Christopher Street's Role in Gay Rights Movement Celebrated in Exhibit

By Rosa Goldensohn on June 12, 2014 11:11am 

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 Village residents say the street holds a special place in gay rights history. 
Celebrating Christopher Street's History
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WEST VILLAGE — Nearly half a century after the gay rights movement found its rallying cry in the Stonewall riots, shops along Christopher Street plan to honor the local history with a walking tour of the gay rights movement.

"Stonewall 45: Windows into LGBT History," which marks the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, will feature historic and modern-day photographs and newspaper clippings, along with a timeline of the key events in the fight for gay rights, in the windows of 26 merchants between Greenwich Street and Greenwich Avenue.

The two-week exhibit, which kicks off June 16, is designed to give passersby a sense of the gay rights activism that took place in the neighborhood before Stonewall all the way to the present day.

"I lived on Christopher Street for 10 years, and I've always been very frustrated that there really is very little sign of it on the street, a plaque, a statue," said Susanna Aaron, who organized the display. "Our kids don't learn this in school."

The centerpiece of the historical walking tour is the Stonewall Inn, where LGBT bar-goers fought back against a police raid 45 years ago, triggering a broader battle for gay rights.

The Christopher Street bar still stands and attracts tourists from around the world. But Aaron felt that both visitors and locals should have more reminders of the area's role in history.

Aaron enlisted David Carter, author of "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution," for help with the text on the exhibit's posters, and she also received support from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Arcus Foundation

Participating businesses include Village stalwarts like The Leather Man, new chain shops like Brooklyn Industries and children's hair salon and toy store Doodle Doo's.

"We have a number of families who are same-sex couples, so it's pertinent to them, it's pertinent to our customers, to our lives in the neighborhood," said Dana Rywelski, who owns Doodle Doo's and lives in the Village.

"I personally didn't know all the history behind Stonewall and I feel like there are many like me," she added. "It's the perfect opportunity to educate the people around us. I feel like it's also our responsibility being on such a historic street."

Aaron said she hoped to reach a broad audience, especially children. 

"The story of the LGBT civil rights movement has become resonant for a broad population," she said. "Its meaning has pushed out of the boundaries of what it means to its own community."

"Stonewall 45" will be on display on Christopher Street from June 16 to 29.

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