The 28-year-old YouTube personality, author and queer rights activist dropped by Stonewall, which is considered the symbolic birthplace of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, for the latest installment of his new “Chosen Family” video series. One of the many highlights of the clip, which can be viewed above, is Oakley’s candid interview with Stonewall veteran Tree Sequoia, who is now a bartender at the historic Greenwich Village venue.
Though the clip was released 48 years after Stonewall’s patrons fought back in a June 28, 1969 police raid, Sequoia tells Oakley he worries about that legacy being brushed aside as LGBTQ people continue to make social strides. “The younger generation [has] no idea what we went through to give them what they have,” Sequoia, now 76, says. “They have 100 percent more than I had when I was a gay guy coming to the Village in the ’50s and ’60s. We had nothing.”
Oakley also chatted with Stonewall’s co-owner Stacy Lentz, who sees parallels between the challenges LGBTQ people experienced in 1969 with those they now face in America’s current political climate.
“This was founded on resistance. This was founded on standing up,” Lentz says. “We need everybody now... whether it’s our trans friends, whether it’s people of color, whether it’s immigrants ― whatever it is ― those issues matter now. You have your Stonewall 1969 moment right now to stand up, come out, march and fight back.”
Oakley told HuffPost that the chance to speak with Sequoia and Lentz just ahead of the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising was “really powerful.”
“Bars like the Stonewall Inn have always been sanctuaries for queer people,” he said. “Hearing a firsthand account from an activist like Tree Sequoia reminded me of how important it is to carry on the legacy of resistance of our LGBTQ+ elders that began almost 50 years ago.”
Check out the trailer for Oakley’s “Chosen Family” video series below, then be sure to watch more of his videos here.
Catch the latest in queer culture by subscribing to the Queer Voices newsletter.