Connect with us

National

Stonewall ignited gay liberation

And even more LGBT history was made in 1970

Published

on

Morris Kight, center, in first CSW Pride parade with Rev. Troy Perry in black behind him. (Photo courtesy Brian Traynor and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, via ‘Making Gay History’)

The 1960s was the era of creative transformation as young people took up John F. Kennedy’s call to service and television changed life from black and white to vivid color. By May 18, 1969 Apollo 10 transmitted the first color images of the planet Earth as seen from space and suddenly “wonder” was no longer a fanciful promise offered by Walt Disney.

It was an era of peace, love, happiness and dreams that a shared humanity would eradicate poverty, racism, sexism, and entrenched inequality.

But it was also the era in which the government got caught lying about the war in Vietnam, about thousands of young men sent to ignoble and senseless deaths. Revolution was on the lips of thousands of Parisian students, Maoists in China and fans of the Beatles’ “White Album” in 1968. Changing the world was not a theory, a desire, but an action.

And action was fraught with danger. Two of the most prominent progressive heroes expected to lead that non-violent revolution and restore faith in America – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy – were assassinated. Eyes on the prize were refocused, turning darkly inward as protests for justice and equality transformed into liberation movements with sharper edges and a pall of violence.

No one thought limp-wristed sissies who couldn’t throw a softball would even know how to throw a punch. But after Stonewall in June 1969, police and tabloid reporters in cities around the country speculated about all the pent up rage boiling behind those secret closet doors. It was clear to young New Yorkers that Stonewall was not a one-and-done reaction to a police raid. By November, some activists had organized into the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Alliance and NYU’s Student Homophile League proposed an annual commemorative demonstration in New York on the last Saturday in June called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY. The activists contacted gay activists in other cities to share their idea.

Being gay was no longer an arbitrary individual behavior; a chosen community was being born.

Meanwhile in Hollywood, anti-war activist/organizer Morris Kight also decided to start a Gay Liberation Front—LA was one of five cities launch GLFs in the aftermath of Stonewall. Kight’s GLF provided direct services to gays and lesbians, especially homeless youth, and pro bono legal advice for those being discharged from the military, STD shots, or busted for being gay. Kight also set up rap groups to develop self-esteem through shared story-telling akin to AA shares and feminist consciousness raising.

In November 1969, Kight took out a small ad in the leftist L.A. Free Press saying he wanted to hold a homosexual organizing meeting. He later told Eric Markus of Making Gay History that Stonewall “had not one trace of an influence upon my work.”

In fact, Kight said, “I had a number of telephone calls from payphones by Christopher Park, by Sheridan Square, while the Stonewall rebellion was going on, and since I was in the midst of a whole variety of rebellions, since I was up to my neck in civil disobedience, since I was up to my neck in television and radio and newspapers, I was up to my neck in organizing…against the war in Vietnam, and against poverty, and against racism, and against classism, and against redlining. I was involved in super-radical activities, and so I absorbed it as just one more interesting activity, except it was us instead of them. And that was the only difference, uh, that came in my mind, I said, “Well, fine, thank you for calling, that’s very interesting, I’m happy it’s happening.” Uh, the Stonewall, uh, rebellion did not influence my founding the Gay Liberation Front of Los Angeles.”

But it may well have influenced those who joined him, which in turn influenced Kight’s response.

“The country was ripe with discontent and rebellion, people were already mobilized and Kight seized the momentum, as he liked to put it, to ‘free my people.’ When Morris Kight shifted his thinking and refocused his energy, he made sure that it created a rippling effect. He tapped organizational muscle, skills, and funds from the Peace Movement, Black Power, Feminism, and the LA Mission,” writes Mary Ann Cherry in her upcoming biography MORRIS KIGHT: Humanist, Liberationist, Fantabulist A Story of Gay Rights and Gay Wrongs due out in April 2020 from Process Media.

Among those who joined GLF was a young activist named Don Kilhefner, with whom Kight would disrupt an American Psychiatric Association Conference and later found the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center. Their first headquarters in a rented old Victorian on Wilshire Boulevard stopped traffic with residents and tourists alike shocked to see such an open display of the word “Gay.”

“After Stonewall, we were on fire. Something was unleashed in us. After all those decades of being told who we are, we began to define ourselves and found ourselves to be good, decent people,” Kilhefner told filmmakers Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer for their forthcoming documentary Cured.  “So part of our work was not only fighting back against the shrinks, but also working with gay people to undo the harm that had been done to us. And it felt like ripples went out across the country. In every major city, something happened. In San Francisco and Chicago, in Atlanta, in New York, in Boston, something happened, and in each town it was different depending on what the circumstances were, who was meeting, and what was going on there — but we were everywhere.”

In LA, Kight wanted to ensure that GLF meetings were radical, democratic, and based in the spirit of non-violence, no matter how much rage spilled out at rap meetings tackling the root cause of gay oppression—lack of self-acceptance. That pain also created bitchy attacks on one another, which Kight called “oppression sickness.” 

But Kight was a keen organizer.

“Kight saw the big picture of gay rights as building-up one person at a time, and he didn’t let anyone leave those meetings without being affected in some positive way or learning something,” Cherry writes. “Often described as a ‘warm and encouraging leader’ and ‘father figure’ in the Gay Liberation Front, Kight did a private appraisal of every able body that expressed interest in the movement and then found a specific function for each person to contribute to their liberation. He gave every young person at these meetings a direction or an assignment, to give them a new purpose.”

Cherry cites an anonymous GLF paper that expresses the point. “Look out straights, here comes the Gay Liberation Front… Understand this–that the worst part of being a homosexual is having to keep it secret. Not the occasional murders by police or teenage queer-baiters, not the loss of jobs or the expulsion from schools or dishonorable discharges–but the daily knowledge that what you are is so awful that it cannot be revealed. The violence against us is sporadic. Most of us are not affected. But the internal violence of being made to carry–or choosing to carry–the load of your straight society’s unconscious guilt–this is what tears us apart, what makes us want to stand up in the offices, in the factories and the schools and shout out our true identities.”

To press the point, get media attention and give GLFers an action to take, Kight planned zaps, some of which were potentially dangerous, such as the protest against Barney’s Beanery demanding the removal of their “Fagots Stay Out” sign

Another zap was a theatrical stunt declaring March 1,1970 “Lavender Sunday” during which gays protested the church of their choice then presented the church with a reparations bill for $90 billion for all the harm done to gays over the years. The reaction was mixed. Some said “God bless you!” and shouted “Gay Power!” while others screamed, “You will all burn in hell!”

Mattachine Society member and gay journalist Jim Kepner attended GLF meetings, as did the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church with whom Kight subsequently co-founded Christopher Street West and the first gay Pride parade. By the spring of 1970 as planning began, three gay men had died in police custody and countless police beatings received no justice or accountability.

“It was outright dangerous to be openly gay much less part of gay liberation,” Cherry writes.

Nonetheless, Kight, Perry, and homeless advocate Rev. Bob Humphries made plans for a parade, not a demonstration, down Hollywood Boulevard.  The May 14, 1970 Parade Permit Application said the purpose of the parade was: “A joyous celebration of the total freedom of homosexuals in Los Angeles, with their families and friends, indicating that they are full citizens of this community and their rights to use the streets in the city of Los Angeles.”

The permit was denied but they appealed, including an extraordinary bond the LAPD required for extra police in case a Stonewall-like gay riot broke out.

On Friday June 26, California Superior Court Judge Richard Schauer ordered the Police Commissioner to issue the permit for a “Hollywood Blvd. homosexual-oriented parade without requiring a $1,500 cash bond.” It was the first official recognition of “gay” in California. 

Death threats against Kight intensified.

“Someone telephoned in the morning [of the Pride parade] and said, ‘How would you like it if I came over and killed you today?’ And I told him, ‘No, I cannot do that today. I have a very big day ahead of me and I must attend a parade.’ And I hung up,” Kight told Cherry. 

It took courage to step off the corner of McCadden Place and Hollywood Boulevard that June 28—but 1800 people showed up with thousands more lining the streets to watch gays and lesbians holding hands and more creative participants. Two men walked sheep dogs with signs saying, “Not all of us walk poodles.” The Guerrilla Theatre showcased “vice cops chasing screaming fairies wearing paper wings.” And The Militant Gay Movement floated a blown-up super-sized Vaseline jar. The GLF marched behind Kight.

“Los Angeles activists, by participating in a Stonewall commemoration the first year, played a crucial role in the survival of the Stonewall story,” the American Sociological Review reported in 2006. “The first commemoration of Stonewall was gay liberation’s biggest and most successful protest event.”

Gay Community Services Center with Executive Director Don Kilhefner, Vice President Morris Kight, Jim Kepner, June Herrle, President Martin Field, and John Platania, 1970. (Photo courtesy ©Lee Mason/ONE Archives at the USC Libraries via ‘Making Gay History’)

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

National

Threats of violence and death shuts down Nebraska drag queen story hour

After discussions and consultations with Lincoln Police, the museum and the LGBTQ+ group citing safety concerns cancelled the event.

Published

on

Screenshot of the Lincoln Children’s Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska. ABC News affiliate coverage

LINCOLN – A private LGBTQ+ event scheduled for after hours this past Saturday at the Lincoln Children’s Museum in Nebraska’s capital city was cancelled after the museum and the event’s organizers received a torrent of abusive violent threats, including ones that were simply death threats.

Longtime local drag performer Waylon Werner-Bassen, who is the president of the board of directors of LGBTQ advocacy group OUTNebraska had organized the event alongside Drag Queen Story Hour Nebraska.

Bassen told the Lincoln Star-Journal in an interview last week on Tuesday that the scheduled RSVP only two-hour event, which was accessible through Eventbrite, had garnered a conformed attendee list of approximately 50 people.

Mandy Haase-Thomas, director of operations and engagement for the Lincoln Children’s Museum in an email the Star-Journal confirmed the event was invitation-only private, not sponsored by the museum and to be held after museum’s open-to-the-public hours.

According to Bassen, immediately after the event was announced the threats commenced, some of which included death threats. After discussions and consultations with officials from the Lincoln Police Department, the Lincoln Children’s Museum and Bassen’s group citing safety concerns cancelled the event.

Officer Luke Bonkiewicz, a spokesperson for the LPD said that the matter was under investigation and as such would not comment other than to acknowledge that the threats were found to be credible.

In an Instagram post the museum expressed its dismay over the event’s cancellation.

Community reaction was swift and uniformly in support of OutNebraska and the drag queen story hour event with the city’s Mayor weighing in along with a supervisor with the Lincoln Police Department.

The ACLU of Nebraska along with other supporters which included state lawmakers Senator Adam Morfeld and Senator Tony Vargas also weighed in.

OutNebraska and the museum have both stated that they will reschedule the event. In a Facebook post Out Nebraska noted: “We look forward to working with Lincoln Children’s Museum to reschedule this as an entirely private event. It’s so sad when hate threatens families with children. All parents want their children to be safe. Because we could not be certain that it would be safe we will cancel this weekend and reschedule for another time — this time without a public portion of the invitation. We will be in touch with the families who have already registered with more information about when we are rescheduling.”

In related news the LPD not only recently celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month, but the designated person nominated at the end of June by the Mayor to be the department’s new Chief, is SFPD Commander Teresa Ewins, the San Francisco California Police Department’s highest-ranking LGBTQ member.

Continue Reading

National

FBI joins investigation into murder of LGBTQ Atlantan

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in the deadly stabbing of a woman asking that anyone with information to please come forward

Published

on

Katie Janness and her dog Bowie via Facebook

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Police Department’s murder investigation into this past Wednesday’s stabbing death of 40-year-old Katie Janness and her dog in Piedmont Park, located about 1 mile northeast of downtown between the Midtown and Virginia Highland neighborhoods, has been joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI).

WXIA 11 Alive news reported that the FBI is assisting the Atlanta Police Department, (APD) however a spokesperson for the APD told WXIA the department wouldn’t provide any specifics about the FBI’s involvement with the investigation, nor did the Atlanta Field Office of the FBI comment. 

The Georgia Voice, the local LGBTQ newspaper, reported that Janness, a member of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community and a bartender at the LGBTQ-owned Campagnolo, was found stabbed to death in the park on Wednesday (July 28) after walking her dog Bowie, who was also killed.

Janness was found by her partner of six years, Emma Clark, after Clark tracked her with her phone’s GPS.

“Today, I lost the love of my life and baby boy,” Clark said in a post shared to a GoFundMe page. “It was tragic. She was the most intelligent, kind, humble, and beautiful person I have ever known. I wanted to spend every second with her. [Bowie] was the sweetest, most loyal companion. My heart is so very broken, my world will never be the same.”

A vigil was held for Janness on Thursday evening at Piedmont Park.

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in a deadly stabbing of a woman in Piedmont Park

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Janness’ murder is believed to be the first homicide inside the park in 12 years and according to family members of Janness’ longtime girlfriend, a security camera at an intersection near the park’s entrance captured the last known picture of Katherine Janness and her dog before the two were killed.

But other cameras in the area weren’t working, including one facing the entrance. As of Friday the AJC also reported, as of Friday afternoon, Atlanta police had released few details about the murder investigation that has left city residents and parkgoers on edge.

Atlanta Police are asking that anyone with information to please come forward, and tipsters can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.

APD detectives are also asking those who live in this area to review footage from their security cameras and contact the police if they find anything that may be pertinent to this investigation. The timeframe for review should be between 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday to 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Continue Reading

National

The CDC’s eviction moratorium ending at midnight Saturday stoking fears

CDC’s eviction ban expires at midnight tonight, millions of primarily lower income Americans are facing losing their homes

Published

on

Graphic via NBC News YouTube Channel

LOS ANGELES – As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) eviction ban expires at midnight tonight, millions of primarily lower income Americans are facing losing their homes. Hopes of a federal extension approved by Congress failed this week and now lawmakers are on a six-week recess.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that he would let the current CDC eviction moratorium expire instead of challenging the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that extended the deadline to tonight. The high court ruled to extend moratoriums to the end of July but made it clear it would block any further extensions unless there was specific congressional authorization.

A White House official said that President Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium because of the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus which is highly contagious. However, the official conceded there were also concerns that challenging the high court may lead to a ruling that potentially could restrict the Biden administration’s ability to take unilateral actions in future public health crises.

On Friday, Missouri Democratic Representative Cori Bush angrily denounced House colleagues for adjourning for the August recess without passing an extension of the CDC eviction moratorium.

“The House is at recess. People are on vacations. How are we on vacation when we have millions of people who could start to be evicted tonight?” Bush told CNN’s Jessica Dean. “There are people already receiving and have received pay or vacate notices that will have them out on tomorrow. People are already in a position where they need help, our most vulnerable, our most marginalized, those who are in need,” she said, adding, “How can we go vacation? No, we need to come back here.”

The CDC’s eviction ban was intended to prevent further spread of the coronavirus by people put out on the streets and into shelters. Congress had approved nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic, but that funding has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments. According to persons knowledgeable of the assistance system structure, one of the reasons for the delays are over complicated administrative requirements for renters seeking help.

The President had pleaded with local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds. “There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” he said in a statement released late Friday.

While the Senate was in a rare Saturday work session on the president’s infrastructure package during a floor speech Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, “We are only hours away from a fully preventable housing crisis. We have the tools, and we have the funding. What we need is the time.”

The President’s apparent action angered many lawmakers in his own party on Capitol Hill some who expressed anger furious that he expected Congress to provide a last-minute solution to protect renters that they were unable to deliver.

Representative Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said Saturday on CNN: “We thought that the White House was in charge.” Waters quickly produced a draft of a bill that would require the CDC to continue the ban through Dec. 31. At a hastily arranged hearing Friday morning to consider the bill she urged her colleagues to act, Stars and Stripes reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to pass Waters’ bill extending the deadline, calling it a “moral imperative,” to protect renters and also the landlords who are owed compensation. Landlords are opposed to extending the CDC’s eviction moratorium and are also urging local and state governments to speed up disbursement of the funding designed to hep renters from losing their homes and landlords to meet their obligations.

When House Democrats failed to garner support for Waters’ legislative efforts, they then tried to simply approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote, but House Republicans objected.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as of March of this year, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent and as of July 5, the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey showed that in the next two months approximately 3.6 million Americans will face immediate eviction proceedings.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that some places are likely to see spikes in evictions starting Monday, while other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to evictions over several months.

The Biden administration is trying to keep renters in place through other means. It released more than $1.5 billion in rental assistance in June, which helped nearly 300,000 households.

The departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoriums through the end of September on households living in federally insured, single-family homes late Friday, after the president had asked them to do so.

In Los Angeles, the threat of a spate of evictions will greatly exacerbate the greater LA region’s homelessness crisis. This past week in a 13-2 vote Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to stop people from camping in public spaces including the areas around parks, schools, homeless shelters, bridges and overpasses, and other similar structures.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he will sign the ordinance.  Once signed, the measure will go into effect 30 days later.  Opponents of this ordinance are decrying it as another effort to criminalise the homeless population.

Homeless and civil rights activist Eddie Cruz told KTLA, “this ordinance is targeting a specific group of people in the unhoused community. We believe that this is an irresponsible attack from the City Council and an irresponsible way to deal with the homelessness crisis that is occurring in Los Angeles,” Cruz said.

In a new poll released last week conducted by Inside California Politics and Emerson College of more than 1,000 registered voters, half rated Governor Gavin Newsom’s response to the homelessness crisis in California as ‘poor.’

Newsom’s low marks comes after he signed the largest funding and reform package for housing and homelessness in California history as part of the $100 billion California Comeback Plan. The package includes $10.3 billion for affordable housing and $12 billion over two years towards tackling the homelessness crisis including $5.8 billion to add 42,000 new housing units through the states’ Project Homekey .

Another $3 billion of this investment is dedicated to housing for people with the most acute behavioral and physical health needs.

However, say activists, there is no sense of urgency in assisting people navigate through what most people see as an overly complicated application process matched with tens of thousands who will be immediately impacted and without a time cushion to work through the assistance process once the moratorium is lifted.

Eviction Moratorium Ending

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular