Marla R. Stevens

Pride founding mother, Brenda Howard's, memorial service announced

Filed By Marla R. Stevens | July 21, 2005 1:07 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement

Brenda Howard, LGBT/Leather activist most recently active in bisexual rights organizing, leader of the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance in the early post-Stonewall movement, died of cancer on June 28, 2005 in Queens, New York.

From an obituary circulated by her longtime companion, Larry Nelson:

A militant activist who helped plan and participated in LGBT rights actions for more than three decades. Ms. Howard was a major player in starting the annual Pride celebrations that take place every year around the world. She coordinated the 1-month anniversary rally and the 1-year rally/march commemorating the Stonewall Rebellion, which became the annual New York City Pride March. Howard also originated the idea for a week-long series of events around Pride Day, called Pride Week. Most U.S. states and many countries and cities around the world now celebrate Pride Day/Week annually, descended directly from those first marches and rallies in New York City which Howard coordinated and created.

Howard's activism included the Gay Activists Alliance; the Gay Liberation Front; the New York Area Bisexual Network's Info Line; numerous groups at "The Center" in New York City; the 1993 March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian and Bi Rights and Liberation; and Stonewall 25 (1994). Ms. Howard is survived by her partner, Larry Nelson. A funeral service was held on Sunday, July 3 at 10 a.m. at Schwartz Brothers Memorial Chapel, 114-03 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills. The burial was private.

I remember Brenda from many occasions, including at the Leather Women's after-DOJ building conference party we Michigan festival leather organizers threw at the Watergate during the 87 MOW weekend. But I remember most fondly being in jail with her in Atlanta following an ACT-UP protest at the state capitol in protest of the firing of a lesbian from the state attorney general's office because she was an unconvicted felon due to the same Georgia sodomy law that was at issue in Hardwick v. Bowers, reading steamy novels aloud to the assembled grrlz and being as much of a pain in the rear as possible so they'd not want to hold us any longer than absolutely necessary.

The jail spokesperson announced to the waiting crowd that they'd soon be releasing us a few at a time with whispered aside by one jail employee that they'd be letting the most irksome of us go first. Everyone speculated that the first woman out would thus be Brenda -- everyone except Phyllis, who said, no, that it would be her loving spouse.

The few there besides Phyllis who knew me knew me only as a lobbyist who generally wore skirts and heels and makeup and made necessary political compromises they'd never dream of and thus thought Phyllis a bit daft. I was not only the first woman released but the first person. Brenda, though, followed close behind and we forged a bond of mutual bad girl respect because of it that lasted through the years, including the production of the 1993 March and the work to create Stonewall 25.

I miss my colleague in crime. The worst part of growing older is that such missing grows right along with it.

A memorial service will be held on July 31, 2005 at 12-2pm Room 301 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center 208 W 13th Street, New York, NY 10011. For directions, see the Center's website .

To Find out more about Brenda and her life's work, see the Brenda Howard Memorial Website.

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AUTHOR: Larry Nelson

DATE: 7/24/2005 09:08:24 PM

I a search on Alta Vista and found you post about my (sorry our) Brenda. I would like to thank you for posting more information on her. I will try to add some of it to her webpage. PLEASE post something to her GUEST BOOK the link is near the bottom of the page.Again thank youHer partner- Larry - [email protected]