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'I guess I made a difference': A look back at Cleveland Pride '89

How 33 years of area Pride celebrations started with a simple phone call.

CLEVELAND — Drew Cari and Marta Pontoni remember their first conversation about Cleveland Pride '89.

"She didn't even say hello," Drew recalled of Marta. "She said, 'Let's do this.'"

That phone call led to the two organizing a full-scale Pride celebration in Cleveland on June 18, 1989.  It was held at West 29th Street and Detroit Avenue in Ohio City, near where the current LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland now stands.

"We had like 600 people, and we were flabbergasted," Pontoni said of the event. "My big statement back then was about coming out; come out so people know you. When people know they have someone in their family, they act differently."

There was no march that year. Instead, a public commitment ceremony took place for couples during time when gay marriage was illegal and there were no true protections for the LGBTQ community.

"There were a lot of people, even a cousin of mine, who would not come to the Pride event because he was afraid of getting fired," Cari told us.

Since 1989, Cleveland has always had an annual Pride celebration. This year's drew thousands of people downtown.

"Only a couple times in my entire life [has] my jaw dropped," Cari said of Pride in the CLE 2022. "This celebration was it, because it was just a mass of people."

"I was very moved when I saw those pictures," Pontoni stated. "When I saw how many people were actually down there, it was a beautiful thing."

"I just get this all over smile with it," Cari added. "I guess I made a difference."

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