Riot Documentary to Foster Civil Rights Discussion

Destiny Anderson, Reporter

Dr. Allan Austin, professor of History, will be leading discussion following the “Stonewall Uprising” film on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall.
Dr. Ryan Watson, assistant professor of Film and Visual Media, will be leading discussion following the “Stonewall Uprising” film on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall.

The fine arts and history departments are working with the Pride Alliance to present  the film “Stonewall Uprising” on October 3 to raise discussion about LGBTQ issues in the context of civil rights.

The documentary, which  premiered on PBS in 2011, takes a historical lens to examining the night that police raided The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. Police raided the popular gay bar June 1969 causing the streets around the Inn to erupt in violent protests that lasted for six days. The event became known as the Stonewall riot, which marked a turning point for the LGBT+ and civil rights movements.

Dr. Allan Austin, professor of history, and Dr. Ryan Watson, assistant professor of fine arts, are the hosts. Austin and Watson plan to offer some “contextualizing thoughts” on the subject before the showing. Austin, a historian, will address the historical background of the Stonewall uprising while Watson, a film scholar, will provide context on film, the LGBT+ and civil rights movements, and explain how this movement has been used and address by various organizations. They will host an informal, discussion-based question-and-answer session after the film.

The showing is part of LGBT+ History Month, which lasts through  October. Other groups, such as the ALLY Program, will host various events throughout the month to educate and celebrate LGBT+ history. The ALLY Program, which provides a campus-wide network of support for LGBT+ students, was recently joined by a new group called the Pride Alliance. The group, which formed last year, is composed of faculty and staff with the shared goal of providing support to faculty, staff, and students who are LGBT+. Watson, who is a member, hopes to continue to see both groups grow and strengthen connections throughout LGBT+ history month.

The film also gives visibility to marginalized groups in the Stonewall riots narrative. For example, some accounts of the riots dismissed the role of LGBT+ people of color in these protests, even though many of them were important leaders in the protests.

“This particular film does a good job at giving us a sense of the diverse perspectives and the diverse people involved in the Stonewall uprising,” Watson said.

The film also addresses many often overlooked issues. Among them is the way young people grew up viewing or thinking about LGBT issues is more liberally than previous generations did.

“That’s a very different mindset,” Watson said about the generational differences, “and I think what you lose sometimes, even when you’ve made a lot of great progress, is that you remove and you lose the struggle. I think what this film shows is that any rights, whether they be gay rights, other forms of civil rights, rights for anybody, are not given. They’re earned and fought for.  Stonewall is a perfect example of that.”

Watson said film is an excellent means to bring together diverse groups of people, with this showing being no exception. The roster will include a film scholar, a historian, staff members from the Student Success Center, ALLY Program, Pride Alliance, and the student body, who will come together to discuss the film and lessons it offers.

“I think creating a culture on campus where students collectively go to films and talk about them, I think that’s a wonderful thing,” Watson said. “This [student] generation is particularly visual, so films are a a great way to get a great amount of information out there quickly and get people talking. Hopefully, we can do more of that in the coming years.”

Additionally, Watson forward to the student discussion following the showing. The discussion will be light and informal, because that approach is much more cohesive for learning and understanding diverse viewpoints, Watson said.  Lessons taken from this film can be applied to other issues throughout history and in the current world, such as justice in other civil rights movements. These values are already embraced in Misericordia’s charisms, particularly the charism of justice, and this film will provide yet another opportunity for  students to embody and carry these core values.

“We’re really hoping we get a good student turnout because it’s not a super long movie. It’s got interesting history, and I know that the discussion afterwards will be very interesting. It will be great to see what people are bringing to the table,” Watson said.

“Stonewall Uprising” will be shown Tuesday, October 3 at 6 p.m. in Lemmond Theater.