BY BTL STAFF
The National Parks Conservation Association, in partnership with the Saugatuck Center for the Arts and the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society, will host a special program as part of the Center’s ongoing “Intriguing Conversation” series on Saturday, Oct. 17.
The event will begin with the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society discussing local efforts to establish a gay history initiative, followed by a conversation with renowned Stonewall historian David Carter and Stonewall uprising participant Philip Bockman about the history of the 1969 Stonewall riots and recent efforts to create a national park at the site.
Carter attended college at Emory University, majoring in religion and received an M.A. in South Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Soon after moving to Wisconsin, he became a gay activist and spent more time on activism than he did on studies. Carter founded the Madison Committee for Gay Rights and cofounded The United. He and two friends started what was apparently the nation’s second gay television series, “Glad To Be Gay.”
Carter moved to New York in 1985 and went to work for Chelsea House Publishers, where he proposed and helped launch two new series: lesbian and gay biographies and lesbian and gay studies. In 1998, with a grant from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, he researched and nominated the site of the Stonewall Riots for the National Register of Historic Places. The Stonewall site was added to the Register in 1998 and the following year was made a National Historic Landmark. Carter published “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution” in 2004 and assisted with the WGBH film on the Stonewall Riots for the American Experience series as well as a BBC program on Stonewall. Carter lives in New York City.
Bockman was raised in the Midwest at a time when being gay was considered a crime and a mental illness. While a student at the University of Michigan, he was thrown out for being gay. Bockman then fled to New York City only to find that the great “liberal” city was in the midst of a crackdown involving raids on the neighborhood bars, and harassment for simply walking down the street. Bockman wanted to be a psychotherapist, but was told he could not, because people would find out his “secret” identity. So he studied English, taught high school and lived a “furtive” gay life — until Stonewall, which changed everything for him, as it did for so many others.
A Stonewall uprising participant, Bockman became part of Gay Activists Alliance, GLAAD and other political groups, and wrote for The Native, a gay newspaper, as well as Christopher Street Magazine. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, he became a psychotherapist at the age of 52. Bockman practices in New York City and resides in Philadelphia with his partner Paul.
The June 1969 events at New York City’s Stonewall Inn sparked a revolution in America. A weeklong uprising by LGBT patrons against routine police raids on the bar inspired LGBT communities throughout the country to organize in support of their civil rights. Within two years following those historic events, LGBT rights groups were organized in nearly every major city.
America’s National Park System tells diverse stories and teaches valuable lessons about Americans’ shared heritage. From Yellowstone National Park to Gettysburg National Military Park to Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, the U.S. National Park System has always grown to include and protect for future generations the underrepresented stories, like those at Stonewall, that have shaped the national identity.
For more information about the campaign to establish a national park at Stonewall, please visit npca.org/stonewall and follow the conversation online using #NatlParkForStonewall.
National Parks Conservation Association has also posted a petition to encourage President Obama to use his executive authority and create a national park for Stonewall.