Bronx Community Board 7 approved a motion to hang a pride flag in the district on April 25, in its second-to-last general board meeting before Pride Month — though members didn’t decide on a location within the district, and said they couldn’t promise it would be flying by June.
The motion, which read “the committee recommends the raising of a pride flag during the month of June somewhere in Bronx Community Board 7,” passed with 19 votes last Tuesday. Three members abstained from voting — Myrna Calderon, Daisy Perry and Edgar Ramos — and one board member, Helene Redd, opposed the motion.
The deliberation last Tuesday was a continuation of the discussion from the parks, recreation and cultural affairs CB7 subcommittee meeting on April 12 — where a member of the community requested a pride flag be flown at the Bronx Victory Memorial during Pride Month to honor queer veterans, especially those impacted by the U.S. government’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. This legislation during former President Bill Clinton’s administration allowed queer people — who were previously discharged from the service for being openly gay regardless of their behavior or skillset — into the military as long as they concealed their sexual orientation publicly. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2010.
“I am a lifelong CB7 resident and I’m here tonight requesting that pride flags be installed here in Mosholu Parkway’s Bronx Victory Memorial during Pride Month, or June, in honor of the Bronx’s and CB7’s often forgotten LGBTQIA+ community,” Armando “AJ” Ramos told the board at the April 12 meeting. “As to not forget the many brave Americans who have fought over the years for our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and no taxation without representation — this request will also honor CB7’s own.”
Pride — a month of visibility and recognition to honor queer people across the country — has historic roots in New York City. Celebrated every year in June, Pride Month commemorates the queer pioneers who led the Stonewall Uprisings in Manhattan in the late 1960s.
On June 28, 1969, at a time when homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense, police raided the Stonewall Inn — a gay bar in the West Village. According to the Library of Congress, the bar had already been raided once that week, but the June 28 invasion was the tipping point for queer activists — who rebelled against the cops for six days — and by extension, the Gay Liberation movement as a whole.
The first Pride march in New York City took place on June 28, 1970, on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprisings. And the original rainbow pride flag — each color representing a different part of the queer community — was created in 1978.
The Stonewall Inn, now designated as a National Historic Landmark and State Historic Site, is still a fully operational gay bar to this day.
The debate during the subcommittee meeting and Tuesday’s general board meeting was similar — members were at odds with each other about whether or not the memorial site is the right place for the Pride symbol.
“It was felt that the monument was there to honor the war dead with no concern regarding anybody’s race, religion, cultural background or sexual orientation,” said Barbara Stronczer — the vice chair of the parks, recreation and cultural affairs committee — during the CB7 general board meeting. “We also felt that if we said yes to that particular location, it would result in other groups and organizations wanting to raise their flag. So we felt that the primary goal of the monument is to honor the war dead, but we were not opposed to finding another site for the pride flag.”
Other members of CB7 voiced their disagreement, saying that relegating the flag to another location is not giving the queer community the visibility it deserves.
Alfred Grant, who said he comes from a time “when they frowned on gay rights,” said queer veterans should be memorialized on Mosholu Parkway.
“I know for a fact there were gay soldiers, and they died fighting for this country,” he said. “Black, blue, gay, whatever, should be putting their flag where the soldiers died for this United States of America.”
Betty Arce, another board member, argued that the concern about opening a can of worms for other groups to request flag hangings is a moot point.
“I don’t think we’re going to see groups clamoring to have a Puerto Rican flag or a Dominican flag,” Arce said. “This transcends race. This has to do with the type of discrimination that soldiers who are gay (and) lesbian encountered, and were never able to voice who they were (or) be who they are, but they died for our country.”
Stronczer said in order to specify the Bronx Victory Memorial as the location for the flag, the motion would have to be scrapped and passed back to committee. But that, along with getting the proper permit from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, will take time.
“We’re not going to probably get it done for Pride Month anyway,” she said. “We have to get permission and we have to get the flag and whatever. So it might be for next year.”
In an interview with the Bronx Times, Karla Cabrera Carrera — who was voted in as the new CB7 district manager during the same meeting last Tuesday — said that she’s not sure how long it will take to get approved for the flag.
“City agencies usually work by layers,” she said. “So we can apply for a permit but it doesn’t mean that it will get granted or it doesn’t mean that it will happen for this June.”
NYC Parks did not respond to Bronx Times questions about the flag process as of Tuesday.
As of Friday, Cabrera Carrera said she hadn’t yet applied for a pride flag permit through the department.
— Megan LaCreta contributed to this report
Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes