black civil rights movement offers much to learn

By Gus Bode

Pull quote:That is exactly why the gay community, as well as any other fighting group, needs to take a closer look at the black movement.

How many of you have heard of the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King Jr. or Harriet Tubman?

Wow. Those are some serious numbers, folks. Good job.


Now, how many of you have heard of the Stonewall Inn, Harvey Milk or Eddie Araujo? Anyone?

Of course, the first list entails big names in the civil rights and black movement in American history. Anyone that paid attention that day in junior high would know that.

But does the general public know much about the gay movement in America other than watching those sassy yet well-dressed men of prime time?

I am guessing the answer is probably not. That is why few people recognized the second list as the spark of the gay movement in America and a couple of its martyrs.

The black and gay movements both want to combat the ignorance and the hatred. However, the black movement is certainly of a higher echelon in the good civil rights movement. Their experiences and struggles are wholly theirs. To equate them with others’ would be a serious slight.

That is exactly why the gay community, as well as any other fighting group, needs to take a closer look at the black movement. Their heroes were bold and tireless in their actions. They put their hearts and souls on the line for the good of their own people as well as the rest of us. Many of their icons died in honor of their missions.

These people exist in the gay arena as well, but no one seems to know about them. Well, let me tell you about them.


Stonewall Inn was a predominately gay bar on Christopher Street in New York City. Police raids of gay establishments were not out of the ordinary. Police would enter bars, tease the patrons and take the staff and others to jail for whatever reason. The gays were consistently docile despite the obvious harassment. But on June 28, 1969, that all changed. While employees and drag queens were loaded into the paddy wagon, their friends on the street started rioting. They finally fought back. The gay movement began.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the nation. He started running for a seat on the San Francisco board of supervisors in 1973. After years of defeat, he finally won a seat in 1977. This was during a time when homosexuality was considered a mental health problem and one could lose his or her job for being gay. His approach was straightforward and honest, which rubbed many people the wrong way yet brought much attention. He received many death threats yet never considered stopping. He said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

Two bullets did in fact enter his head Nov. 27, 1978, in the mayor’s office. He and the mayor were murdered by a former representative of the board of supervisors.

A boy by the name of Eddie Araujo grew up showing very feminine traits. He enjoyed cosmetics and women’s clothing. He was known as a polite young man that always kept a positive outlook on life. In his early years, he would wear gender natural clothing but still apply makeup. By the time he reached high school, he was wearing full makeup and very feminine clothing. He took the name Gwen, a name family and friends embraced.

On Oct. 3, 2002, Gwen went to a party. She met some other teenage boys that found out her true sex. At the age of 17, Eddie “Gwen” Araujo was beaten to death.

I hope you all remember these names. Maybe they won’t show up on Jeopardy, but they are important figures in American history.

But why do these brave souls go unnoticed? The media doesn’t give them much coverage. Schools don’t think about important gays in history. And most of all, gay people on average are complacent. These people fought on the frontlines for us, and no one cares. Instead, we use our growing acceptance to perpetuate stereotypes of high vanity, promiscuity and chemical abuse on television.

The reason why the black community was able to make such great strides was the fact they supported each other and recognized those that were heading the fight. The gay community sits idly, not knowing from where its own movement came, whom the players are or what’s to come.

Take a long look at the civil right’s movement. If we don’t support those that fight for us every day, we will continue to be placed on the backburner. It’s time to give a crap. Stop taking what we have for granted. Let’s continue to be noticed. Only the most radical statements bring change, and we are the subculture to do it.

How about no appears every Tuesday. Ed is a junior in speech pathology. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Egyptian.