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Honoring Our Past — While Fortifying Our Future

by Dr. William Kapfer

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 1, 2022
Originally published on June 29, 2022

Dr. William Kapfer at the groundbreaking of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center in New York City.
Dr. William Kapfer at the groundbreaking of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center in New York City.  (Source: Lucy Kennedy Photography)

On the eve of NYC Pride weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the groundbreaking of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center in New York City. The first visitor center within the national park system dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, this center will honor and explore the history of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, a galvanizing moment in the fight for equality in America.

When it opens to the public, the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center will occupy a 3,700 square-foot vacant storefront in Greenwich Village in Manhattan directly next door to the Stonewall Inn. The historic sight is most remembered for the six-day uprising — from June 28th to July 3rd, 1969 — when LGBTQ+ patrons of the Stonewall Inn, and members of the local community, took the unusual action of fighting back during a routine police raid at the bar.

The events during those five days are seen as a key turning point, as well as a catalyst for the explosive growth in the gay rights movement that began in the United States.

History was again made in 1999, when the historic Stonewall Inn became the first LGBTQ+ site in the country to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, later being named a National Historic Landmark in 2000. It received additional recognition by the city landmark designation in 2015, as a State Historic Site in 2016, and the designation as part of the Stonewall National Monument in 2016.

Geena Rocero and Dr. William Kapfer
Geena Rocero and Dr. William Kapfer  (Source: Dr. William Kapfer)

Pride Live, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, is overseeing the creation of the site, which will include input from historians, activists, community leaders, and allies. The organization is partnering with the National Park Service, which will use the center as a base for its rangers. My longtime friend Diana Rodriguez, Founder and President of Pride Live, with a small team over 10 years ago, was charged with a mission to accelerate awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community. They began their effort with supporting smaller organizations, like the Tyler Clementi Foundation, by developing campaigns and raising money for them, and eventually meeting with the National Parks Conservation Association to bring about the Stonewall National Monument.

I look forward to visiting the new center when it opens in 2022, as it will allow me, an open and proud gay man, an opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals, while reminding me that I am not alone. It will also honor all of us, and provide us an opportunity to remember all of the queer people, past and present, who fought for equality at the Stonewall Rebellion.