HUDSON VALLEY – Fifty years ago, the New York Police Department attempted to raid the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer patrons. But the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 saw a change in the course of history when those New Yorkers fought back and started the multi-day uprising that we now know as the Stonewall Riots, led by transgender and lesbian activists of color, including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé Delarverie. This moment marked the start of our modern LGBTQ rights movement and inspires this year's theme of
Looking Back, Marching Forward
and the selection of Grand Marshals who represent both the rich history and bright future of the LGBTQ community.
The Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center has selected former SUNY New Paltz Professor Denise Oliver-Velez and community organizer Rae Leiner as Grand Marshals for the Pride March and Festival in New Paltz, taking place on Sunday, June 2 at 12pm. The March and Festival are the centerpiece of a month of special cultural and social events organized by the Center, which is based in Uptown Kingston and serves LGBTQ people and their allies across the Hudson Valley.
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former SUNY New Paltz Professor of Anthropology and Women's Studies, is being honored for her work in the Civil Rights, women's, and HIV/AIDS movements. Oliver-Velez is also a former member of the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party.
Rae Leiner is the co-founder and co-Director of the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center, the former director of the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative in the city of Newburgh, and a former Community Voices Heard organizer in Orange County. Leiner brings over fifteen years of professional experience in the non-profit field and social justice work, with a focus on racial and economic justice.
“The Center chose the theme ‘Looking Back, Marching Forward’ because our fight is not over,” said Center Executive Director Jeff Rindler. “Our community has come so far in the past 50 years; and yet we still face significant threats to our rights and livelihood. In the Hudson Valley nearly one third of LGBTQ people cited discrimination or ignorance in medical settings as a barrier to healthcare. We have witnessed watershed cultural shifts towards acceptance and a ban on conversion therapy in New York, but LGBTQ youth still experience bullying and family estrangement at disproportionate rates; New York recently passed the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act, but every day we come closer to the right to discriminate being legalized through religious exemptions at the federal level. We are fighting for equal protections under the law, inclusive curriculums, and access to life-saving healthcare and resources for our community.”
Other Pride events include the repainting the crosswalks in front of the Center at 300 Wall Street in Kingston with the rainbow and trans pride flags on Saturday, June 1 at 9am, plus an art exhibition of “The Out List” by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders from 1-4pm and an Pride opening reception from 5-7pm.
The Center welcomes volunteers and event sponsors for Pride Month. For a full list of events, please visit
or call 845-331-5300 to get involved.
: Advance interviews are available by contacting Julia Liu at
or 845-331-5300 Ext. 105. Press sign in on June 2
is at Main Street and N. Manheim Street at 12pm and at the Festival in Hasbrouck Park at the Center’s Table starting at 1:30pm.