In June of 1978, a filmmaker named Gary Davis armed with a Bolex H16 camera and a cassette recorder, set out to document the Gay Pride Day celebrations in Washington D.C. The result was a unique two-roll documentary capturing the spirit of the LGBTQ+ community during a time when visibility was still a rarity.

Shot on 16mm short film, the footage, which recently started recirulating online, captures the vibrant and colorful atmosphere of Pride, offering a glimpse into the early years of the LGBTQ+ movement when the community was still fighting for basic rights and visibility.

The clip opens with a man speaking about the GAA (Gay Activist Alliance) of Washington and the group’s plans to raise awareness around educating people on gay issues and what “gays are all about.”

This was in response to various initiatives and referendums that had been held around the country at the time, resulting in gay rights being removed in four cities. The man speaks of a poster project the group is working on, with plans to have over 250 metro buses adorned with posters promoting queer visibility.

The spirit of resilience and celebration is powerful, with shots of people decorated in flowers and glitter face paint on their faces, speeches to the crowd, $1 haircuts for all, drag queens, and dancing in the streets.

In addition to the visual footage, the documentary is accompanied by music from Casse Culver with the song “What We Gonna Do (About Anita),” adding an extra layer of emotion to the film with the lyrics “All the gay people down by the sea / Loving each other with plans to be free / Anita Bryant says ‘I want you all to disappear’ / ‘Go back in the closet to live in fear’ / Oh, what are we going to do?”

Despite the challenges of filming with limited equipment, the filmmaker was able to produce a final version with color film finished with an optical soundtrack. The result is a testament to the filmmaker’s dedication to capturing this moment in history and preserving it for future generations.

The history of Pride celebrations dates back to the Stonewall riots of 1969 when members of the LGBTQ+ community fought back against police harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The event sparked a movement and inspired the first Pride march in New York City the following year.

Since then, Pride celebrations have taken place around the world as a way to commemorate the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and celebrate the diversity of the community. Davis’s documentary captures a moment in time when the LGBTQ+ community was fighting for acceptance and equality, providing a unique window into the early years of the movement.

Today, we can appreciate the importance of this footage in documenting the LGBTQ+ community’s history, celebrate the progress made, and acknowledge that there is still much work to be done in fighting for a more just and equal society, remembering the struggles of those who came before us and honor their legacy by continuing to fight for a better future for all.

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