History: Stonewall Riot Veteran Stormé DeLarverie Fought 'Ugliness'

By Kirk Klocke
(Editor’s Note: The multimedia component of this piece was published originally in fall 2009 on NYC In Focus, a student-led Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism site covering diversity in Manhattan.

As legend has it, Stormé DeLarverie, a half-black lesbian jazz singer from New Orleans, was the first person to throw a punch that infamous evening in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, sparking what would become a worldwide movement for gay rights.

(multimedia/Kirk Klocke 2009. Stormé speaks at her home at the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan. Singing track is her a few weeks later, when I returned and asked if she would sing on tape. She took me out in the hallway and sang a few bars from two of her favorite jazz pieces.)

I caught up with her in fall 2009 at her home in the Hotel Chelsea to talk about the incident. She didn't care much to discuss Stonewall or her more aggressive days as a gay rights advocate, but revealed clues from her background that helped explain why she was particularly fired up about protecting her LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.

At the time I didn’t quite understand the gravity of this historical event, nor how unusual and special my access to her was. Stormé was accustomed to getting a lot of media requests and rarely said yes. She feared, in many cases rightfully so, profit-seeking documentarians taking advantage of her legacy.

This audio is available for historical and non-for-profit use, in keeping with her wishes. For more information, email kirk@notquitesunday.com