Dear GLBTQ Philadelphia and Our Straight Allies:
I’m issuing you a challenge. Recently I learned about Monument Lab, a project in Philadelphia this spring seeking new ideas for public monuments throughout the city. Several information events are planned throughout May and June to take the pulse of what the city wants. I wrote to the organizers the other day and suggested a monument be made to recognize Philadelphia as the site of the first gay and lesbian civil right marches in the country, which began on July 4, 1965. Monument Lab responded, inviting me to attend their opening and to continue to talk with them about this possibility. This is where you come in. If we want Monument Lab to make this proposal a reality, we need to let them know in a strong way and use allies such as Equality Forum to press the issue. A monument to this important moment in history also helps build a case for Philadelphia being designated a UNESCO World Heritage City (another wonderful cause!) Below is the text of the letter I wrote to them making the case of why this memorial is important to all Philadelphians. I encourage you to come to one of the meetings listed on their website and to post your thoughts on Monument Lab’s Facebook page . Maybe you will join me at the opening reception, which is free and open to the public. Information is below. Let’s build a coalition. Let’s do this! –Kelly McQuain
Dear Monument Lab:
Your project sounds like a good one. If I were in a position to advocate for a monument to be added to Philadelphia, I’d vie for one commemorating the gay and lesbian civil rights marches outside Independence Hall that began on July 4, 1965. Here in Philadelphia, at the very spot where our country was forged, began a movement that this summer may finally bring nationwide marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the event.
This piece of history is not taught to tourists by the guides at Independence Park (I’ve asked), but it’s important because this rights struggle cuts across race, ethnicity, gender, age, and class. I find it sad people can no longer march in front of Independence Hall, even sadder that young people in their teens and twenties are growing up ignorant about things like the AIDS pandemic. I imagine the anniversary of the birth of the gay rights movement will be largely overlooked outside the gay community, but it shouldn’t be. That many straight people probably don’t think this fight is their fight too is exactly why we should have such a monument.
Assoc. Professor of English
Community College of Philadelphia
Friday, May 8 5:30 – 7:00PM
Preview Talk and Party — Philadelphia Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street. A Conversation with Monument Lab Co-Curators Ken Lum, Paul Farber, and A. Will Brown, moderated by UPenn Professor Karen Beckman. Reception with Happy Hour refreshments to follow. Pre-registration encouraged: see Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/552448511559825/
For more on Philadelphia’s historic LGBTQ anniversary, click here.
Activist Barbara Gittings across from Independence Hall on July 4, 1965.