New York's highly anticipated World Pride festivities officially opened Wednesday with a benefit concert hosted by performer Whoopi Goldberg and featuring headliner Cyndi Lauper.

The event at Brooklyn's Barclays Center arena launches days of celebrations including more concerts, exhibitions, movie screenings, theatre shows and workshops as the city pays homage to those who took part in the 1969 Stonewall riots, a week-long protest against police harassment of the New York gay community at the time.

Billy Porter performing at the opening ceremony of World Pride in New York, kicking off days of gay rights celebrations / © AFP

Ticket proceeds from Wednesday's concert will go to three New York-based organizations supporting LGBTQ rights in the city.

Also set to perform are singers Chaka Khan and Ciara as well as Billy Porter, known for his showstopping red carpet looks and role on "Pose," a television series about the primarily Black and Latino underground drag ball scene of the 1980s and early 1990s.

"We've come a long way and we have a long way to go," Porter said on the rainbow carpet prior to the show. "And these moments right now, where we have all of the people together, when we're reminded of our strength, reminded of our strength inside of our unity, is what pride is about."

"I'm really really happy to be here and I can't wait."

Laverne Cox, a transgender actress known for her role in the hit series "Orange is the New Black," arrives for the opening ceremony of New York's World Pride celebration / © AFP

On Friday, a large crowd will gather outside Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn where on June 28, 1969 hundreds of gay and transgender people pushed back against the latest police raid on the establishment, sparking six days of unrest.

Laverne Cox, a transgender actress who rose to fame for her role on the hit series "Orange is the New Black," emphasized the obstacles that remain for the LGBTQ community.

"There's an attack on transgender people in our country right now and really all over the world," she said. "Violence against trans people, globally, is an epidemic."

New York's World Pride will include days of festivities as the city pays homage to those who took part in the 1969 Stonewall riots, a week-long protest against police harassment of the New York gay community at the time / © AFP

The weekend celebrations will feature concerts by Madonna and Grace Jones, winding up with a giant World Pride Parade on Fifth Avenue. It will be the sixth edition of World Pride, which began in Rome in 2000 and brought together droves of people from across the world.

New York's Gay Pride is regularly one of the largest such events globally, but for this year's milestone anniversary, authorities expect an additional two to three million visitors to attend.