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In a tandem effort, Allies, the Clarion University gay-straight alliance, and the History Club presented a documentary viewing Monday, Oct. 26 in the university theater in Suites on Main North.
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The film “Stonewall Uprising” was shown. It’s a compilation of footage and interviews with people who participated in the Stonewall Riots of 1966.
Seeking to have the most impact on viewers, the two clubs facilitated a panel discussion following the film. The audience included both university students and professors.
The “Stonewall” of the title was a gay bar in Greenwich, New York City in 1966. At this time in the United States, the practice of homosexuality was illegal. “Stonewall Uprising” tells how gays and lesbians frequented such venues as the Stonewall to feel freedom from societal constraints. Such bars became a refuge when LGBT members were disallowed to act as they truly felt in contemporary society.
The riots occurred in response to police oppression. The film emphasizes the brutality shown toward members of the gay community. Acts of homosexuality and related crimes of the day were met with harsh repercussions. It was not uncommon for these people get beaten upon arrest and be subjected to psychological attempts to change their sexual orientation.
On June 28, 1969, members of the LGBT community in Stonewall pushed back against a police raid of the bar. This climactic event and the ensuing days of riots are those for which the film is named. The film tells of the fear that was instilled in the police, who until that time had been the initiators of terror. These riots peaked in a famous gay pride protest march through NYC a few days after the initial riot.
In a multifaceted experience, Allies and the History Club asked Karen Whitney to give a brief introduction. Though young and unaware of the riots at the time of their occurrence, President Whitney addressed her experience with the broader effects of these events.
Whitney spoke of when she first learned of a larger gay/lesbian community outside of herself.
“I’m not crazy, I’m not alone…” Whitney recalled.
Whitney recognized the significance of Stonewall as a first major event toward the development of LGBT rights. Contrasting personal history with modern society, Whitney talked of threats of job loss and violence made to her by people who were non-accepting of her lesbian orientation.
Now an activist for LGBT equality, Whitney said, “Watching them do what they did gave me the courage to do what I’m doing.”
She termed the protestors documented in “Stonewall Uprising” as heroes. Whitney spoke to students’ response to the viewing of this documentary.
“Think about, when you finish the film, ‘what’s next? …and what part do I want to play in it?’” Whitney said.
Following Whitney’s introduction was a discussion panel comprised of members from both the History Club and Allies. The panel gave a brief historical premise for the cultural setting of the film. Audience members were then invited to ask questions.
Further documentary showings at the university theater include “Electoral Dysfunction” on Tuesday, Nov. 3, and “Hunting Ground” on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m.
The first is a modern look at American voting and the latter investigates sexual assault on college campuses. Both will follow the “Stonewall Uprising” format of pre-film discussion.