The Daily Agenda for Independence Day

Jim Burroway

July 4th, 2012

Jasper Johns. White Flag, 1955.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Perhaps the most famous words written in America, the Declaration of Independence has inspired fights for liberty since its signing in 1776. It’s instructive that a decade later, delegates from those thirteen original colonies would gather again for the purposing of forming “a more perfect union.” Not a perfect union, but something at bit closer to that goal. We’ve been striving for that more perfect union since then. Today, as we continue to press for our own unalienable rights, it is good to recall that we are in good company:

We gathered and held our breath as the attendants rolled back the shroud. Where one might expect a pair of legs were wooden sticks. Nicked and numbered, the sticks were not attached to a corpse but a neat pile of well-aged picket signs, hand-lettered, “First Class Citizenship for Homosexuals.” Frank Kameny stood silent, at near attention. And this man was rarely silent. The pickets, carried in 1965, were delivered at that moment in 2006 from his attic to the nation’s — the vault of the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution.

The pickets were placed on the platform. The Smithsonian curator laid them alongside the writing table where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence; the inkwell used by Lincoln when signing the Emancipation Proclamation; and the pin worn by Alice Paul who went to jail picketing the White House for women’s suffrage. “Frank, this is where the pickets fit into American history,” the Smithsonian curator said.

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Cologne, Germany; Haarlem, Netherlands; London, UK (World Pride); Los Angeles, CA (Black Pride); Marseille, France; Porto, Portugal; Prince George, BC; San Luis Obispo, CA; Santa Barbara, CA; Sitges, Spain; Tuscany, Italy; and Victoria, BC.

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Bear Week, Provincetown, MA.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Annual Reminder” Pickets at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall: 1965-1969. The Fourth of July commemorates the day in which a group of second class citizens decided that it was finally time to declare not only their independence, but also their dignity for having been created equal and endowed with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, not all Americans gained their freedom on that date in 1776. Nearly two centuries later, that struggle to form a more perfect until was still, for many, just beginning. In 1965, gay people were prohibited from holding jobs with the federal government by an Executive Order, homosexuality was illegal in every state in the country except Illinois, and gay people were regarded as mentally ill by the American Psychiatric Association.

To protest those conditions, LGBT activists under the collective name of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) met at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1965 for a demonstration to remind their fellow Americans that LGBT people did not enjoy some of the most fundamental of civil rights. Thirty-nine activists, including Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Kay Tobin, picketed in front of Philadelphia’s potent symbol of freedom, carrying signs reading “15 million homosexual Americans as for equality, opportunity, dignity,” and “homosexuals should be judged as individuals.

Barbara Gittings picketing at Independence Hall on July 4, 1966.

Dubbed the “Annual Reminder,” the picketers returned to Independence hall every year from 1965 to 1969, using the occasion of the American Independence Day to remind Americans that freedom was still an elusive dream for many of their fellow citizens. But with 1969’s Stonewall rebellion, the gay community gained an independence day all of their own. The “Annual Reminder” for 1969, occurring just a few days after that declaration of freedom on Christopher Street in New York, would be the last. In 1970, organizers decided to end the July 4 pickets in favor of the Christopher Street Liberation Day celebration on June 28 to commemorate the first anniversary of the riot. We’ve been celebrating Pride as a commemoration of our declaration of independence ever since. But the Annual Reminder hasn’t been forgotten. In 2005, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission erected what is reported to be the first historical marker to recognize and celebrate LGBT history to commemorate those early protests in front of Independence Hall.

Happy Independence Day.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Charles

July 5th, 2012

I am sorry to report that the childhood home of Jasper Johns on Lake Murray was torn down in the last year. It was the home of his aunt. The new owners of the land built a bigger house on the lot. Personally, I think it is a shame. The old house had a lot of character. When Jasper lived out on the lake there were few people who lived out there. Jasper’s parents had divorced and he was shuffled around a lot within his family.

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