‘It Did Not Start With Stonewall’ Resurfaces After Five Years

By Arturo R. García

Over the past month, this video, “It Did Not Start With Stonewall,” has been picking up steam online – we first saw it on Elixher – which is curious, given that it was originally uploaded in 2007. In the clip, a group of black women offers perspectives on life in the LGBT community in New York City in the era surrounding the seminal Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

But it cuts off just after the three-minute mark, leaving people wondering where it came from – and whether there are more interviews like these out there. Racialicious contacted the person who uploaded the video Wednesday night, so we hope to have an update soon. In the meantime, the transcript to the video is under the cut.

We paid an awful lot of dues so that the younger people of today can feel the freedom to walk along holding hands. It did not start with Stonewall.

They used to have something in Harlem called Funmaker’s Ball, and they would do that every Thanksgiving. And we would go to the Funmaker’s Ball, and that’s really when the cops would be nasty,’cause the gay guys would come and dress up like women, and people would come in and enjoy themselves, and they’d stand outside and get the guys as they came out,
and the women sometimes, and arrest them.

When we were younger, uh, because we did not have any role models, uh, roles were defined, people were into playing roles,
and people dressed and acted out whatever role that they, found, that they were suited for. And it was a law at that time
that you had to wear 3 pieces of female clothing, or else they would uh take you to jail for impersonation.

During this time of Stonewall, I was not living in New York at the time. And, so I missed that. But I had been involved in many raids and harassment by the police in my own community. We had a very viable black lesbian and gay community
in different, not only in Harlem, but in Brooklyn, and in The Bronx, and I can’t say too much for Queens and Staten Island
because they’re a foreign country.

And what happened was, that the bars downtown weren’t making money. And someone discovered that there was a lot of money being spent in Harlem. And in other black communities. And they systematically either burnt them down, closed them down or they started having a lot of problems with police, for different violations and stuff and things like that.
And as bar after bar and club after club closed down, clubs in The Village that years prior did not welcome the citizens of these neighborhoods – Bed-Stuy, and South Bronx, and Jamaica and Harlem – they let you in and took your money, but they still did not treat you any better. Until the current lesbian and gay community acknowledges that there were contributions made by other lesbians and gay men of all colors, to the freedom of lesbians and gays prior to Stonewall, there will always be some…[cuts off]

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  • Anonymous

    I believe that Luvenia Penson is the second person who appears in the clip

  • http://cocolamala.blogspot.com/ cocolamala

    the novel Stone Butch Blues (1993)  is also about pre stonewall women (some of the WOC) living in NYC

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cocojams-Jambalayah/100000590546331 Cocojams Jambalayah

    Thanks for alerting us to this video about this little acknowledged history. A commentater on that YouTube video’s viewer comment thread wrote that this clip is from a documentary entitled Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community
    (1985) and that it can be purchased through Amazon. Here’s that link, 


    As a small aside, I’m interested in studying the sources of children’s playground rhymes), the rhyme that I call “We  Wear Our Hair In Curls”  originated from the “We Are The Stonewall  girls” song that some of the protestors sung to mock the police.  That song uses the Tra Ra  Ra Boom Se A tune which I’ve read was picked up from an  African American jook joint singer.

    Wikipedia’s page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots has more information about the highly influential Stonewall riots, the history of police raids on gay bars that came before that event, and, for those interested, some information about that mocking song that lives on in a number of clean and risque children’s rhymes.   

  • http://profiles.google.com/jetesar Joyce Tesar

    Check out the film”Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100″

  • KLGaffney

     I hope more of this resurfaces; I want to hear these stories.

  • Jusbcas

    Would be very interested in this herstory.  It seems inevitable that we come to grips with the dues paid by black lesbians given the inherent racism, sexism, and homophobia of our American culture.  The revelations might do more than invoke guilt.  Ideally, such information would garner critical reflection.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=18404945 Melvin Antoine Whitehead

      This clip is NOT from “Before Stonewall.” I have seen “Before Stonewall” several times and this woman nor this clip is included in it. 

      Any word yet from the person who uploaded this clip?

  • BellatrixS.

    Wow I can’t wait to hear more of this!