Mark My Words: Street Art and Street Activism


Last week I received a request that really touched me, and I'd like to share it with you.

"I'm a NYC-based photographer and filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary about Queer Street Art. The film, 'Out In The Streets,' is an international exploration of graffiti and street art and its relationship to activism and Queer Liberation."

The filmmaker had read several articles where I talk about being at Stonewall on the first night and writing on the nearby sidewalks, "Tomorrow Night, Stonewall." That helped organize the second night of Stonewall, which led to a third night and a fourth. With that early organizing, we were able to create an organization that changed the landscape of LGBT equality forever, Gay Liberation Front. At the Drag March during the Stonewall 50 celebrations, some young activists paid homage to what we did and wrote on the streets and sidewalks themselves.

The film is going to focus on how LGBT people have used the streets and street art to express their views and organize their community. The filmmaker went on to write: "For the past two and a half years, I've traveled to seven different countries to interview over 20 artists — exploring their motivations and the hurdles they face. As I've researched, I've found the history to be just as important as the artists currently at work today. It's been fascinating digging at the queer roots of graffiti and street art, and exploring how the linked it has been to Queer Liberation and the taking of public space as for activism."

My take away was personal. How special to me for people to celebrate what GLF and I did, and to be reminded how one act, writing on a sidewalk to help organize, might describe our entire movement for equality. Communication, especially among ourselves, has changed since 1969. Today, social media, in a sense, is how one shouts out to the world and their community. You can use it to act out or unite. But first, you have to be courageous and write it out.

Photography by TheDustyRebel in 2019.