fandoms hosts a Pride Burlesque show at State Street’s Firefly Lounge, followed by a dance party.

Be sure to keep your rainbow attire at the ready for Sunday, when downtown Bellingham and the Depot Market Square become ground zero for the second-largest Pride event in Washington state. Diversity is the name of the game, so if you agree that “love is love,” come join the party.

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