Stonewall protests are still raging
Photographer Steven Molina Contreras shot last week's demonstration outside New York's legendary Stonewall Inn.
“I used to say to myself, ‘When will the day come when we can be who we are?’ Then Stonewall broke out in 1969… That was it.”
These are words spoken by Reverend Magora Kennedy, an activist, former Black Panther and the “gayest great-grandmother” you’ll ever meet. She was one of many LGBT elders we spoke to in summer 2019 to mark 50 years since the Stonewall Riots. They were all living in New York around the time the first brick was thrown. Many of them, the Reverend included, continue to fight to this day.
Last week, keeping the spirit of these words alive, protestors congregated outside the Stonewall Inn, dressed in red, wearing face masks and, in many cases, ‘turning a look’. Such was the dress code for The Black Trans History Ball, one of many demonstrations that occur every couple of weeks around New York City that are formed “by Black Queer and Black Trans Activists centred on the Acknowledgement of All Black Life”, as per the organisers’ Instagram.
These demonstrations continue to fill the streets because “[t]he world needs to see our existence,” they write. “[For] too long, especially in this movement, Black Trans People are being erased.” They’re all the more vital when the community that organises them continues to face violence from the state. Back in November, a protest of a similar nature invoked an aggressive attack from the police and saw 19 peaceful protestors arrested. As reported by them., “police turned aggressive as the marchers arrived at Union Square around 7:45 p.m. and three people stepped away from the group. An estimated 150 NYPD officers rushed the departing protesters, tackling and detaining them.”
Renée Imperato, another LGBT elder we spoke to in 2019–who was in Vietnam at the time of the Stonewall riots but who has been fighting for justice ever since–stressed the importance of honouring the movement’s forebearers. “You know who started the Stonewall revolution? Trans, lesbian, gay people of colour. They paid for that with their lives and with their bodies.”
Steven Molina Contreras, a 22-year-old photographer from El Salvador who graduated from New York’s FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) last summer, went down to take pictures of the event. “The atmosphere had a great balance of legacy, respect and reverence, as everyone celebrated the leaders and lovers of Black Trans history and paid their respects to the lives lost daily,” he says. “As a young queer boy from El Salvador, I felt at home. I felt safe. I also felt challenged.”
Details of upcoming demonstrations can be found on @thestonewallprotests and donations can be made on Cashapp: $stonewallprotests
Photography Steven Molina Contreras