If you walk into the Stonewall Inn on a given night you will find a mix of every walk of LGBTI life drinking, dancing, and sharing.
Some of them enter with the awareness that they are, in fact, entering a place of history. The majority, however, do not.
Unfortunately, they have no idea of what the brave men and women did in order to help give them equality. They don’t know about that fateful hot summer night in June 1969, when their ancestors decided to exchange their freedom for that of the future generations.
It’s because of them that queer kids today can enjoy the rights that were withheld from us for so long.
My partners and I want people to know about the Inn’s past
Some of the younger generation sip on cocktails. They watch inspiring drag performances but remain oblivious to all the work it took to get them in that space.
They are blind to the activists and groups that formed after the riot and have continued to fight for 50 years so they could live their lives openly and freely, without fear of expressing themselves and or loving whoever they wish to love.
My goal is to change that, together with my partners, Kurt Kelly, Bill Morgan, Tony DiCicco.
We wish to make sure that the Stonewall Inn becomes a household name. We would like this bar with its rebelliously groundbreaking history to remain active and at the forefront of the current struggle for equality.
The Inn is our own LGBTI church
Bars have played such an important role in maintaining LGBTI culture, as clearly our struggle for equality began in one. If bars are the churches of our culture, then Stonewall Inn is the Mecca.
It has become a place where people come to celebrate the victories of our community. Sadly, it is where they come to mourn our losses as well.
This has not always been the case over the years. It took remodeling, rebranding, and an entire staff – which is more like a family – to make Stonewall come alive again.
If you walk in for Friday’s happy hour you may find Kurt Kelly, the operating owner, behind the bar. He would make jokes with a friendly crowd of locals and tourists.
Kurt has managed to gather talented and dedicated people and create a team of loyal Stonewall staff members.
Unfortunately, we lost two full-time staff members in the last 12 years.
The Stonewall staff know that they are the Inn’s Keepers of history and take pride in making sure everyone who walks in has a good time.
They take the time to connect to the community members as well as with tourists from all over the world.
Having a drink here is on many people’s bucket list
Many travelers make Stonewall their first stop while in New York. It’s unbelievable how many look forward to having a simple drink in a place with a not-so-simple history. A trip to the Inn is on many people’s bucket list, and we hope it stays this way for generations to come.
There will also be nights where, if you stumble into the bar, you’ll end up wrapped in raffle tickets. Funny moments like this are due to fundraising efforts and form a part of our own non-profit efforts for the Stonewall Inn Give Back initiative.
After hosting thousands of charity events and fundraisers for various other organizations, we decided it was time Stonewall Inn found a way to continue its personal fight.
We knew we owed it to the legacy to use the bar as a vehicle for social justice and equality and wanted to focus on areas where equality has been slow to arrive. The bar has expanded its reach but still hosts shows, as well as fundraisers, and art exhibits and other events. The Inn is just as much a community center as it is a bar.
Those famous ‘raided premises’ signs
As you walk through the space today you will find that there are various pictures on the wall.
These images depict different Pride marches that occurred over the bar’s long history as well as signs that date back to the raid.
The ‘raided premises’ sign found within the bar is the original that was gifted to the Inn after being discovered in someone’s New York City apartment. It is the same one that was posted outside the bar so many years ago. Details like this allow for the past to be present without stifling the atmosphere.
We want to educate the younger generation on the importance of the Inn’s history without imposing on their fun. We would also like to serve as a reminder that the fight for full equality is far from over.
The fight for our rights isn’t over
Today, 28 states allow for the legal firing of people within the LGBTI community. And many of these also allow for housing discrimination.
There are even some countries where being LGBTI is punishable by death, others were same-sex interactions are ruled illegal. Something as simple as holding hands might cost someone their freedom, or even their life.
Many of our trans brothers and sisters are under attack by this current administration and 70 religious freedom laws were introduced last year on a state level.
These laws are designed to discriminate and are essentially a license to hate. If action isn’t taken, we may end up seeing many of these laws making their way to the supreme court.
Hate crimes are on the rise
Not only are many of our recent legal gains in jeopardy, but so are our lives. Hate crimes are on the rise and so are social stigmas as well as transphobic and homophobic rhetoric.
As Stonewall’s 50th anniversary approaches we want people to see it not only as a time of reflection but also as an opportunity to honor all those who came before us by continuing this fight.
We at the Stonewall Inn are proud to help keep a living, breathing piece of history alive. We will continue our activism and hope that the revolution that started there back in 1969 continues onward.
As World Pride comes to New York for Stonewall 50, we hope to remind the world and the younger LGBTI generation of LGBTI members that knowing our past is what allows us to change our future.