Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center

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June is Pride month and in this episode Gloria talks to Efrain Guerrero, the executive director of The Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center. They are joined by Marcus Ceniceros, VP of Regional Impact for the LEE. The Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center became the first LGBTQ+ visitor center within the National Parks system.

This episode is presented by LEE, a nonprofit, membership organization that exists to support the leadership of its members to change laws and policies in their communities through running for office, serving in policy and advocacy roles, and engaging in community organizing. You can learn more about their work at



Efrain Guerrero, Marcus, Gloria Riviera

Gloria Riviera  01:23

Hello and welcome to Good Things. I’m your host, Gloria Riviera, I am so thrilled to tell you that we have two guests joining us today to talk about one of our country’s most exciting new national monuments. Our guest, Efrain Guerrero is the executive director of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, the first LGBTQ plus visitor center within the national parks system, with the support of the Lee Foundation and our second guest, Marcus Sensieros, its mission is to preserve, advance and celebrate the legacy of The Stonewall Rebellion, and that is no small task, given the physical location was of late, a bagel shop and nail salon. It has taken a great deal of work, perseverance and fundraising, to ready the center to open its doors in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 a riot broke out at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, nine police officers raided the inn, attempting to arrest patrons and staff, but those inside rebelled, and the police officers retreated back into the inn. Rioters set the bar on fire, and the officers escaped only after reinforcements arrived for days on end, the riots continued, 1000s of people arguing for equal rights denied to them over the course of history in the US, the Stonewall Riots became the beginning of the modern gay rights movement in this country and the world, and now there is a place to go to feel seen, validated and worthy of equal rights. You’ll hear me talk of a reporting trip I did recently to Tennessee, where anti trans bills have been passed. It gives me great hope to know there is a place young people in this country might go to see or at least learn about to bring them a sense of peace and acceptance that who they are is wonderful.


Gloria Riviera  03:23

Marcus and Efrain, thank you so much for joining us. I want to start with a question going back in time a little bit for you both, we can start with Marcus, is there an early memory you have that you reflect on, maybe not so early that brought you to this work, the work that you do with the Lee foundation, Marcus.


Marcus  03:44

Yeah, definitely so I, I was a teacher for eight years. I taught Primary School in Houston, New Orleans and in Chicago over the course of that time. And one of the things that I wanted to do in showing up in that classroom is creating a space that I wanted to have as a kid, growing up in Texas, growing up queer, sort of growing up thinking about, gosh, I don’t know that if I was my true self in all of the spaces, that I would be successful, that I’d be able to grow up and have a job that I wanted to have, also being Latino and from immigrant family, these were just all felt like barriers for me, and so in creating space in my classrooms for students to be authentically themselves was really important. And now in my work of developing leaders as adults still right. Those things stick with us throughout our life, and we have to untangle and unlearn a lot of those things and thinking about how we might pursue elected office or do public policy work or be civically engaged in another way. And so the fact that I get to do that every day, I get to have these like sort of deep, authentic conversations and help bring people to a leadership role in their life is, you know, is exciting, and that’s what keeps me doing this work every single day, even when things get hard and levels of optimism are lower in the political space right now, I have a lot of optimism and hope for what we can do together through leadership.


Gloria Riviera  05:18

Right and things do get hard. I imagine it was not a smooth road to the eventual opening of the Stonewall National Monument visitors center. Efrain, do you have any reflections on what brought you to this work where your passion is, why you stay so dedicated to opening those doors?


Efrain Guerrero  05:39

Yeah, you know, my sort of, the type of work I’ve done, you know, the past 20 years has, you know, varied somewhat in between working in education and then again, being back in the space, working within the LGBTQA plus community. But I think somewhere, you know, I it’s interesting, Marcus, I have some similar stories. You know, I my parents immigrants from Mexico, and just by having very little growing up, I think I learned a lot, especially from my dad, on what it means to give back. We always had, like a relative staying with us. He always, you know, we always had an open door. You know, he was always someone who, even within his own community back home, you know, was finding ways to improve it. You know, I spent a few years after college working for GLAAD and other LGBTQIA organizations, and then made a shift to working education. That’s how Marcus and I actually met. And then, most recently, you know, got involved in the visitor center project. And it’s just, you know, honestly, it’s kind of nice to be back home, you know, someone who as someone who identifies as gay. It’s just, you know, this, the work that we’re doing to open up these doors in June is very close to my heart. And, you know, I can’t wait to see people walk into the space.


Gloria Riviera  06:58

That will be such an exciting moment, I feel like I need to be there. So keep me posted. Marcus, what does it mean to you and tell me if I’m phrasing this correctly to be able to directly, and it’s that directly that I’m curious about invest in civic leaders like Efrain.


Marcus  07:02

Yeah, so investing in leadership is so important right now. Investing in leaders with strong values is important right now. Every community across the country is going to have an issue that can be solved differently, that people might have a different approach to doing that, right? We’re not I do not feel like I’m in the business of saying you must check this box and believe this thing to do this work well, I’m in the business of saying, what are your values? How has that shaped the leadership that you want to bring to your community? And can you build coalition and others that believe in that as well to do this work and that sort of values based leadership is a little bit rarer in our country right now, and so the idea of like a frame, and what’s happening at the Stonewall Visitor Center is we are creating a space that people can feel at home at, that people know that they can go to that’s a national park, right, that’s supported by our government, in a space to be authentically themselves and to see themselves in that area. That’s something that not everybody has in communities across our country. And so the fact that we can invest in leaders, in opening spaces like this, or in taking on leadership roles that help people see themselves is really important.


Gloria Riviera  07:28

Efrain, I’m curious about how you two got together you both mentioned education, which is a cause near and dear to my heart but you know, Marcus talks about finding people in whom to invest with values, based leadership, demonstrated and potential, right? That there’s, there’s a long road ahead. He also talks about, and this makes me think about what you mentioned from your experience as a child, but creating and supporting spaces where people can be authentically themselves. So Efrain, my question for you is, how much progress have we made, and what is the work yet to be done?


Efrain Guerrero  09:16

Yeah, it’s interesting you talk about progress made. I mean, I’ll just talk, you know, from a personal perspective, I think, you know, post marriage equality and during the Obama administration, like, I think there was a sense of, you know, that a lot of the work had been, you know, has, has been done, or we’ve reached sort of this point of acceptance and among the LGBTQI place community. And I think, as we’ve seen and I guess, let me say, even if we sort of had stopped there, right, even if things hadn’t really changed since, you know, let’s say eight years ago, I think it’s important that like we we remember that like progress can easily slip back and that we have to not just, you know, work to achieve progress, but really work hard to maintain it, and that we shouldn’t be lulled in times where things feel good and everyone feels welcoming and things feel safe. And so I think for for that reason, it’s important to have places like the soil National Monument Visitor Center to remind us, you know, what happens when we can unite and when we can sort of rally together against those who oppose us? And so, yes, I think again, even, you know, even when we feel like we’ve we’ve reached a point of acceptance of progress. You know, there’s always the effort to maintain it, and in times worth, you know, it feels like, like it has, I think, for me, in the past few years, that there’s all this, you know, new energy and really hate towards the LGBTQIA place community that we have spaces like ours to sort of help, you know, in uniting the effort to sort of fight, to fight that.


Gloria Riviera  10:58

Yeah, I want to share with both of you. I did a reporting project recently in which I was in Tennessee and was with young people in Tennessee so some of the organizations there create spaces for young people, and I’m talking like 12, 13, 14, to go once a week community centers, and they have a chance to try out different pronouns and different identities and the joy that was inherent, you know, when they were in that space. And this is, well, anti trans, anti drag bill, all of this was, was happening in real time. It was, it was very it just stopped me in my tracks to see what simply, literally finding a space and opening the doors can do for young people. They are a far way away from New York. So my question is, you know, what is the significance of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center? You know, what does it mean for everyone, but particularly for young people in this country who are not able to access care right, health care, to support who they are, exploring themselves to be, what is the significance of the Center for those young people? And I’d love to hear from both of you on that.


Efrain Guerrero  12:22

Yeah, I’m glad you brought up, you know, children, because, you know, one, we are a space, you know, the this, the West Village, the sort of area we are, you know, is obviously a very lively, gay neighborhood, you know but, you know, we’re surrounded by, you know, very famous bars and but we are a space for families. We are a space for children. You know, we’re open 10 to four. We are part of the national park system. And so, yeah, that is one of the things we’re actually very excited about, is to welcome children to the space the National Park Service has, like a Junior Rangers program that we’re hoping to sort of incorporate into the space. And so, yeah, I think having that space for youth to come visit is, you know, one of our main goals. And you know, to point it to your point of those who can’t, you know, who may not be able to visit us, we’re hoping to find ways to reach them, you know, in different ways, remotely, or find ways or opportunities to support kids in other cities to come visit us, whether it’s through funding or other means. And I think the other thing that comes to mind when it comes to, you know, LGBTQIA plus youth is, you know, Stonewall. It was a long time ago, right, we’re about to hit the 55th anniversary this June 28 which happens to coincide with the days that we’re opening the visitor center for the first time. And I think, you know, it’s important to just remember the sort of, the struggle, the challenges that we’ve had, you know, 55 plus years ago, and that you today can kind of have that perspective. So, yeah, I think I’m glad you brought the part about youth to this, because this is important to what we’re doing.


Gloria Riviera  14:05

Yeah, and before we know it, those youth may be 13 now, five years they’ll be 18. You know, it goes so quickly. And I feel like Marcus when you look at a leader like E frame, and you think about the potential. Do you guys talk about, you know, who will be visiting, what they can expect, how much sort of interaction, shared DNA is there as your work goes forward?


Marcus  14:31

Yeah I mean, I think this, this work is about community. You mentioned a little earlier, a friend and I met through a fellowship in education, of around leadership of how are we trying to bring our authentic selves into this work and to make a change in the way that we would want to see and so being able to see him grow into this role and to be able to open the visitor center is super exciting as a friend, but also just as a leader in the community. we both share also identities as Latinos, you know, immigrants like just there’s different layers that exist here, and the types of leaders that are leading our spaces is important, and we want to be able to have other people see the ability for them to lead in that way, to connect and to know that there are resources that we can invest in them and their organizations and their efforts to do amazing things like this. So that’s super exciting. We’ve talked about how young people can exist here, and one of the things that’s just been so hurtful for me in thinking about the political landscape of our country right now is how young people exploring their queer identity or their LGBTQ A plus identity has been weaponized that it is somehow illegal to talk about our identity in some states that we want to ban books or prevent teachers from having authentic conversations with their students, and that is going to be a big challenge for leaders to sort of reverse this policies, these policies that have started to get enacted, and to kind of fight back in that so having an anchor like the Stonewall Museum in New York, of course, but also in other communities across the country, is really important in trying to help people who haven’t heard about these types of initiatives, who don’t necessarily have that in their community, that they can reach and they can find organizations and leaders that align with their values, their identities and the type of change that they want to see in the world. And that’s a really important thing for us right now.


Gloria Riviera  16:43

We’re going to take a quick break, but we will be right back with more on Good Things.


Gloria Riviera  19:04

You talk a little bit about the investment, I’m curious where the dollars go is, is talking about how you even secured the location? Wasn’t it like a bagel shop or a nail salon before something like that? Like, how does that happen? Right? Like, where, what is the cash flow, and what are the logistics, and how do you work together to make it happen, to get from point A to the very, very far and distant point B?


Efrain Guerrero  19:32

Yeah, so I can start, what’s great about this new relation between the solo National Monument, visit center and Lee is, you know, we’re at the end of, sort of the, the phase where we’re about to open the doors. And what was, was very exciting about, you know, partners like Marcus is, like, one of our fears is, you know, once you have a building and it’s, it’s opening, it’s ready, people sort of think like, oh, you’re good, right? But, but, like, the work starts, the programming starts, you know, fun, funding is still very much necessary, but sometimes harder to get to get by. And so when Marcus said that, you know, there was this opportunity to sort of put our name out there to new donors or prospective donors who might be interested in investing in what we do, that is very exciting for us, because again, we’ve had some great support, and continue to have support, but have had some great support in the build out and renovation, but we’re now really looking forward to how to sustain the organization moving forward. I do want to give a quick shout out. You know, again, I’m relatively new as executive director of this organization, but Diana Rodriguez, our founder, who really helped raise money for even the federal the effort to make Stonewall a federal monument. She was involved in that effort. And really it was her and her wife who co founded this organization, Anne Marie Gothard, who had this idea that, you know, we should have a physical space for the visitor, for the monument and a visitor center. And they themselves, you know, once this, yeah, it used to be. It was a bagel shop at one point, and most recently was a nail salon. They themselves, you know, sought out the space. Diana raised, it’s been $3.2 million from supporters like the Mellon Foundation, the National Parks Foundation, you know, New York State and so, yeah, that, that effort, really, you know, full credit to her. And you know, I’m really just focused these past few months and then moving forward and really, like, getting, you know, the organization into, you know, the next phase of growth. But really, the reason we’re here is really because of her and her wife. But yes, to the to your point before the funding is critical, now that we’re open, you know, there’s really a lot we can do within and outside of the space, and it’s because the partners like Lee and Marcus that were able to really, you know, look forward and see and see what’s next.


Gloria Riviera  21:56

So what is next? Marcus, when you go to people to encourage funding, what are you saying to them about what is next? And as you say, Efrain, the doors are open, you’re good well, not exactly right. So what is the messaging to current donors and potential funders?


Marcus  22:12

Definitely, so leadership can be invested in in many different ways, and these types of spaces can be invested in many different ways. One is patronage, like we want people to go to visit the spaces you’re talking about. I don’t know if you’ve if you know the visitor center can be right next to the Stonewall bar that still exists, and right in front of the park that exists. There a quick story, if you don’t mind, and then I’m going to talk about how people can do the investment, but is.


Gloria Riviera  22:38

We love New York City Stories.


Marcus  22:39

Yeah, bring it. So, you know, the actual the national park itself is a very small little park in front of Stonewall, and there’s two statues of gay couples that exist in the park. And when I first moved to New York just two years ago, that was one of the first places I went. And I sat next to the stat and I just sat there and cried because it felt it was, it’s just such an important thing to be seen in that way, and to have a space like that that recognizes your identity, that recognizes who you are as a person, and then is supported in that type of a way. And having spaces like that and leaders who ensure that spaces like that exist is important. So we need to invest in their leadership, in making sure that they have what they need to change these policies, but also that financial aspect of it. There’s small dollar contributions and large dollar contributions that are able to do that. We hope that we’re introducing people to leaders like Efrain that they want to invest in, that they can think about how to do that. Perhaps it’s a new organization that they’ve learned about, perhaps they don’t know who is serving LGBTQ, plus communities across the country or other communities that they care deeply about, and they want to be able to get connected and be able to get engaged and contribute. So that is what we are hoping in this project and in partnerships like with Stonewall, that that we are, that we have right now, which is the ability for people to find organizations and leaders that align with their values and their interests and be able to help make a change in the way that they would like to see.


Gloria Riviera  24:12

Marcus, what is the story that you’re telling people? Because I’m hearing a lot about all of that sounds amazing and great and and especially with where we are now the knowledge that there is somewhere to support, a place to support, a destination to support. And I keep going back to these kids I met in Tennessee, and it’s like, do you know that there’s a place you can go? You know, like it’s a destination. But what is the story? Because I would think there, is, I have no experience in fundraising, but I do in storytelling and those heartstrings, you know, once those are tugged a little bit, a different path opens. So what is the story that you’re telling to people?


Marcus  24:55

For me, the personal story is, is that we want do this work in the light, right? It is pride month right now, it’s June. There’s different ways in which people celebrate, but the origin of that was that we people can be authentically who they are in public. They could do that at their place of work. They could do that in the school that they go to. They can do that in, you know, just every day going to the grocery store, right? Like, that’s the that’s the Gay Agenda, is just being able to go out and shop and get back home and do the thing that you want to do. And when we there’s, there’s so much political effort right now, there’s so much to put queer people back, sort of in the closet, to kind of dim the lights on identity like that, right? We can’t pass laws and policies that restrict people’s identities in our communities, and that’s requires a really strong value set in our leaders. And when we talk about how someone might use their resources, in this case, their financial resources, which you know could be limited right now, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of tension in in people’s pocketbooks at the moment, but the offering here is financial investment is important. It’s important to invest in leaders who can affect laws and policies or create spaces that impact your identities or that you that impact identities of people that you care about. And the time is now we need, we need this work to happen, and that contribution can make sure that it does.


Gloria Riviera  26:27

So, Efrain, how do you take what Marcus has said, you are someone who’s doing the work on the ground. I suppose my question is twofold for you, when you see the bottom line and you see what funding you have to work with, how do you allocate your priorities for where the money needs to go? As Executive Director?


Efrain Guerrero  26:52

Yeah, I mean, obviously right now, we’re really focused on like, do we have the right signs up, and what does the door work properly, and what does that take to fix it? But we are, to your point, I think what’s exciting is, you know, we mess a lot with, again, a lot of the funders I mentioned. And again, we have a ton of great corporate sponsors who have, you know, like Google and others who have been with us for years. But we are looking sort of to the next phase and but, you know, I guess, I guess I’ll say that the first year, I would probably imagine we just want people in the space. We have, you know, some like, some programming plan we hope to welcome, we already have plans to welcome, like, summer youth groups and and start reaching out to the New York City Department education to see how we can sort of partner with, you know, having classes come, you know, back to the discussion around youth, but I think what what to answer your point about funding, we do have, you know, ideas around what this space and organization can grow into, and that’s where sort of the funding comes in. Because we do have, you know, we’re, we’re lucky to have, you know, funds to operate and to launch the video center, and, you know, operate, you know, comfortably, but if we want to do more and really think about that next phase of growth, and whether it’s again, programs with youth or a curriculum or virtual tours, or, you know, like there’s just so much that can be done in and outside of the space that requires funding.


Gloria Riviera  28:29

Okay, sit tight, everyone. We’re going to take one more quick break, and we’ll be right back with more Good Things.


Gloria Riviera  30:04

Okay, so we are releasing this just before doors officially open. Can you give us a sense of what people will experience without giving too much away?


Efrain Guerrero  30:53

Yeah, of course. I mean, I think what’s really cool is like it doesn’t really hit you till you’re in the space and sort of understand, like what happened right where you’re standing. And so just sort of honestly, like being in the physical space where, you know, the Stonewall rebelling took place over 55 years ago, or nearly 55 years ago is, in itself, I think, very powerful. We’re again the when the Reveille took place. So the original in bar was, you know, the the bar that currently exists and the space we’re in so, you know, imagine, you know, how massive the bar was at that time. And so when you walk in, like Marcus mentioned, we’re right across from Christer street Park, right next door to the Solan, the space isn’t is, you know, a 2100, square foot space. And we really jam packed it with as much as we could. You’ll see, you know, very in depth sort of explanation of what the Stonewall Rebellion was, of course, but truly what the how the movement has evolved since then, there’ll be, you know, exhibits from different artists. You know, featuring up and coming queer artists is something that was important to us as well. We’ve incorporated music into the space that really calls back to, you know that the time of the rebellion in the late 60s, there’s a very large theater, which we have some great programming planned for. And again, we just hope that people walk away, you know, learning more about the rebellion, but also being inspired by what it means for them personally, what it means for their work. And you know that they come back, you know, multiple times.


Gloria Riviera  32:35

Yeah, so Marcus, what do you think you would have felt like had you been able to go there? Age 14, 15, 22. 28 you know, like, just, if you project like, what I mean, you shared this story about crying in the park. How would you have felt had a visit been possible for you as a young person?


Marcus  32:56

Yeah, gosh, you know, I think, I think as a as a young person, as a kid, I had these conversations with myself in my head saying, I think I want to be able to grow up and do this, you know, and and do something and be a leader in some kind of a way, and I was like, no, no, I can’t do that. Because if I, if I decide that I’m gonna, if I decide to actually be gay, then I can’t do that. I like, I’m not allowed to do that or I want to grow up and get married? Oh, if I, if I, if I am gay, like I can’t, I can’t do that either, right? So there’s this conversation that young queer people kind of have saying, like, sort of taking away options from themselves, and a lot of that is because of visibility, of knowing that there are stories of people that have done this before, and growing up in West Texas, it was either it’s not like queer people didn’t exist, but we didn’t talk about it. And so just thinking about having that space that I could have gone to to see heroes in the LGBTQ movement who fought back, who said, I am, who I am, and I need you to recognize me. You are not going to constrict me. You are not, you know, we are going to fight back in this way and build something for our community that would have been huge, and that is a that’s a one of the biggest gifts, I think people can both give to themselves, but can also receive from spaces that are created, like, like the Stonewall visitor center will be.


Gloria Riviera  34:22

Efrain, just listening to this. In my perfect world, people will come, not only from all over the states, but all over the world, right? They come to New York anyway. And what do you hope for people, adults, right, who’ve never been in a space like that before? What do you hope that they leave with?


Efrain Guerrero  34:42

Yeah, I mean, similarly, I think there’s just a lot of folks who might not know, you know, who knows, sort of in vague terms, what the Stonewall Rebellion was, but may not know that it was, you know, took place over six days, and really, like, know more about. That the voices that even back then within the community, were not as prominent, like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. So we’re hoping that people will learn about, you know, what happened, but we’ll also similar to what I said before, we’ll start to think about like, you know what that means for their personal lives, for their work lives, what it means to be more involved in our community and help be advocates and allies if they’re not part of our community, and even if you are a part of community, like what it means, you know what your role is to continue to ensure that we make progress for full equality. And so, yeah, I hope people really feel, or let Lee feel inspired, and feel, you know, like there’s something they can do more to sort of help the cause.


Gloria Riviera  35:52

Action, yeah. I mean, I read that Stonewall pioneer and lifelong activist Mark Siegel has been involved, and you’re smiling now. Efrain, what do first hand accounts like his? How do they add to the value and the preservation of history of the rebellion?


Efrain Guerrero  36:09

Yeah, so Mark Siegel, what you know, it’s funny, there’s different accounts of what happened during the rebellion and different accounts of who was there and but what was really great to reconnect with Mark, who was there the day of the rebellion over almost 55 years ago, is that we do have first hand accounts. And he was, you know, he’s been an advisor and very integral in really helping us curate the space, help helping us tell the story. And, you know, even having him walk in and say, oh yeah, here’s where the bar was. And, like, here’s where we used to dance, and here’s where the jukebox used to be, and, you know, just even seeing, you know, speaking of like, you know, being inspiring the space we have. You know, this video of him first seeing the space and dancing as we play the jukebox. And it’s just, you know, incredible to see 55 years later that, you know, we were able to have someone like Mark who was there, who was able to help us tell this story in a very authentic way. And, you know, and we hope that people can see that.


Gloria Riviera  37:13

Yeah, so Marcus, when you came to New York and you sat in the park and you cried, to what extent I mean, I say that very matter of factly, it’s a very moving story, and I’m sure you’re not alone, and having that experience.


Marcus  37:26

Staying in the park and crying is a very New York experience.


Gloria Riviera  37:35

But my question is, you know, how much did you know about the Stonewall riots? And did you, I mean, did you know a lot? Did you know that it was, I will say, you know, the catalyst for the gay rights movement in the US and around the world? Was that part of what was bringing you to tears? Or was it the energy there? I mean, I’m so fascinated by the feeling, right, the feeling in the air there.


Marcus  38:00

The feeling is, the feeling in the air is strong, like, it’s just, it is just a space that feels welcoming, like that feels for us, and also, like it’s just a little park and then, you know, Stonewall Inn, just a little bar, but like, that’s, that’s what people need. Like, that’s where community is built. That’s where relationships are are built with one another, right? Like, that’s the extent of what people are trying to take away when in anti LGBTQ laws or policies, right? Like, that’s and that’s something that we have to hold on to. And so I think that’s the emotion that I was feeling, is, I didn’t know about the Stonewall Riots until after college, I didn’t know that they were led by queer people of color. In these spaces, they had such prominent roles, right? I knew that growing up, it was gonna be difficult for me to live into my full identity, and being there crying in the park, it didn’t like I was just me. And that part is fantastic, and that part is something that I hope everyone has an opportunity to feel, whether they identify as LGBTQ or not just an authentic space to be yourself is important. And the acknowledgement, I think now that the gratitude that I have now in the work that I get to do, and that I see afrain doing within the Stonewall Visitor Center, is that it takes time and effort and resources to build those spaces, to ensure that those spaces can be preserved for people. And that is leadership that I am all in for, and that I hope others are too, and that they can see how they can get engaged and involved and support those efforts.


Gloria Riviera  39:40

Yeah, as you were talking there, I was just thinking for these kids that I met in Tennessee, you know, to be able to go there, or to be able to even watch, you know, a video that the center has produced, they’re taking something back with them into their lives that they didn’t have before. And it’s, it’s a little part of you, right? You’re not alone. I mean, Marcus, you’ve used words like you know that you felt valid and that you felt seen. I mean these, this is what community offers, right? You can’t, you can’t feel that in the same way, alone in your house, questioning your identity. So for me, I feel like this center is, if there was one place I would say to go, particularly, you know, during pride month, but any time of the year, it would be like, it’s, it’s almost like, you know, those, those places exist all over the world, but in New York, you know, I envision myself saying, you have to go there. You have to go there. You have to feel it. You have to experience it.


Marcus  40:39

It’s such an offering for folks to have a space like this that identify, but also for others, right? Like I’ve taken my mom to Stonewall and to the park, right? And just thinking about the allyship that’s needed, the love from our family and friends that’s needed as a gay person, especially if that feels like a difficult thing to come out as and to grow into it is important that also others that do not identify as LGBTQIA plus recognize the importance of the space that they come and they see it, and they learn about Stonewall and they think about how they can contribute to ensuring that these spaces exist, right? Because when these when these places are taken away, when anti LGBTQ laws are passed, it’s because people let it happen or didn’t build up enough power to stop it from happening. And whether it’s this issue or another one, it’s important that those coalitions are built, that people see themselves and these spaces as important for others in their lives.


Gloria Riviera  41:38

You know when you think about coming to the center and you think about celebrating pride. I want to ask you, what does pride mean to both of you and Efrain? If you want to start that would be lovely.


Efrain Guerrero  41:50

Yeah, I mean, I think what comes to mind is, you know, pride as a celebration. To me, pride means love and acceptance. It means, you know, celebrating with my husband, who I was able to illegally get married to a few years ago, and celebrate with my friends. And this time, it means celebrating with others as we open up the visitor center, which I’m very excited to do, despite all the, you know, hard work and and time it’s going to take. I’m very excited this pride, literally, the weekend of Pride weekend we opened on June 28 that this is sort of what it means for me, this, this year and every year, moving forward, that that not just personally, you know, celebrating, but the really celebrating with others and so and celebrating for others. So yeah, that’s what pride means to me.


Gloria Riviera  42:42

Is there anyone in your life that you would hope to bring there one day that right now you think of, you know, might not immediately react like, Yes, I’m coming, but someone that you think would really benefit from being there?


Efrain Guerrero  42:56

Yeah? Well, I mean, I can’t think of anyone who’s not in some way excited to come because they everyone who knows me, you know, knows how much this means, and knows how much you know our team has been working on this, especially, again, our founder, founder dynamic, who’s been tireless, tirelessly at this for, you know, several years. But I think what I am, you know, if I think about folks close to me, my both my sisters, are solo in LA, they’re overdue for New York City trip anyway, and I’m just, you know, it’s one thing to explain, like all the work and the space, and try to even show them renderings and but I am very excited for them and other family and friends to walk into the space and really see all the work that’s got into it, and sort of how special it is for us in our community. So, yeah, that’s those are the some folks who come to mind.


Gloria Riviera  43:46

Yeah, do you imagine that that will be an emotional moment for you when you see people who are important to you walking into the space?


Efrain Guerrero  43:54

Yeah, I think it will be. And again, I, you know, I’ve worked for, you know, different organizations over the years, and yeah, this is it’s just a very different feeling to sort of have a physical space with this historic significance that we hope to do so much in and invite 1000s of people to visit. I’m just very proud of being able to help lead this organization and continue this effort moving forward. And so, yeah, I’m excited to welcome friends and family and really, you know, have them see all the hard work pay off.


Gloria Riviera  44:34

Yeah, and Marcus for you. What does pride mean for you?


Marcus  44:37

Yeah, you know, I think pride is a celebration. Is a continuation. It’s a marathon. It’s a space that has been created for us over generations of folks, people who had much limited more ability to be themselves authentically, and who had a greater risk to walk down the street with a with a pride flag in their hand. But they did it. It, and that’s allowed for moments like this to happen in the future. I think of the larger, you know, sort of community within the LGBTQIA, plus, you know, both Efrain and I identify as cis gay men. But I think about all the different identities within our space that also need visibility. I think about our trans brothers and sisters or cousins in this space, people that have lived through the AIDS epidemic and didn’t see a future in this space. And so when pride happens, yes, it’s fun, it is. It’s the parade, it’s all of the it’s all of that, but it is a deeper sense of we are a part of a community that has been here, that will continue to be here, and that has to continue to show up in public spaces and be civically engaged to ensure that those spaces are preserved for the future, and that the experiences of doubt or shame or any or just non sort of visibility that we might have felt as kids begins to lessen for those young people that you mentioned in Tennessee, but for kids across the world who just want to be themselves, and, you know, feel like that’s okay.


Gloria Riviera  46:10

Yeah, and let me just ask, because we haven’t touched on it. But why do you think Marcus, that there are not more people from the LGBTQ plus community who have real seats at the table.


Marcus  46:25

Oh, gosh, I could talk about this all day, but.


Gloria Riviera  46:27

I know we need to have another hour long interview for this, but just touch on it for a moment for us.


Marcus  46:33

Listen, and you know, one of the things that we talk about a lot in our work at Lee is that laws and policies are just our values written down, and those people who have power can create the laws and policies and their values elevate in our laws and policies and right now and in many ways, the system the electoral structures across our country have been designed to keep people out, to minimize voices, not just of LGBTQ folks, but people of color, but of people that have experienced poverty. And that has to change, but we can’t change it until we really take a strong look at how our systems are built to restructure those and redesign those in a way that reflect a community’s values. But those values might exist right in Tennessee, in Texas, when you talk to people, even family, who don’t quite see the need, why does LGBTQ? Why does that matter? Why does that matter in in everyday life? And that’s that is something that we have to be in conversation with others about. We have to be able to take moments like Pride Month or a national monument to be able to say, This is why, this is how difficult it has been. This is the importance of laws and policies being reflective of communities and being open and not restrictive. And that’s going to take a lot of effort again, right? We, like folks that rioted at Stonewall. That was one particular political effort. We are in the midst of another one right now. And I believe that the solution here is strong values based leadership. And I hope that people, one see themselves that way, and two, see how they can support and resource others to do this work as well.


Gloria Riviera  48:18

Well, I think that’s the perfect note to end on. Thank you so much, thank you to you both for the work that you do, for the doors that you’re opening. I don’t know where we would be without people like you, so thank you so much.


Marcus  48:30

Thank you so much, thanks for the chance to talk about this.


CREDITS  48:33

This episode is presented by the Spark Leaders program, an initiative of Lee. This series is produced by associate producer, Donnie Matias. Our supervising producer is Jamila Zarha Williams, mixing and sound designed by Noah Smith. Steve Nelson is our SVP of weekly content. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Thanks so much for listening, see you next week. Follow Good Things wherever you get your podcasts and listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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