NEW YORK — Ahead of this weekend’s Pride parade, officials gathered Friday to break ground on a new visitors center dedicated to celebrating and sharing LGBTQ history.
It’s being built at the exact site that sparked the gay rights movement, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.
“I think it’s really important to this specific location that we are honoring the lineage of the queer folk that came before us,” said Peter Elizalder, a gay rights advocate.
The Stonewall Inn at 52 Christopher Street is considered the birthplace of gay rights.
On June 28, 1969, when homosexual acts were illegal in New York City, police raided the bar, a place of refuge for the gay community and a frequent target of harassment. The community had had enough.
“Tired of the raids, tired of the problems, tired of worrying. You remembered all your friends who were beaten up or maimed,” activist Martin Boyce said.
Boyce was there and said he watched as a trans women was beaten up by police.
“That started a riot right there,” Boyce said. “Each section the riot started simultaneously. There was enough provocation to make it happen all around, and everybody was ready.”
Boyce said that night inspired many to become activists and start gay rights organizations.
The new Stonewall Visitors Center will explore those stories. Once complete, the 3,700 square-foot space will include exhibitions, in-person and virtual tours and art displays that celebrate LGBTQ history.
“This is important because we need to know the history. The history of our trans ancestors, the history of the people that have come before us that have fought for us to have agency over our bodies and for us to be able to express ourselves fully,” Mila Jam said.
“It’s so important that people have a place to come and visit and learn and see the history,” Jena Vanelslander said.
Members of the LGBTQ community said they’ve been fighting for civil rights, including autonomy over their bodies, for decades. They said women have lost the right with.
“Our whole lives, our bodies are political at this point and if you’re not engaged, then your whole livelihood is on the docket,” said Angelica Ross, a transgender rights activist.
LGBTQ rights advocates said while Pride may be associated with parades, floats and parties, it started as a protest. They said they’ll continue to protest the rollback of civil rights for all marginalized groups.
The Stonewall Inn was declared a national monument in 2016. The new visitors center is set to open in 2024.