Dis-membering Stonewall: an excerpt from the forthcoming "Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of New York City"

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Dis-membering Stonewall: an excerpt from the forthcoming "Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of New York City"

“By institutionalizing memory, resisting the onset of oblivion, recalling the memory of tragedy that for long years remained hidden or unrecognized and by assigning its proper place in the human conscience, we respond to our duty to remember.”

 —UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura1

*The names in the story have been changed to protect identities.

FRIDAY, JUNE 27TH, WAS THE last day of school that year. And with school out, my middle-school cronies and I looked forward to a summer reprieve from rioting against Italian, Irish and Jewish pub­lic school kids for being bussed into their neighborhoods. However, the summer months in Brooklyn’s African American enclaves only escalated rioting between New York’s finest—the New York Police Department—and us. During this tumultuous decade of Black rage and white police raids, knee-jerk responses to each other’s slights easily set the stage for a conflagration, creating both instantaneous and momentary fighting alliances in these Black communities­ across gangs, class, age, ethnicity and sexual orientations—against police brutality.

That night of June 27th started out no differently than any hot and humid summer Friday night in my neighborhood. Past midnight, folks with no AC or working fans in their homes were just hanging out. Some lounged on the fire escapes while others were on the stoops of their brownstones laughing and shooting the breeze. Some were in heated discussion of Black revolutionary politics, while the Holy Rollers were competing with each other over Scripture. The Jenkins boys were drumming softly on their congas to the hot breezy mood of the night air. And directly under the street lamp was an old beat-up folding card table where the Fletchers and the Andersons, lifelong friends and neighbors, were shouting over a game of bid whist.

The sight of Dupree galloping up the block toward us abruptly interrupted the calm of the first hour of Saturday, June 28th. Dupree stopped in front of the gaming table and yelled out, “The pigs across the bridge are beating up on Black faggots—right now!”

Cissy Anderson, who was just moments from throwing in her hand to go to bed, let out a bloodcurdling scream that shook us and brought a momentary halt to everything.

Nate Anderson grabbed his wife to comfort her and said, “Cissy, calm down.”

Those of us not still paralyzed by Cissy’s scream quickly gath­ered around Dupree to hear more.

“The motherfuckers are taken to going after the weakest among

us. The pigs busted into this bar and