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    Stonewall 50

    By Donna Sachet–

    Just as France has its Bastille Day and the United States its July Fourth, so the LGBTQ Community has long claimed the last weekend in June as its symbolic birth at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969. On that weekend, after years of police brutality, subjective persecution and decades of sanctioned discrimination by local, state and federal governments, a small group of patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a small gay club in Greenwich Village, decided enough was enough. 

    The hot summer weather fueled tempers on both sides as police attempted to disperse or arrest a rowdy crowd made up primarily of drag queens, transsexuals, lesbians and others on the fringes of society and even of the nascent gay rights movement. Verbal taunts quickly escalated into physical violence, spilling into the surrounding streets and awakening sleeping neighbors. As with any event of this importance witnessed by a few, but imagined by many, the details become cloudy or embellished by time, but the rebellious acts of that night and the following days and nights inspired what we now consider the beginning of the LGBTQ revolution.

    This summer, New York City hosts Stonewall 50, commemorating that fateful weekend and celebrating the amazing advances in the United States, while recognizing the ongoing struggle and recent setbacks. We sat down with Nicole Murray-Ramirez, the titular head of the International Court System that is partnering with the LGBTQ National Task Force on a Wall of Honor to be installed at the Stonewall Inn and unveiled on Thursday, June 27. 

    She’ll be there with leaders from across the globe to reveal the names of 50 past pioneers and heroes carefully selected by a prestigious panel. When asked why an event that happened 50 years ago is important to us today, she had this to say:  “As an old Latino gay man and drag queen, I know one thing that is absolutely happening in our LGBTQ community and that is that people are forgetting our history … our LGBTQ pioneers and trailblazers whose shoulders we stand on. The Stonewall Riots are our Community Boston Tea Party where we fought back against police brutality and discrimination. A majority of the bar patrons were Latino and African American and were street people … yes, many were street hustlers and butch lesbians whom we in those days lovingly called bull dykes. Word of the riots spread across the country and our annual pride marches and parades are held in recognition of these riots and when we fought back.” 

    Empress Nicole the Great with Empress XXX Donna Sachet

    Murray-Ramirez worked directly with the Founder of the International Court System, well-known San Franciscan José Sarria, and has continued her leadership for the past 12 years. “As I have said many times, a community, indeed a movement, that does not know where it came from does not really know where it’s going,” said Murray-Ramirez. “I was a national co-chair of the Stonewall 25 Celebration and March on the United Nations. I approached the co-owner of the Stonewall Inn, Curtis Kelly, to see if we could put in his bar on one of his walls a National LGBTQ Wall of Honor. We met in New York and we selected the wall. The International Imperial Court System is the oldest LGBTQ organization in North America and we asked the National LGBTQ Task Force, the oldest LGBT national civil rights organization, to be our partner and co-sponsor.”             

    Stonewall 50 is part of New York’s own Pride Celebration and World Pride, and although events overlap with San Francisco Pride, June 29–30, we know that some will find a way to participate bicoastally. Of course, here in San Francisco, we are clearly aware of the Compton Cafeteria Riots that predated Stonewall by three years; so, is too much emphasis falling on Stonewall? “I feel it’s very important for us to remember and celebrate historic events like the Compton Cafeteria Demonstrations, the day Harvey Milk and George Moscone were assassinated, etc.,” said Murray-Ramirez.

    The National LGBTQ Wall of Honor will include names from across the globe and San Francisco is encouraged to participate by nominating individuals. “We have Imperial Court chapters in 70 Cities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, so we know how to organize a national project,” she continued. “There are three San Franciscans involved in this national project: John Carrillo, Russell Roybal and Nathan Page.”  

    For those who don’t know, the International Court System successfully petitioned the U.S. Postal Service to create a stamp honoring Harvey Milk and the U.S. Navy to name a ship after him.             

    Even the specific events leading up to the French Revolution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence are blurred by time and firsthand recording; so the LGBTQ movement has jumped on the events at the Stonewall Inn on that last weekend of June to become our clarion call, our pivotal moment, our symbolic lighting of the fuse that ignited into the international civil rights battle we have witnessed since. 

    Whether you are committed to the myriad events here in your own backyard or choose to travel to the recognized birthplace of it all, June 2019 is a time to pause and reflect upon people and actions that drastically changed history. This year, when you smile at the Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks, join a determined protest march or attend a moving concert, or when you gather together the elements of your outfit for Pride Weekend, do so with gratitude and appreciation. We truly walk on the shoulders of giant heroes!

    Nominations may be sent to the following:

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at