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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 30 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 22
Stonewall veteran Storme DeLarverie dies at 93
Section One
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Stonewall veteran Storme DeLarverie dies at 93

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Storme DeLarverie, dubbed 'the Rosa Parks of the Gay rights movement' by her friends, died on May 24 in New York City. She was 93.

According to the Bronx LGBT Center, 'Storme was a Black lesbian who often presented as a Black man; although she could easily have passed for a White woman, she chose not to do so.'

Describing her as 'a fierce woman' the LGBT Center noted that DeLarverie was 'credited as having thrown one of the first punches during the Stonewall Uprising in June 1969.'

According to a 2009 New York Times story on her life, 'Some writers believe Ms. DeLarverie may have been the cross-dressing lesbian whose clubbing by the police was the catalyst for the riots (the woman has never been identified). While others are adamant that Ms. DeLarverie was not that woman, no one disputes that she was there, and no one doubts that the woman who had been fighting back all her life fought back in the summer of 1969.'

DeLarverie herself indignantly rejected the word 'riot' to describe the street fighting that drove police out of the Greenwich Village neighborhood around The Stonewall Inn in June 1969.

'It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience - it wasn't no damn riot,' she said.

'The cops were parading patrons out of the front door of The Stonewall at about two o'clock in the morning. I saw this one boy being taken out by three cops, only one in uniform. Three to one! I told my pals, 'I know him! That's Williamson, my friend Sonia Jane's friend.'

'Williamson briefly broke loose but they grabbed the back of his jacket and pulled him right down on the cement street. One of them did a drop kick on him. Another cop senselessly hit him from the back.

'Right after that, a cop said to me: 'Move faggot', thinking that I was a Gay guy. I said, 'I will not! And, don't you dare touch me.' With that, the cop shoved me and I instinctively punched him right in his face. He bled! He was then dropping to the ground - not me!'

According to the Stonewall Veterans Association website, DeLarverie was born in New Orleans on Christmas Eve 1920. In the 1940s, she was a solo performer with a three-piece band, but she 'is probably best known for being part of the legendary Jewel Box Revue, a popular 'drag' performance group which toured America - not always under the best of accommodations or circumstances.'

The Jewel Box Revue ensemble included some two-dozen men dressed as women and DeLarverie dressed as a man. During the 1950s and the 1960s, she was the Jewel Box's only male impersonator.

The Revue regularly played Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater, and DeLarverie moonlighted as a bouncer in Greenwich Village's Gay and Lesbian bars, many of them mob-owned. She reportedly carried a straight-edge razor - or a pistol, depending on which one of her friends was telling the story - hidden in her stockings.

The Stonewall Veterans Association came together exactly two weeks after the uprising, on July 11,1969. DeLarverie was one of the founding members and it remained the vehicle for most of her activism.

In her later years, DeLarverie lived at the infamous Chelsea Hotel, where she ran into legal and financial problems and was frequently on the edge of eviction.

In 2009, the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged was appointed her legal guardian, but she soon required hospitalization for Alzheimer's Disease. The New York Times found her lucid, but forgetful, in their story on her that same year.

'Her love of people made Storme an advocate, and she stood up to all injustice whenever she encountered or heard about it,' the Bronx LGBT Center said in their obituary. 'It was this conviction that led her to change the world for all of us, for the better.'

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