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Tracing the roots of the Milwaukee Pride Parade, from protest to celebration

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 Three men look at the camera with defiant looks on their faces in the middle of a parade crowd on a city street.
Cormac Kehoe
Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project

On this episode of Be Seen, we uncover the roots of the Milwaukee Pride Parade, a long-running Wisconsin tradition that has evolved and thrived alongside the community for more than 50 years.

The origins of the Milwaukee Pride Parade date back to the early 1970s. In those early days, it looked and felt much different than the celebration it is today. When the first pride demonstration took to the streets of Milwaukee — the first of its kind in state history — it was a radical act of protest, representing the community’s battle for equality.

The current Milwaukee Pride parade, however, brings a different kind of energy to the streets of Walker’s Point. Since it began in 2005, it has aimed to be an inclusive party, a celebration of all in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, representing diversity and acceptance.

In this episode, co-host Michail Tacach and I go back to 1971 by hearing directly from someone who represented Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ community in that first pride demonstration: "radical queen" Chuckie Betz, who's pictured in the Be Seen logo.

In a conversation as enlightening as it is entertaining, Betz shares how different that first demonstration was and how it connected bigger picture for LGBTQ+ people. Then we talk with present-day parade president Jim Molette, who speaks to his nearly 20-year effort keeping the “new” tradition going in Milwaukee.

But to start things off, we take you to this year’s parade, where we heard from young people in attendance — all representing Gen Z — on why pride demonstrations like this are still needed today.

We'll have new episodes of Be Seen every Tuesday during Pride Month. Hear them all — and catch up on the entire podcast, including season one — by subscribing in your podcast app or by using the icons at the top of the page.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee