More

The right to dance with other gay folks in a bar somewhere? That's thanks to these people.

Sometimes a seminal event changes our culture forever. The Stonewall Rebellion (aka Stonewall Riots) was just such an event, and it ushered in a new era of gay and transgender people being out, proud, and no longer afraid to even dance at a bar without cops throwing them in jail.

In the 1950s and '60s, being gay was considered "un-American."

Those were rough times for gay and trans people in the United States. Their activities were monitored by government organizations such as the State Department. Even the U.S. Post Office, the FBI, and local police departments were involved.

Police would often raid gay bars or places suspected of having a large number of gay patrons.

They would raid and shut them down, and photos of the patrons would be plastered all over the newspapers. Some gay folks were even lodged in mental hospitals.


However, the civil rights movement, along with the antiwar movement, began to inspire people to fight the power.

Folks were challenging arbitrary police actions that kept citizens intimidated and in the shadows when they tried to rise up.

And there was a full-blown cultural shift happening — people were simply not going to live with the social constructs of the 1950s anymore. And I don't blame them.

A massive shift for gay rights began on June 28, 1969, in a Greenwich Village bar called Stonewall Inn.

This New York City bar was a popular hangout for gay and trans people in the area — an oasis, as many gay bars had been shut down. At the time of the rebellion, it was one of the only bars in Manhattan that allowed men to dance with men, and women with women.


The Stonewall Inn circa 1969. Image by Diana Davies/New York Public Library.

To prevent raids that targeted these people, bars often had to pay off cops — but it didn't always stop them.

Some say the owners of Stonewall Inn — who were members of the powerful Genovese mafia family — paid off cops in order to provide liquor without a license and to minimize raids. To this day, it's not clear whether police raided Stonewall Inn on June 28 in spite of being paid off or because they hadn't been paid off on this particular occasion.

During such raids, women were escorted to the restroom so female cops could "verify their sex." Anybody without ID was arrested, as was anyone not wearing three pieces of clothing "appropriate" for their apparent sex. All liquor was usually confiscated, too.

This had been pretty standard for gay bars since the 1950s, but something was different that night in June. They fought back.

"Now, times were a-changin'. Tuesday night was the last night for bullshit. ... Predominantly, the theme [w]as, "this shit has got to stop!"
— Anonymous Stonewall riots participant, via "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution" by David Carter

About 200 people at the Stonewall Inn that night refused to comply with showing their IDs to "prove" their sex.

Those not arrested or sent into the street didn't disperse as usual. They hung around outside the bar to see what was going to happen next. More came from the surrounding neighborhood, swelling the crowd to several hundred people, and more as word went out about the raid.

As cops escorted more patrons outside the bar, some began to shout "gay power!" and sing, "We Shall Overcome," the song adopted by civil rights demonstrators all over the country.

Laughter turned to rage. The air was electric with rebellion and resistance.

Image from PBS's " Stonewall Uprising."

Coins, followed by beer bottles and eventually rocks, were thrown at the police and their vehicles as rumors spread among the still-swelling crowd that some inside the bar were being beaten.

"Part of history forgets, that as the cops are inside the bar, the confrontation started outside by throwing change at the police. We started with the pennies, the nickels, the quarters, and the dimes. 'Here's your payoff, you pigs! You fucking pigs! Get out of our faces.' This was started by the street queens of that era."
Sylvia Rivera, historic transgender activist and cofounder of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance


It's unknown what the true catalyst was, but as the story goes, it was after one too many rough arrests — perhaps the arrest of noted gay civil rights icon Stormé DeLarverie — that the crowd couldn't take it anymore and ignited. All police vehicles sped away for fear of being overturned. Some cops remained and grabbed a few citizens on hand, including a journalist and a musician — perhaps as witnesses — and retreated back into the bar for safety.

The following hour saw rocks, bricks, and garbage cans thrown at the door of the bar, windows broken, and some fires set.

"We all had a collective feeling like we'd had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn't anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration. ... Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us."
— Michael Fader, via "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution" by David Carter

By the time the fire trucks made it, the cops had managed to get themselves out of the bar. Then came the tactical police force. Imagine the riot-gear-wearing, jackbooted cops like the ones who tear-gassed Occupy Wall Street folks several years ago. Or like those recently in Baltimore or Ferguson. This was the precursor to that style of riot "control," and they'd perfected their tactics in the civil rights demonstrations and antiwar actions of the earlier 1960s.

What followed totally pissed off the cops in riot formation. The crowd formed chorus kick lines, dancing and making fun of the cops, singing these words to the tune of "The Howdy Doody Show" theme song:

"We are the Stonewall girls.
We wear our hair in curls.
We don't wear underwear.
We show our pubic hairs.
We wear our dungarees
above our Nelly knees!"




As Martin Duberman wrote in his 1993 book, "Stonewall," "It was a deliciously witty, contemptuous counterpoint to the [police]'s brute force."

This humiliation only increased the savagery of the cops, who charged again and again, batons swinging. The crowds and kick lines would disperse as the riot formation advanced and reform after they'd passed, resuming their impromptu performances and taunting them further.


Even when cops managed to capture some of the demonstrators, people in the crowd would chase them and retake their comrades rather than let them be beaten and thrown into police trucks.

Poet Allen Ginsberg, who lived in Greenwich Village and visited Stonewall during one of the nights this was going on, stated:

"You know, the guys there were so beautiful — they've lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago."

It took five days for the Stonewall Rebellion to subside, but its effect was permanent.

A year later, a march was held in Greenwich Village to remember Stonewall, and Los Angeles and Chicago held simultaneous marches. These were the first gay and trans pride marches in the history of the United States, and from those grew thousands more in cities and towns all across the country.

It also sparked the formation of many gay and trans rights groups, and the gay liberation movement itself.

In the video below, actor Tim Robbins reads from the inspiring words of Duberman's "Stonewall." You can sense just a little of the energy that was felt up and down the streets of Greenwich Village for those nights, starting June 28, 1969.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

Keep Reading Show less

A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

Keep Reading Show less