2nd class picked for honor walk

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday June 29, 2016
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The second set of honorees has been picked for the Rainbow Honor Walk, a project in San Francisco's gay Castro district that honors deceased LGBT luminaries.

In September 2014 the first group of 20 LGBT individuals who left a lasting mark on society was honored with bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk on the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street and a portion of 19th Street. All of the men and women selected had lived openly as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals.

The selection committee used the same criteria in picking the next set of 24 names to be added to the walk. The honorees had to be deceased and self-identified as members of the LGBT community during their lifetimes.

Yet two of the women selected, astronaut Sally Ride and lawmaker Barbara Jordan, were posthumously outed to the public as lesbians, according to media accounts of their obituaries. They were nonetheless included, said David Perry, a gay man who co-founded the project, after "a great deal of discussion" by the selection committee.

"After reviewing documentation of their lives, it was clear these two women lived openly in their communities as lesbian," said Perry, who owns an eponymously named public relations firm.

Other lesbians being honored include American physician and political activist Marie Equi; radical feminist and political activist Audre Lorde; and Rikki Streicher, who owned several now-closed San Francisco lesbian bars and helped found the Gay Games Federation.

Among the transgender honorees are female-to-male pioneer Lou Sullivan; Sylvia Rivera, who co-founded the Gay Activist Alliance and was among those protesting at the Stonewall Inn riot; and We'wha, a Zuni Native American two-spirit/mixed gender tribal leader.

The gay male honorees include Glenn Burke, the first out Major League Baseball player; Air Force veteran Leonard Matlovich; Kiyoshi Kuromiya, a Japanese-American civil rights activist; American film historian Vito Russo; drag queen Jose Sarria, who founded the Imperial Court system; and Congressman Gerry Studds.

A number of gay authors were selected, including English poet W.H. Auden; English writer Quentin Crisp; Iranian poet Fereydoun Farrokhzad; and American illustrator and author Maurice Sendak.

Others selected due to their contributions to the arts include gay ballet dancer Alvin Ailey; bisexual American singer Josephine Baker; lesbian American pianist and singer Gladys Bentley; gay drag queen actor Divine; bisexual Queen frontman Freddie Mercury; and Chavela Vargas, a lesbian Costa Rican-born singer of Mexican music.

"LGBT history is world history," stated Perry, who serves as president of the 16-member Rainbow Honor Walk board. "These 24 individuals represent real battles fought during their lifetimes for equality and justice. They are symbols to hold up to future generations so that we may learn from them and continue their work."

It is estimated that the board needs to raise at least $120,000 to pay for production of the 24 individual bronze plaques. Perry is scheduled to meet with the city's public works department next week to discuss where to place them, as well as if the city can cover the estimated $1,000 per plaque installation cost.

It is likely some will go into the sidewalks along Market Street south of Castro Street and on 18th Street between Collingwood and Hartford streets.

"We will make that decision in consultation with DPW. But it will not be on Castro Street between 19th and Market," said Perry.

The Rainbow Honor Walk board already has raised $25,000 to cover the expense, with some of the money coming from sales of select merchandise at the Human Rights Campaign store on Castro Street. A public fundraising campaign will soon be launched to generate more donations.

The goal is to raise the needed funds in order to unveil the new plaques sometime between this year's National Coming Out Day on October 11 and the 2017 Pride weekend at the end of June.

The project's boosters aim to avoid the spelling errors and complaints about the terminology used in several of the first plaques that were discovered after the public unveiling.

"I wouldn't say we would be looking for crowd editing, but we will have an independent proofreader this time," said Perry.

For more information about the Rainbow Honor Walk, as well as longer bios about the honorees, visit http://www.rainbowhonorwalk.org.