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 Perry Brass
By Chloe Smolarski
Reviewed by Burton W. Peretti
By Matt Kautz
However, the rehabilitative push was short-lived and movements to punish drug users and distributors culminated in the passage of the country’s harshest drug laws, the Rockefeller Drug Laws, in 1973. In large part, the criminalization of Black drug users and dealers in New York City drove this punitive turn. By looking at New York state’s response to heroin in Harlem during the 1960s, we can better understand how racialized narratives about drug addiction impact policy.
Carol Lamberg's Neighborhood Success Stories: Creating and Sustaining Affordable Housing in New York
Reviewed by Nicholas Dagen Bloom
Mayors LaGuardia, Wagner, Koch, Bloomberg, and de Blasio get all the attention for affordable or public housing. Lost in the “top down” approach are key figures such as NYCHA founder Mary Simkhovitch; the Rose family that was deeply involved in Mitchell-Lama; or the Koch-era HPD leader Felice Michetti who today manages thousands of subsidized units. New York’s deep bench in the private/public world of housing development and management was as important as the largescale programs.
By Terri N. Watson
Edwards led I.S. 201’s Community Education Center and, along with her dear friend and neighbor Hannah Brockington, served on its 21-member governing body. The center was housed in I.S. 201: a windowless structure that contained an intermediate school and nearly a dozen centers and programs created to meet Harlem’s needs. It was also one of the three demonstration school districts established in 1967 after New York City’s Black and Hispanic parents demanded a say in their children’s schooling. The other two districts were located in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, and in lower Manhattan.
By Jarrod Shanahan
Inside the courtroom, New York Panther Abayama Katara recalled, uniformed police sought to provoke the Panthers by poking them with nightsticks. But Katara and his comrades “weren’t fools and were completely outnumbered.” Facing around 250 cops in and out of uniform, the Panthers attempted to leave in peace. As they filed out, however, an off-duty cop with a gun scarcely concealed in his right hip pocket shouted: “There’re the Panthers! Let’s get ‘em!” At this, the mob of cops attacked, throwing punches and kicks, and swinging blackjacks high above their heads and down onto the heads of the young activists and militants while maniacally chanting “Wallace for President,” and “White Tigers eat Black Panthers!”
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