my first queer home

Today is “Give OUT Day” and I am writing to urge friends and supporters of Julio of Jackson Heights to give some support to BAAD – the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance!

baad 01

BAAD was first known as the artistic home of its co-founder and Artistic Director, Arthur Aviles, and the Arthur Aviles Typical Theater, and over the past two decades, under the leadership of Arthur and co-founder (and author and activist!) Charles Rice Gonzalez BAAD has grown enormously, organizing four month long series every year – Out Like That!, BAAD! Ass Women, Blaktino and the Boogie Down Bronx Dance Series – plus other programs throughout the year. I am just one of hundreds of artists whose work they have helped support and promote.baad 02

Yes, I know I should be working on my own fund raising for the film’s Education and Action Campaign, but BAAD means a lot to me! My first ever film, as i went out one morning…, was first screened at BAAD in 2000 as part of a dance program, early work on Julio of Jackson Heights was screened there in a work-and-progress form, and Arthur and I made the short dance film Morning Dance at BAAD!’s original space in Hunts Point. If you want to see the film here is the LINK and you will need a password because it has full frontal nudity. The password is:  gift4baad

In closing, please, whether it be 10, 25 or 100 dollars, join me today in supporting this amazing organization that has created a truly special space for the arts and queer-ity! Click HERE to support their work!

baad 03



Trump trump at Trump Tower

Tomorrow, Monday, July 18 at 5pm, Queer Nation will be staging a major demonstration at Trump Tower in Manhattan (725 Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th Street) in nopeconjunction with the opening of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

I am urging friends and supporters of the film Julio of Jackson Heights to attend the rally is they are in the New York metropolitan area, or to inform their friends about the rally.

Queer Nation formed in the spring of 1990 in response to increasing anti-LGBT violence, and the organization was key in pressuring the police in Queens to run a serious investigation into the murder of Julio Rivera.

If you are on Facebook here is the event page.



A lovely surprise!

Yesterday, the anniversary of Julio’s death, I was in the neighborhood – the neighborhood being, of course, Jackson Heights – to run some errands. And as I walked down 37th Avenue I thought I would take a sign of the “Julio Rivera Corner” to put in this blog and write a bit about the past week of screenings and remembrances of Julio, but then I Alanbumped into Alan Sack and we got some coffees and sweets and sat on a bench. It is always good to be in Alan’s company and he asked me how things went with the screenings and the Citation of Honor from the Queens Borough President and we talked and talked. Alan, for his part, on the night of July 1 lit a candle and said Kaddish for Julio.

This week has been a very important one for the film! Being honored by President Melinda Katz has definitely made more people aware of this work and piqued interest. The screening we held at Elmhurst Hospital (where Julio died in the Emergency Room) was a nice intimate one, attended by about 40 people, and followed by a really great conversation. The screening at Queens Theatre was enormous! Despite the rain and threats of tornadoes (!) over 100 people showed up (out of the 160 who had reserved). And my good friend Dr. Edgar Rivera Colón led a great post-screening discussion.

Personally, I feel truly lucky to have a network of such great supportive people, such a great supportive community, helping me in this work.

Finally, just to let everyone know, all the screenings were free and open to the public. We are now looking to raise more funds for this campaign to continue to bring this work to broader and broader – and more and more diverse – groups of people.

Please, if you can, give your support!

Citation of Honor from Queens Borough President Melinda Katz

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz along with Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer will be giving me a Citation of Honor for my work on Julio of Jackson melissa katzHeights this evening at 6pm at Queens Borough Hall.

My work will be recognized alongside the work of four community leaders doing some truly important work.

Mohamed Q. Amin – Founder and Executive Director of the Caribbean Equality Project (CEP), a non-profit Caribbean-oriented LGBTQ organization based in Queens.

Justin Monaco – Middle school Social Studies teacher who has led workshops on incorporating LGBT issues into NYC classrooms.

Brandon W. Mosley – Creative Director of Access Queens, which helps Queens residents navigate transit challenges along the #7 line.

Dr. Matt Oransky – Clinical psychologist at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center who works with patients who have a history of trauma and with transgender, questioning and gender non-conforming youth.

I am greatly honored and pleased to have my work recognized in such good company.

Two screenings in Queens!

We are holding two screenings of Julio of Jackson Heights on June 30 and July 1, 2016!

Both screenings are free and open to the public, though we are requesting that people consider making a support contribution to the Action and Education Campaign. Here are the screening details…  julio cropped

June 30, Thursday at 7:00 pm – Elmhurst Hosptial Auditorium (Room A1 – 22) at 79-01 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens. Filmmaker present and screening followed by a discussion.

July 1, Friday, at 7:00 pm – Queens Theatre in the Park in Flushing Meadow Park! This link will tell you how to get to Queens Theatre. The screening is free but reservations are highly recommended as capacity is limited. Reservations can be made by emailing or calling the box office (718) 760-0064 Tuesday – Friday, 12pm to 6pm.

Please, write in the comments section should you have any questions. And feel free to spread the word about the screenings with anyone you think might like to see it!


Why I photograph Pride Parades

There is only so much a photograph can do. It generally offers very limited context, no history within its frame and little to no written language.


As the kind of person who makes work that is consciously political, I have often found photography frustrating. Despite the important role that photography has played in history – Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Roy DeCarava – in the end, it seems that most of the time we want photographs that fascinate us or with which we identify. Even the newspapers arepride02 limited in what they will present. We must recognize the image. Rarely are we expected to read the image, to learn something from the image, to know the image.

Maybe it is my own limitation, but one of the main reasons that I finally decided to make a film about the murder of Julio Rivera was because I felt that people could no longer see that history in the Queens Pride Parade. I felt unable to photograph the history that was, for me, the great weight and substance of the parade.

For four years, I even held photographic exhibitions of my work on the day of the Queens Pride Parade on the fence of P.S. 69. I would go early in the morning and tape up about 25 – 30 large prints, and I would always put up a text as well entitled, “For those of you who don’t know…” which was a few paragraphs about the murder of Julio and how that murder led directly pride03to the creation of the parade. I felt maybe this might help people look at the photographs differently.

This week, as the Heritage of Pride Parade will march through Manhattan for the 46th year in a row, in the wake of the massacre at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, I found myself imagining how the parade would be this weekend: the heavy feelings of sadness, commitment and struggle, of anger and resistance. The need to endure through all of this, through gay bashings, through denial of civil rights, pride04through lack of human rights, through society’s indifference in the face of AIDS, through this most recent, horrific reminder of how far we have to go as a society, through the day to day cruelties and disdain that many of my dear friends have to confront, that linger in the air around them all the time, and that I will never have to suffer.

And I turned back to photographs I took over twenty years ago of the parades in Manhattan in 1995 and 1994, the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Honestly, I don’t know what good this work does, but I am comforted that I was there some of the time and able to photograph us coming together in solidarity, in struggle, and in our humanness.




















Orlando: opportunities to show solidarity

There have been so many important and thoughtful things written in the past few days in response to the mass murder at Pulse in Orlando and I am using this blog today as a means to share some of the posts and emails that I personally found very moving and helpful.

Elise McCave of BritDocs wrote an email that included information on where to send money for the families of victims such as Pulse Victims Fund and Muslims United with Victims of Pulse Shooting.


She urged people to push their politicians on gun control policy and suggested that each of us, “Speak to someone today who you’ve never met before, take the time to get to know someone you think looks different to you, and be reminded that we are similar in far more ways than we are different.”

kiev 01

Photo of Tel Aviv Pride Parade with Lea Delaria and Alan Cummings by Cara Stern


My dear cousin, Cara Stern, was in Kyiv for the first, successful “March of Equality”: 5,000 police securing the safety of the 1,000 participants, “amidst the threat of bloodshed and

kiev 02

Photo from Kiev “March for Equality” by Cara Stern

the shadow of violence last year.” A stark contrast to the march she had attended with 200,000 people in Tel Aviv just two weeks earlier.

kiev 03

Photo from Kiev “March for Equality” by Cara Stern


Photo from Kyiv “March for Equality” by Cara Stern





Finally, I wanted to repost in its entirety the text written by Edgar Rivera Colon on Facebook about his experience at the vigil held in front of the Stonewall Inn on Sunday night…



I went to the vigil last night in front of the Stonewall Inn. The crowd was diverse, intergenerational, and loving. The usual elected officials showed up with their blather. The crowd kept on shouting that the names of our dead be read and it eventually happened at the end of the vigil.

There was no simultaneous Spanish translation which was an insult to all the Latin@ LGBTQ folks there. Much to his credit, Mayor De Blasio addressed those gathered in his haltering Spanish as a sign of respect.

A south Asian trans sister spoke and centered the events in an intersectional analysis and racism. Her clarity was a breathe of fresh air. The young folks — God bless them —were vocal which was all to the good.

As the names were read, the crowd without prompting shouted “Presente!” in anger, love, and tears. The repetition of that phrase took me back to El Salvador and Nicaragua during the late 1980’s where I lived and worked with revolutionary Christians and their allies. Crowds in anger and love would intone those words for their beloved ones killed by the war machine the US had let loose on those poor small countries and their social justice movements.

I thought of Dr. King’s words that America was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world with it’s deadly trinity of racism, inexcusable poverty, and militarism. I’m sure Dr. King was with us yesterday and speaking the words of homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia.

Surely, in the moral economy of the universe, a nation cannot expect to visit death and destruction on whole peoples throughout the globe and expect its institutions not to reproduce that violence in everyday life. Consider the bloodbath that was Latin America in the 20th century at the behest of US economic and political elites. Did we really think those practices would cease and desist within our borders and institutional life? What happened to our Latin@ and Black LGBTQ beloveds in Orlando is related directly to violence and hatred we have exported and stoked these many years.

At the end of the vigil, I stood with my militant lesbian sisters and considered that we have probably dozens and dozens of vigils between us and we keep on fighting the good fight to make this planet safe for love not for the blowhard politicians, their acolytes, and security details, but for those teary-eyed, angry young LGBTQ folks and those Latin@s queers waving their national flags hoping to hear a word of comfort in their mother tongues and the old ACT UP militants and our beautiful allies.

Suddenly, I knew I had been here before. Was it at a protest against police brutality? A Black Lives Matter March across the Brooklyn Bridge? Maybe it was the warmth of the crowd at Sylvia Rivera’s funeral march down to the Christopher Street Piers? I thought of the words of TS Elliot:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”