The names on that Stonewall

A sealed passageway that previously connected the building that currently houses the visitor’s center with the Stonewall Inn next door. On glass in front of the wall features a quote from Mark Segal. (Photo: Lauren Rowello)

It took two women of color the courage and vision to bring about the nation’s first LGBTQ+ visitor center in the National Parks service system. Thank you Diana Rodriguez and Ann Marie Gothard for your vision and asking me to join you on this adventure.

You know how they say just as you’re about to die that your life flashes before you? Well I’ve been having that experience all this week, and let me be clear here, I’m not intending on dying any time soon. Let me try to explain.

June 28 will be the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the new Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, and I’ve been an advisor on the exhibit which captures that infamous night on June 28, 1969 and the movement to create visibility and community that came from its ashes.

If you talk about Stonewall, you have to appreciate that what happened that night is a combined experience of many people and many voices. It took place over many hours and many city blocks.

Much has been written about Stonewall, from Donn Teal’s groundbreaking 1971 “The Gay Militants” to David Carter’s “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution” and many others. For me, the people that are most often spoken about in connection with Stonewall and the path afterwards were and are my friends.

Over the last week, we’ve been giving previews of the building to those who believed in the project from its beginning. For many, it’s a visit to history. For me, it’s a personal visit to my youth and the last 55 years.

When I’m in that building, at times I want to close my eyes and I find myself seeing Stonewall as it was when I was 18. It was the place we danced when there was no other place that would allow us. My friends, whose names are on that wall, come to me even though many of them are no longer with us. And then there’s all that we as a community have achieved, bringing us back to this building and those names on that wall.

Newsletter Sign-up