LGBTQ activists discussed the legacy of the Stonewall Riots and the need to continue fighting those in power at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Monday.
The event was part of a series in honor of the Stonewall Riots’ 50 year anniversary. After a police raid on a gay bar on June 28, 1969, allies and members of the LGBTQ movement rioted against the maltreatment of their communities. The riots were a significant catalyst for the gay liberation movement and occurred in Greenwich Village, mere blocks away from NYU’s Washington Square campus.
Activists on the panel discussed how they learned about Stonewall and how it has influenced them in their current activism. Panelists included Vice President of the Minneapolis City Council Andrea Jenkins, CAS senior Anesu Nyatanga, transgender rights activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, Out Magazine Editor-in-Chief Phillip Picardi and attorney Urvashi Vaid.
Vaid said that it is important to continue to fight for equal rights.
“[There is] no change without contestation,” Vaid said. “People don’t like to be pushed back; it offends politeness and respectability.”
Vaid went on to say it is important to remember the legacy of a movement, especially when the perpetrators of discrimination against the LGBTQ movement were often police during the time of Stonewall.
Gutiérrez, a transgender and immigrant rights activist, made headlines when she protested the deportation of LGBTQ immigrants and heckled former President Barack Obama at a White House event she was then escorted out of. Like Gutiérrez, most of the panelists were young or not even born when the Stonewall riots happened. Still, each panelist emphasized that the riots influenced their role as an activist and member of the LGBTQ community.
Picardi spoke about how holding powerful figures accountable can feel intimidating, but it is necessary in today’s political climate. When Nancy Reagan passed away in 2016, Picardi, who was working at Teen Vogue at the time, helped publish a piece about her lack of involvement in the HIV/AIDS crisis, which he cited as an example of continuing to criticize influential people who have not been supportive of the LGBTQ movement.
“Speaking truth to power is uncomfortable,” Picardi said.
Additional reporting by Jared Peraglia and Mansee Khurana. Email Victor Porcelli and Meghna Maharishi at [email protected].