Happy Pride! As we end this series on California LGBTQ Upstanders, I encourage each of you to continue to learn and follow the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. The fight for social and legal equality for LGBTQ people is on-going and ultimately reflects on our values as a people and a nation by determining who among us deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. For many, this infamous clash between the trans and gay patrons of the Stonewall Inn and the New York City Police Department, which already had a long history of harassment against the gay community, signifies the start of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in the United States. Celebratory and educational events are happening throughout the country to mark this monumental event. The Making Gay History podcast, hosted by Eric Marcus, is dedicating their entire fifth season to stories on and around Stonewall. As important as Stonewall is to the movement, there are many other stories to uncover as we celebrate Pride Month.
This June, we are proud to continue our focus on Upstanders with a special series on California LGBTQ Upstanders, co-hosted by ONE Archives Foundation and in collaboration with the podcast, Making Gay History. Each week, we explore the content, themes, and questions raised in one past episode of the podcast.
As I continue my dive into the history of of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in Los Angeles, it is becoming clear that it is a history of a diverse group of self-determined people and their allies fighting to ensure that society fully understands and accepts LGBTQ individuals.
You may remember this quote from Edythe Eyde, who we met last week:
“With the advancement of psychiatry and related subjects, the world is becoming more and more aware that there are those in our midst who feel no attraction for the opposite sex.” (Edythe Eyde, Making Gay History)
Eyde highlights the importance of the psychiatric and medical communities in forming current/popular social beliefs. Incredibly, universal sodomy laws were prevalent in the United States until 1963, which tells us that homosexuality was widely viewed as morally and socially abhorrent. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1952, confirming these general societal beliefs. (More information can be found here.) Psychiatric research studies on human sexuality conducted in the 1940s and 1950s initiated the gradual change of regarding homosexuality as a natural expression of human sexuality rather than a pathological disorder.
Today for LGBTQ Pride Month we learn about the ground-breaking work of Dr. Evelyn Hooker.
Each year, we invite our Los Angeles Partnership Schools to nominate an individual or group that has demonstrated the qualities of an Upstander in their school community. This year’s theme was allyship which kicked off at our Summit on School Culture last fall. Many schools had difficulty choosing just *one* person or group to nominate! Facing History is proud to recognize the effort and action of the following Upstanders in communities across Los Angeles.
As we've seen in our Upstander series this spring, "upstanding" takes many shapes. We've shared stories that range from the very visible Nipsey Hussle to nameless "allies" making themselves visible in a march against hate, from individuals who have dedicated their work to shaping or re-shaping their community like Jessica Smith-Peterson and Arianne Edmonds to students just beginning to leverage their voices for change. What does "upstanding" look like to you?
I recently had the kind of conversation an educator needs at this time of the year.
Claudia Bautista is a dedicated and skilled teacher at Santa Monica High School. She described a group of ninth grade students who took on a service learning project, and in challenging an injustice they saw on their own campus, exemplified youth agency and the promise of civic education.
Arianne Edmonds has upstanding in her DNA. Her great, great grandfather:
- testified at a Congressional hearing despite threats of violence
- started one of the early newspapers in Los Angeles for the Black community
- advocated directly for increased voter registration by African Americans
Facing History and Ourselves sat down with Arianne at the California African American Museum on April 29, 2019 to discuss her journey to bring the story of Jefferson Lewis Edmonds to more people.
Sometimes we think of learning how to be an upstander from those who have achieved amazing success. I had the opportunity to see an early screening of Knock Down the House - releasing May 1, 2019 on Netflix - and it has me thinking instead of all we can learn from those who stand up, not knowing whether or not they will even succeed. In this week's blog for our season of upstanding (#LAUpstander), I’d love to hear your thoughts on upstanding in film and what we learn from those upstanders whose success is by no means guaranteed.
Jessica Smith-Peterson received the 2019 Los Angeles Upstander Award from Facing History this Spring. Jessica holds a special place in our hearts having been a student in one of our LA classrooms a dozen years ago! Since that first introduction to upstanding rather than bystanding and her first actions to challenge injustice on her own campus, Jessica has gone on to get her law degree, advance immigrant rights, and teach formerly convicted persons how to restore their voting rights. Upon receiving the award, she shared how Facing History “opened up a world wider than I could have imagined” and taught her how to walk in someone else’s shoes, a skill that is vital in her work today as a public defender.
Have you been inspired by our #LAUpstander stories? Join us!
Become a social ambassador by sharing your #LAUpstander stories. Use the hashtag #LAUpstander, tag us at @FacingHistoryLA, and share short stories of your own upstanding or that of others. Feel free to share our social media logo (below)!
Are you a teacher? check out this mini-unit based on 10 Questions for Young Changemakers developed by Harvard’s Professor Danielle Allen and the Youth Participatory Politics Network.
Are you a student or school leader? Or do you want to step up into leadership at your school? Get others thinking about upstanding at your next club, school, or faculty meeting with this 20-minute activity: