1972 : First Motor City Pride Parade

June 24, 2024 all-day

Merrilee Melvin was 24 years old in spring of 1972 when she was swiftly fired from her print shop job after coming out to a coworker. Soon afterward, she was hired at $25 a week by the Michigan Gay Federation to plan a public gathering to commemorate New York’s 1969 Stonewall riot, a turning point in the LGBT rights movement.

“I like to say I was probably the first professional lesbian in Detroit,” said Melvin, now 74.

The June 24, 1972 event drew a few hundred people, despite rain that lasted all day.

Merrilee Melvin (kneeling, center) and friends in Palmer Park during Detroit's first Pride weekend, June 25, 1972.

Motor City Pride returns to downtown Detroit this weekend for its 50th anniversary, and the organizer of the city’s first Pride event is looking back on how it all began.

“I wore a hat because I was getting rained on,” Melvin recalled. “There were anywhere from 200 to 400 people marching down Woodward Avenue — not in the middle of the street, sort of off to the side. There were lots of good signs, and men who were dressed up.

Source : Duante Beddingfield, “50 years ago, activists dared to hold first Pride gathering in Detroit”, Detroit Free Press, June 10, 2022.