“Can Gays Save New York City?” That was the narrative, that white LGBTQ+ people would move in and “revitalize” the city. Meanwhile, Black LGBTQ+ people suffered from gentrification and broken windows policing. And it all came to a head on September 29, 1982.
The division of race and class was clear. Because while some dined at the Human Rights Campaign Fund’s pro-LGBTQ+ black-tie gala, that night, NYPD raided Blue’s, a predominantly Black LGBTQ+ bar blocks away. Why?
Blue’s patrons were targeted as part of the “clean up” Times Square effort, making way for tourists and luxury hotels. The New York Times didn’t even cover the violent raid, and its offices were across the street.
Black LGBTQ+ people, “scarcely protected by the all-new won ‘gay rights,’ were being stomped within an inch of their lives by that police department,” Black journalist Lionel Mitchell reported back then.
And today, Black gay filmmaker and historian Beau Lancaster is seeking to use this history to locate patterns between 1982 and now, with a documentary fittingly called “Gay, Black, and Blue.” Those enduring patterns include criminalization, displacement, and erasure, still impacting Black LGBTQ+ people.
But as we learn from these histories, there’s another pattern we can’t forget: our resistance.