Very full days here in NYC. This morning we interviewed Sarah Schulman -activist, novelist, playwright, historian, filmmaker, and professor. Such a rich conversation on so many levels about activism, the gay liberation movement, marriage equality, "pinkwashing," the early years of AIDS and its impact on the LGBT community, the Lesbian Avengers (she was a co-founder), the Dyke March (again, co-founder) and so many more insights and stories that our heads and hearts are full. I'm looking forward to reading her new book, Ties that Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, and seeing UNITED IN ANGER: A History of ACT UP, a feature length documentary she produced with Jim Hubbard. This afternoon we went up to St. Mark's Harlem Methodist Church. Started in 1871, Gil served as their pastor in the 1990's. We walked in and it was like a family reunion. Gil instigated an impromptu conversation about LGBT acceptance in the church, a talk that had not happened there before. It was a delight to watch Gil bring up the topic and then see the openness of the group to share their opinions. Mostly, we heard the acknowledgement that gay people have always been in the church, no one may have talked about it but everyone knew.
We got a driver to take us around Harlem. We wanted to see if the Mount Morris Turkish Baths sign was still up on Madison Ave near 125th. It was established in the 1890's and later became a gay bathhouse. However it was not closed like the others were during the AIDS crisis. It finally closed due to building violations in 2003. The sign was no longer there so we didn't get out to take photographs. We stopped at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for us to get out and have Gil talk about it on camera. A middle school aged boy jumped up and down behind on Tonya with the camera so he would show up in the reflection of the window behind us. Some of his peers gave him looks like he was crazy. A man on the street commented, "No respect anymore." We finally arrived back at the hotel, which I was very glad for as it had been an exhausting day. Turns out that after we got back to the hotel, Gil went out for about an hour and just stood on 125th Ave watching the people, recalling his life in Harlem. He had a big smile on his face this evening as he recounted seeing all the many people.
Final stop this evening was dinner at the Harlem Tavern with New Orleans jazz music rocked the place.
Tomorrow morning we start at the present Stonewall Inn where the Stonewall riots took place in 1969. We'll be talking to a bartender that worked there during the riots. Later we'll be at the LGBT Center. We'll have a special guest with us but more on that later.