Pride in Places: New York’s Stonewall Inn continues to honor the shoulders upon which its history stands

People kiss as they gather for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in front of the Stonewall Inn in New York City. (Photo via TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Upon co-founding the Wall of Honor in 2019 in partnership with New York‘s famous Stonewall Inn and the National LGBTQ+ Task Force, Nicole Murray Ramirez, Queen Mother I of the Americas, emphasized that a “movement that doesn’t know where it came from, doesn’t know where it’s going.” 

She heads the International Imperial Courts of the USA, Canada, and Mexico, the oldest LGBTQ organization in North America, established in 1965. Murray Ramirez, who oversees the selection of the quintet of queer people posthumously honored each year, said the goal was simple: to ensure the inductees are remembered. 

The Stonewall Inn might’ve not served as the home of the Wall of Honor had it not been saved from permanent closure in 2006. 

Lesbian activist Stacy Lentz helped prevent Stonewall from being erased in modern culture. (Photo: Stonewall)

Activist and one of the historic gay bar’s current co-owners Stacy Lentz tells GayCities it has always been a designated safe space for queer people to find their chosen family. “When we found out it was closing, my partners Kurt Kelly, Bill Morgan, and Tony DeCicco got a group of investors together to help save the bar. Stonewall literally could have been a Starbucks if we hadn’t all stepped in to save it.” 

Lentz and her business partners have worked relentlessly to put The Stonewall Inn back on the map and educate younger generations about the importance of carrying on its legacy and preserving queer history. She says they understand – as owners of such a prominent place in culture – that they have a huge responsibility to keep queer resilience alive. “We have used the bar as a vehicle and always wanted to make sure we put it back at the forefront in the fight for LGBTQ rights and have solidified that work through our nonprofit, The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative.” She currently serves as the organization’s CEO, which took the original mission of the Stonewall Riots across the world. 

Stonewall almost faced permanent closure had it not been saved by a group of business partners and investors in 2006. (Photo: Stonewall)

Stonewall’s legacy on our political stage

In absolute darkness, the queer community has always found light. (Photo: Stonewall)

The Supreme Court’s current overturning of Roe vs. Wade is a worst-case example of equality’s fragility. Lentz echoes that younger folks must be reminded that rights could be taken away without warning. “I would argue that the political stage has been set just for this moment, and we will see rights taken away from marginalized communities starting with women and going from there, so they need to get inspired by learning about their history.”

Following the spirit of honoring the shoulders our community stands on, five legacies were added to the 50 names and histories inaugurated with the Wall of Honor during its inception, including pioneers Wilson Cruz, Mandy Carter, Marsha Botzer, Rev. Troy Perry, and Stuart Milk.

What really makes this legacy project unique is the diversity of stories it immortalizes. This year’s honorees were the openly gay composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim; Indian American LGBTQ leader, attorney, and author Urvashi Vaid; philanthropist and the first openly LGBT person to represent the United States as an ambassador, James Hormel; Lesbian reporter and feminist Dolores Alexander; and lastly, Tyler Clementi, a gay 18-year-old Rutgers University student who died by suicide following bullying and cyberbullying. He captured worldwide media attention and the tragedy inspired his family to create the Tyler Clementi Foundation, dedicated to creating a safe environment for all individuals to thrive.

Pride began as a riot, and Stonewall commits itself to reminding new generations of their history. (Photo: Stonewall)

Through Clementi’s death, the world bore witness that despite all the progress, there are countless adults, teens, and kids who would rather die than face the consequences of being themselves. Through his remembrance on the Wall of Honor, his visibility might prevent others from following the same fate. 

Queer Mother Murray Ramirez and Empress Antique at the 2022 Wall of Honor ceremony. (Photo: Task Force)

During the ceremony, Queen Mother Murray Ramirez urged the queer community to find happiness and light in all the darkness. Owner Lentz says she finds moments of queer joy when she is with her incredible LGBTQ chosen family and through activism work in the community. “For me, there is nothing more fun than mixing nightlife and fighting for our rights. It’s a cool intersection where you get to have fun and do good at the same time, which is pure joy.”

LGBTQ+ Task Force’s Cathy Renna makes remarks during the Wall of Honor induction ceremony. (Photo: Task Force)

Cathy Renna, the Task Force’s Communications Director, echoed this sentiment. “I think what we need to do for Pride – no matter what’s going on in the world – is celebrate our joy, celebrate our resilience, celebrate our diversity, and celebrate our community.”

Thanks to individuals like Ramirez, Lentz, and Renna, activists eager to help carry the torch of change and do the work, the Stonewall Inn will continue serving queer joy and weaponizing history to build a better future.  

The Stonewall Inn has served as the home of diversity and queer joy since its creation. (Photo: Stonewall)

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