By Cynthia Tobar
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, created in 1900, was the first monument of its kind that sought the active involvement of Americans in nominating their favorite "Great Americans.” The Hall was conceived of by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University (NYU), who envisioned a democratic election process for selecting these greats modeled after presidential elections. Nominations came to the election center and after a person received a certain number of votes, an NYU Senate of 100 voters made the final choice. The Senate was composed of American leaders: past American presidents, presidents of colleges, senators, and men of renown in various fields. Problems soon arose, however, when this initial process yielded 29 nominees, all male. The lack of women created a scandal and in the next election eight women were elected (currently, there are 11 women in the Hall). However, the contentious nomination of Robert E. Lee remained.
Today on the blog, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with a series of short essays by activists, writers, and scholars whose lives and work have been shaped by the events of June 1969 and their aftermath. This year, the scale of celebration and commemoration in New York is larger than ever — more than 4 million people are expected to attend this weekend’s festivities, and an estimated 115,000 people will be marching at Pride. In the city, more than two dozen different exhibitions that engage with LGBTQ art, history, and activism are on view, and two recently published anthologies, The Stonewall Reader and The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History, invite 2019 readers to interpret the events at Stonewall by revisiting sources from the time.
Alongside this wealth of celebration and commemoration, there is also tension and unrest. Social and legal gains for LGBTQ people have been numerous since 1969; the declassification of homosexuality and gender variance as mental illnesses, the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide, and the growth in employment and housing protections for LGBTQ people are all the fruits of decades of activism. At the same time, these benefits have reached members of the community unevenly and have deepened existing rifts and fueled increasingly urgent debates about how to set priorities, how to allocate resources, and how to shape the discourse around LGBTQ rights.
The Stonewall Uprising and the way it is remembered is intrinsic to this tension. We variously mark the anniversary with celebration of how far we’ve come and with urgent reminders of how far we’ve yet to go. At the Gotham blog, we’ve chosen to embrace the debate and offer a cross-section of it here, rather than attempting to assert a single, settled interpretation of what Stonewall means in 2019. There are eight million stories in the naked city; today we offer nine of them. — Katie Uva, ed.
By Emily Brooks
Interference Archive is a Brooklyn-based organization that collects and houses materials created as part of social movements. These materials, which include posters, flyers, publications, buttons, and much more, are stored and exhibited in an open stacks archival collection at 314 7th street in Park Slope. In addition to organizing and maintaining the collection, which is open to all, Interference’s volunteers also showcase the archival collections through exhibits and various community events aimed at supporting contemporary activism. This spring, I sat down with two of Interference’s volunteers, Ryan and Nora, to talk about how the space works and the role they see the archive playing in connecting social movements of the past with those of today.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
By Scott M. Larson
Wins by left-leaning candidates in 2018 midterm elections have led many to suggest a progressive revolution is under way in Democratic — if not American — politics. With each successive victory progressive candidates have staked out bold positions on hot-button issues from Medicare-for-all to a $15 federal minimum wage and free college education.
But what isn’t so clear is what this insurgent wave and its progressive mantle mean for the shaping and planning of our cities.
That question took on added significance just a week after the midterm elections when Amazon announced plans to build one of two new headquarters in Long Island City. Details of the plan, which involved more than a billion dollars in publicly funded incentives from New York City and New York State, drew swift criticism from many on the left, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the progressive movement’s rising stars.
“Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez, who in November was elected to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District, which borders the district that includes Long Island City. “The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”
While opposition from Ocasio-Cortez and other local politicians, along with fierce resistance from community residents, ultimately led Amazon to back out of the plan, the larger question remains: what is progressive urban policy, and how does it hope to address the myriad problems facing America’s cities?
By Nick Juravich
However, as Dawson and Joe discussed in their Labor Online interview, by charting this “movement of movements,” The Defiant reveals the interconnectedness of struggles that are often studied separately. It also shows how diverse movements and actions are, in many ways, “expressions of protest against the same thing — crass greed that is destroying people’s lives and undercutting democracy.” The same is true when we tighten the frame. One of the joys of this book, for me, was connecting the dots not just across the country, but between diverse forms of organizing in New York City.
With all that in mind, I thought I’d start by walking through the three “New York moments” in the book, and then ask Dawson to reflect on some of the larger questions that arise when we look closely at protest in post-liberal Gotham.
By Molly Rosner
Molly Rosner works at the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College. The piece below, and any opinions expressed within, do not represent the Archives or the College’s point of view.
On November 13, 2018, Amazon announced that Long Island City would become the site for its new headquarters “HQ2” along with a site in Crystal City, Virginia. Since then, New Yorkers have greeted this announcement with both applause and outrage. Throughout the year, Amazon has received bids from cities and towns across the country trying to entice the trillion-dollar company to their area. But after the gimmicks and tax incentives have all been weighed, it feels clear that New York was always high on the list of places the company was considering.
Reactions have been swift and dramatic. LaGuardia Community College, in Long Island City, added a note to its website that reads, “We’re very proud that LaGuardia was a key player in the proposal process to bring Amazon here, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that LaGuardia’s diverse and talented students were a big plus for LIC.” The President of LaGuardia Community College, Gail Mellow, posted an open letter on the college website welcoming the company and saying, “we’re ready for Amazon to make a commitment to education and workforce training in Long Island City, and are ready to support Amazon in Queens as its educational partner.”At the same time others, including professors at the college, have expressed concern about how Amazon’s presence in the area will impact the already burdened infrastructure and transportation system.
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