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"

spaces in Black urban communities like Harlem had for the most part disap­peared. With the early part of the 1960s shaped by the Black Civil Rights Movement that was led by homophobic African American ministers, and the latter part of the ’60s shaped by the Black Power Movement that was built on the most misogynistic and homopho­bic strains of Black Nationalism, Black LGBTQ sexualities were per­ceived as a threat, not only to Black male heterosexuality, the Black Church and community, but also the ontology of blackness itself.

 

WHEN DUPREE STOPPED IN FRONT of Mr. Fletcher’s game table, he was signaling to his aunt and uncle that their son Birdie, who sang like a beautiful songbird, was more than likely in the melee across the bridge. Everyone knew Birdie was gay, and we wondered where he and his “brother-girls,” as he dubbed them, had gone on the weekends when they laughed and spoke in code on Sundays about their exploits while robing-up for choir.

CISSY DETESTED THAT HER ELDEST, Nate Turner “Birdie” Anderson, Jr., went outside the community to a white neighborhood to be himself. As it was, Cissy felt she had no control in protecting her children. Her youngest children were ensnared in the ongoing bussing debacle where the court mandated they attend school out­side of their neighborhood; and now Birdie went out of the neigh­borhood to Greenwich Village. She worried about cops killing him, or a gang of white thugs chasing him to his death.

And her fears were not unfounded. That’s what had happened to her middle brother, Herndon, twenty years before, in 1949 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was gang-raped, but his death was reported as a lynching. Herndon was gay, an effeminate and slight man, no more than five feet seven inches tall, weighing roughly one hundred forty pounds, like his nephew Birdie. When he went to visit friends on his own while strolling down dirt roads in Lynchburg, rednecks­ a bunch of them together—would try to catch him. When they did they would tie him to the back seat of their pick-up truck and take him into the woods to gang-rape him, and make Herndon perform fellatio on them. On the day they killed Herndon, he’d refused to give them the satisfaction they demanded. The men mutilated Herndon, vying for his genitals as souvenirs to sell; but they eventu­ally divided the pieces among themselves and