Nearly 50 years ago, Michigan’s first LGBTQ+ pride event was held in Detroit. Christopher Street Detroit ‘72 was a week of events that commemorated the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
College for Creative Studies graduate Isabel Clare Paul and LGBTQ studies professor Tim Retzloff collaborated to create a free comic book that highlights this celebration.
Retzloff, a historian, has been researching Christopher Street Detroit ‘72 for years. He said that deciding to create a comic was a combination of the upcoming 50th anniversary, and wanting to be purposeful during COVID-19 lockdowns. The story is told in quotes from both eyewitnesses and news coverage at the time.
“I thought it would just be useful to just use their voices,” Retzloff said. “The individuals' voices, but also the press account voices, because they’re telling, too. I mean, there's kind of some snark in how the Detroit News in the Detroit Free Press is writing about this.”
He said that telling about this historical event in this way makes for a complicated story, but that’s how the event was — there were different perspectives and conflicting recounts shaping news coverage and how people regard the event.
Each page of the book is brimming with color. Paul chose to create the images so vibrantly to give a sense of nostalgia for the era when this event took place.
“The colors were kind of based off of warm tones that are generally associated with fashion trends for the 70s,” Paul said. “We tried to use that but then also make them really vibrant and exciting.”
Paul and Retzloff chose to make the comic free because they wanted the information to be easily accessible. It’s also important to them that LBGTQ+ youth and people who don’t have extra money are able to read the story.
“The stories were almost lost over time because a lot of the people who organized it, they're getting older or they've passed on,” Paul said. “We really wanted to make it easy to get your hands on and accessible, and make sure that if you are interested in the story, you have the ability to find it easily.”
Retzloff wants the comic to inform people that when they go to Pride events, there is a strong history behind them.
“The very first time that there was a Pride in Michigan,” Retzloff said. “People were putting themselves at risk. And they thought it was important to be visible nonetheless.”
The comic will first become available on May 7, and it will be available for free in several local spaces, including The Resistance Bookstore and The Gender and Sexuality Campus Center.
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