NATIONAL LGBTQ TASK FORCE
National LGBTQ Organizations Propose Stamps Honoring LGBTQ Trailblazers Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Jose Julia Sarria.
San Diego, CA: The United States oldest LGBTQ organization; the International Imperial Court System (IICS) of the United States, Canada, and Mexico (founded in 1965), and the oldest LGBTQ civil rights organization; the National LGBTQ Task Force (founded in 1973), have launched a national campaign asking the US Post Office Department to issue stamps honoring LGBTQ icons and trailblazers; Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and José Julio Sarria.
The IICS and The Task Force were also the sponsors of the successful campaign that resulted in the issuance of the Harvey Bernard Milk U.S. postage stamp- unveiled in May of 2014, at the White House by President Barack Obama, on what would’ve been Harvey Milk’s 84th birthday. The two organizations were also responsible for the successful campaign to the Secretary of the Navy, which resulted in the naming of the U.S.N.S. Harvey Milk- the second of the John Lewis class of underway replenishment oilers, commissioned by the United States military- currently under construction in San Diego, California where Milk was stationed for duty in the 1950s as a commander in the US Navy. We also recognize and thank our honorary chairs, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors and the City of San Diego Human Rights Commission, the first government bodies to endorse the stamp campaign.
“As we just celebrated Black History Month and begin Women’s History Month, we want to celebrate our Black and trans LGBTQ icons; Bayard Rustin and Marsha P. Johnson, in the company of two extraordinary Latino icons; Sylvia Rivera and José Julia Sarria” said Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, Queen Mother I of the Americas of the International Imperial Court System.
“The National LGBTQ Task Force is thrilled to continue supporting this effort,” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, “This campaign recognizes the contributions that the trans and drag communities, particularly people of color who have given so much to the larger LGBTQ community and still do not have the visibility or credit they deserve. We saw the tremendous success of the Harvey Milk stamp and encourage the U.S. Post Office to create more – and more diverse – representations of LGBTQ icons,” concluded Johnson.
The U.S. Post Office Department recently issued the Bugs Bunny Forever Stamps, a series of 10 postage stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny’s most iconic looks- several of which include Bugs Bunny in drag. The stamp caught the attention of Murray-Ramirez who strongly felt that iconic real-life transgender heroes Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and José Julia Sarria should also be honored.
Walter Naegle , Rustin’s longtime partner is serving as honorary chair of this campaign and has been an longtime advocate Rustin, who was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. Along with A. Phillip Randolph, he helped organize the 1941 March on Washington and was the leading architect of the 1964 March on Washington. He is most well known as an advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. Rustin died in 1987 and is a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. A documentary film of his life is currently being produced by former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and is written by Oscar winner and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are iconic drag queens/trans activist who were part of the 1969 Stonewall uprisings, becoming leaders in the Gay Liberation Movement. Together they helped found the group STARR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), which offered housing to homeless and transgender youth, a particularly vulnerable population. Johnson and Rivera recognized that many transgender people turned to sex work after being rejected by their families, and they faced additional hardships and dangers through being unsheltered. Johnson and Rivera opened the first LGBTQ youth shelter in North America, and these trailblazers became the first trans women of color to lead an organization in the United States- all while navigating mental and financial instabilities of their own. Marsha P. Johnson was found dead of mysterious causes in 1992, and Sylvia Rivera died of liver cancer in 2002.
José Julia Sarria was a proud Latino World War II veteran who while living in San Francisco in 1961 became the first openly LGBTQ candidate to run for public office. He is most well known as the founder of the International Imperial Court System which now has 70 city chapters in the US, Canada and Mexico. He is also a founder of two of the earliest homophile civil rights organizations in the United States- the League for Civil Education in 1961, and the Society for Individual Rights in 1963.
“I have said for over half a century: a community and civil rights movement that does not know where it came from and whose shoulders it stands on does not know where it’s going,’” added Murray-Ramirez.
BAY AREA REPORTER
Nearly two-dozen LGBTQ leaders and advocates have signed on to the campaign to see the U.S. Postal Service issue stamps honoring three deceased drag icons who have become heroic figures within the LGBTQ community. Helping to co-chair the effort is Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force.
The national campaign is pressing for the federal agency to create postage featuring José Julio Sarria, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera. They would be the first such stamps issued in honor of drag performers.
Cathy Renna, the interim communications director for the task force, told the B.A.R. that Carey was "extremely busy" and couldn't provide comment for this story. She said the organization is supporting the campaign because it understands "the contributions that the drag community has done for the LGBTQ community and visibility is something that we know is powerful to people."
Among those serving as honorary co-chairs of the postal campaign are drag queens Sister Roma, with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence San Francisco chapter, Chad Michaels, who won the first season of "RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars," and CoCo LaChine, an empress with the Imperial Court of New York; Matthew Shepard Foundation founders Judy and Dennis Shepard; and Jack Thompson, the first trans person of color to be named International Mr. Leather.
San Diego resident Nicole Murray Ramirez launched the campaign last month after the Bay Area Reporter contacted him for comment about several stamps issued to commemorate the 80th birthday of Bugs Bunny depicting the animated rabbit in drag. It is believed to be the first time drag has been featured on U.S. stamps.
Known as the Queen Mother I of the Americas and Nicole the Great within the Imperial Court System, Murray Ramirez leads the philanthropic organization within the drag community that Sarria launched 55 years ago. He shared an exclusive first look with the B.A.R. of mockups for what the trio of stamps could look like created by Denver-based artist and illustrator Thomas Haller Buchanan, a straight ally.
Reaction to the drag stamp campaign has been "overwhelmingly positive," said Murray Ramirez, a gay man who already had the Human Relations Commission of San Diego on which he serves vote in support of the drag stamps campaign. He expressed confidence the stamps would be approved and issued during the first term of a President Joe Biden administration, should the former vice president be elected in November.
"We have gotten all these acknowledgements already, so I am looking forward to a Biden administration and a postmaster general with the common sense and intelligence to issue them. I think that will happen and I think the possibilities are there," said Murray Ramirez.
He previously chaired the national campaign that saw a stamp honoring the late gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk be issued in 2014. Murray Ramirez has also led the effort to honor the late Black gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin with his own stamp.
Sarria, who died in 2013 at the age of 90, was a legendary San Francisco-based drag queen who founded the Imperial Court in 1965. The Latino Army veteran had made history four years prior as the first out gay person to seek elective office in the U.S. with his ultimately unsuccessful bid for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Rivera, who died in 2002 at the age of 50, and Johnson, who died in 1992 at the age of 46, both were trans women who also performed in drag. They were prominent participants in the Stonewall uprising of 1969 who went on to become beloved vocal advocates for gay and transgender issues up until their deaths.
Johnson, who was Black, and Rivera, the child of a Puerto Rican father and Venezuelan mother, co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries to provide support to poor young people in New York City who were shunned by their families, as the New York Times noted in a story last year about city officials planning to install a monument featuring the close friends not far from the Stonewall Inn.
A state park in Brooklyn was renamed after Johnson last month on what would have been her 75th birthday, and officials in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey just announced they would erect a monument to her. State officials said it would the first public monument in New Jersey honoring a LGBTQ+ person and transgender woman of color.
Murray Ramirez is hopeful that California Governor Gavin Newsom will induct Sarria into the state's Hall of Fame this year. He has been pushing for the honor for Sarria for years, dating back to the administration of former governor Jerry Brown.
"I wrote a personal, handwritten letter both to Governor Newsom and his wife about José because it is the 55th anniversary of the Imperial Court," said Murray Ramirez. "A seed planted in San Francisco and nurtured by the court of San Francisco resulted in a real strong royal oak tree with branches in three countries. There are now 70 city court chapters in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada."
As for the issuance of commemorative stamps the U.S. Postal Service's Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee will recommend ideas for them, but it is up to the U.S. postmaster general to make a final determination. Because it usually takes three years from the time of their selection for the commemorative stamps to be issued, the soonest the trio of drag stamps could be released is 2024.
Lesbians state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and former Salt Lake City mayor Jackie Biskupski, and gay Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) are also signed on as honorary chairs of the drag stamp campaign. Also on the list are historian Lillian Faderman, the Rt. Reverend Troy Perry, and Galilea Avila, an empress in the San Francisco Imperial Court who is the executor of Sarria's estate.
Also signed on are civil rights advocates Stuart Milk, Robin Tyler, Mandy Carter, Bamby Salcedo, J. Miko Thomas, Jaylene Tyme, Sam Moehling, Bunnie Wells Cruse, and Karina Samala.
New Yorkers now have a brand-new reason to love one of the city’s best waterfront parks.
This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that East River State Park in Williamsburg would be dedicated to LGBTQ civil rights activist Marsha P. Johnson. That’s a huge deal for a number of reasons, but two interesting facts are that it marks the first time a New York State Park has honored an LGBTQ person and transgender woman of color. About time!
The announcement also revealed that it would be more than just the park’s name getting an upgrade. Additional improvements, set to be completed by next summer, include a new park house and education center, resurfacing deteriorating concrete, new park furniture and, coolest of all, a public art installation honoring the life of Marsha P. Johnson. That installation will stand alongside interpretive materials on Johnson’s life as well as information on the larger LGBTQ movement.
"Too often, the marginalized voices that have pushed progress forward in New York and across the country go unrecognized, making up just a fraction of our public memorials and monuments," said Governor Cuomo in a statement. "Marsha P. Johnson was one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ movement, and is only now getting the acknowledgement she deserves. Dedicating this state park for her, and installing public art telling her story, will ensure her memory and her work fighting for equality lives on."
Johnson was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS treatment. During her life, she was a leader of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, a founding member of the Gay Liberation front, an activist with ACT UP and a co-founder of S.T.A.R. with Sylvia Rivera. She also established a shelter in the city for young LGBTQ individuals who were rejected by their families.
East River State Park is a seven-acre waterfront park in Williamsburg that hosts a number of popular events including the well-known food festival Smorgasburg, which is open this summer as Smorg-to-go.
Legendary transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, a central figure in the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement, will be honored by a monument in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
According to a news release from Union County, the monument will be erected on the city’s Freedom trail, near Elizabeth City Hall, and will become the first public monument in the state to honor an LGBTQ person and transgender woman of color.
Local officials, in consultation with Johnson’s family and LGBTQ advocates. plan to hold several community events during LGBTQ History Month, in October, to seek public input on the planning and design of the monument and the area surrounding it.
“The dedication today recognizes Elizabeth native Marsha P. Johnson as a leader for the rights of transgender people throughout the country,” a spokesperson for Mayor Chris Bollwage’s office told CNN.
NICOLE MURRAY RAMIREZ
Coming this OCTOBER....on HBO MAX Will be a four part mini series about unsung LGBTQ Hero's of the 1960s...
Coming this OCTOBER....on HBO MAX Will be a four part mini series about unsung LGBTQ Hero's of the 1960s....and our JOSE is one of them and so is BAYARD RUSTIN....and SYLVIA RIVERA I first brought this up to all of you in a posting about 4 months ago after a phone call from the HBO director of the four part series entitled :EQUAL! ....I had the pleasure of having discussions with the popular Latino actor playing Jose....JAI RODRIGUEZ (a orginal QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY ) I told him all about our Jose. and the night before he went on set to take on this historic role I called him and told him I know he was going to make JOSE proud and he did! Among other LGBTQ Hero's in this four part series are: HARRY HAY....DEL MARTIN &PHYLLIS LYON...CHRISTINE JORGENSEN.....I want to thank SISTER ROMA for contecting me with her friend Jai Rodriguez and the documentary will also appear in the SAN FRANCISCO FILM FESTIVAL in September . ....thank you HBO MAX ...and JAI.......in this post are pictures of actor Jai Rodriguez playing Jose. In this HBO series!!!