San Diego, CA: The United States oldest LGBTQ organization; the International Imperial Court System (IICS) of the United States, Canada, and Mexico (founded in 1965), and the oldest LGBTQ civil rights organization; the National LGBTQ Task Force (founded in 1973), have launched a national campaign asking the US Post Office Department to issue stamps honoring LGBTQ icons and trailblazers; Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and José Julio Sarria.
The IICS and The Task Force were also the sponsors of the successful campaign that resulted in the issuance of the Harvey Bernard Milk U.S. postage stamp- unveiled in May of 2014, at the White House by President Barack Obama, on what would've been Harvey Milk's 84th birthday. The two organizations were also responsible for the successful campaign to the Secretary of the Navy, which resulted in the naming of the U.S.N.S. Harvey Milk- the second of the John Lewis class of underway replenishment oilers, commissioned by the United States military- currently under construction in San Diego, California where Milk was stationed for duty in the 1950s as a commander in the US Navy. We also recognize and thank our honorary chairs, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors and the City of San Diego Human Rights Commission, the first government bodies to endorse the stamp campaign.
"As we just celebrated Black History Month and begin Women's History Month, we want to celebrate our Black and trans LGBTQ icons; Bayard Rustin and Marsha P. Johnson, in the company of two extraordinary Latino icons; Sylvia Rivera and José Julia Sarria" said Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, Queen Mother I of the Americas of the International Imperial Court System.
"The National LGBTQ Task Force is thrilled to continue supporting this effort," said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, "This campaign recognizes the contributions that the trans and drag communities, particularly people of color who have given so much to the larger LGBTQ community and still do not have the visibility or credit they deserve. We saw the tremendous success of the Harvey Milk stamp and encourage the U.S. Post Office to create more - and more diverse — representations of LGBTQ icons," concluded Johnson.
The U.S. Post Office Department recently issued the Bugs Bunny Forever Stamps, a series of 10 postage stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny's most iconic looks- several of which include Bugs Bunny in drag. The stamp caught the attention of Murray-Ramirez who strongly felt that iconic real-life transgender heroes Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and José Julia Sarria should also be honored.
Walter Naegle , Rustin's longtime partner is serving as honorary chair of this campaign and has been an longtime advocate Rustin, who was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. Along with A. Phillip Randolph, he helped organize the 1941 March on Washington and was the leading architect of the 1964 March on Washington. He is most well known as an advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. Rustin died in 1987 and is a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. A documentary film of his life is currently being produced by former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and is written by Oscar winner and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are iconic drag queens/trans activist who were part of the 1969 Stonewall uprisings, becoming leaders in the Gay Liberation Movement. Together they helped found the group STARR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), which offered housing to homeless and transgender youth, a particularly vulnerable population. Johnson and Rivera recognized that many transgender people turned to sex work after being rejected by their families, and they faced additional hardships and dangers through being unsheltered. Johnson and Rivera opened the first LGBTQ youth shelter in North America, and these trailblazers became the first trans women of color to lead an organization in the United States- all while navigating mental and financial instabilities of their own. Marsha P. Johnson was found dead of mysterious causes in 1992, and Sylvia Rivera died of liver cancer in 2002.
José Julia Sarria was a proud Latino World War II veteran who while living in San Francisco in 1961 became the first openly LGBTQ candidate to run for public office. He is most well known as the founder of the International Imperial Court System which now has 70 city chapters in the US, Canada and Mexico. He is also a founder of two of the earliest homophile civil rights organizations in the United States- the League for Civil Education in 1961, and the Society for Individual Rights in 1963.
"I have said for over half a century: a community and civil rights movement that does not know where it came from and whose shoulders it stands on does not know where it's going,'" added Murray-Ramirez.