Keith Haring was an American artist whose pop art emerged from the New York City graffiti subculture of the 1980s. His animated imagery has become a widely recognized visual language.Much of his work includes sexual allusions that turned into social activism by using the images to advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, many of them created voluntarily for hospitals, daycare centers, and schools. Haring died on February 16, 1990, of AIDS-related complications. In 2014, he was one of the inaugural honorees in the Rainbow Honor Walk in San Francisco, a walk of fame noting LGBTQ people who have "made significant contributions in their fields."
Chavela Vargas was born Isabel Vargas Lizano in San Joaquín Flores, Costa Rica, and ran away from home to Mexico at age 14. To support herself she sang on the streets of Mexico City. She started to sing professionally and established herself singing Mexican folk songs known as rancheras. Typically sung by broken hearted men, Vargas instead sang the rancheras with great emotion in a gravelly voice while drinking, smoking and chasing women. She eventually became a huge star. Chavela is also recognized for her contribution to other genres of popular Latin American music. The Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, presented her with a Latin Grammy in 2007. At the age of 83, Chavela performed for the first time at Carnegie Hall in New York. The singer passed away in 2012 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
James Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and civil rights activist whose work deals with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century in the United States. His novels mine complex social and psychological pressures related to being black and homosexual well before these groups' social, cultural, or political equality was improved. His groundbreaking 1956 novel, Giovanni’s Room, boldly examined an interracial gay love affair between two men living in Paris, and the social isolation facing those with such desires. In the Civil Rights movement, Baldwin was a prominent, progressive voice who did not shy away from his own sexual identity. When an interviewer asked him on television to describe the challenges he faced as “a black, impoverished homosexual,” he answered, “I thought I’d hit the jackpot.” SF Bay Times Article
Sally Ride was a lesbian astronaut and astrophysicist and became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Ride earned a master’s degree in physics in 1975 and a Ph.D. in 1978. Dr. Sally Ride studied at Stanford University and beat out 1,000 other applicants for a spot in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) astronaut program. Being a respected space pioneer was more important to Ride than achieving celebrity as a woman astronaut. Her space shuttle career earned for her the trust and high regard of her colleagues as well as the admiration of an entire nation. Following her work with the space shuttle program she worked to encourage young people, especially girls, to pursue careers in science.
George Choy was a board member of Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA), a member of ACT UP, and an activist for AIDS awareness and LGBT youth who persuaded the SF Board of Supervisors to pass Project 10, the counseling program for LGBT teenagers in public high schools. He was also active in GCHP (GAPA Community Health Project) and worked with OCCUR (the Japanese Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement, the first Japanese Gay Rights organization). In 1991, OCCUR brought the first gay rights case to court in Japan.
Frida Kahlo is one of the most idolized female artists of the twentieth century. Kahlo is remembered as an artist who spoke her heart through her paintings, profound symbols of strength and perseverance. Popular response to her artwork has, however, been dominated by her life story and not necessarily her art. In 1984, though, the Mexican government recognized Kahlo’s significance as an artist by decreeing her art a national patrimony. Her image has become a face for Mexico. It is more likely that a person has heard of Kahlo’s tragic accident, her obsession with Rivera, her flamboyant attire, her scandalous relationships, and her physical and emotional pain than to have seen her artwork. The associations evoked by her name have created the cultlike following of “Fridamania.” She has been reborn, in a way, as an image of popular culture, and this pop image, whatever its merits, is a part of her continuing legacy.
Yukio Mishima was a Japanese playwright, poet, actor, and film director, internationally famous and considered one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century, his avant-garde work displayed a blending of modern and traditional aesthetics that broke cultural boundaries, with a focus on sexuality, death, and political change. Yukio had written his own death scene in his 1960 story “Patriotism.” He had later dramatized his death by adapting “Patriotism” as a film, which he directed and in which he acted the leading role. So prophetic was the suicide scene that Mishima’s family had the film suppressed after his death. As a class, writers are more likely to be observers and commentators than active participants. Mishima is, however, such a striking exception to this rule of thumb that his fascinating life and horrifying death may tend to overshadow the belief that he may be Japan’s greatest postwar writer.
Gertrude Stein was an American writer and thinker who spent most of her life in France, and is well known for her writing, and her premier art collection of the twentieth century of which many famous artists and writers visited her Paris salon. Her life-long partner, Alice B. Toklas, came to be famous in her own right. Stein’s affirming essay, Miss Furr and Miss Skeene, is one of the first homosexual revelation stories to be published. It contains the word “gay”: over one hundred times, perhaps the first published use of the word “gay” in reference to same-sex relationships. Her work, informed in part by her studies in psychology, strayed outside the normal bounds of conventional writing, much to the bewilderment of many readers and the condemnation of many critics.
We’wha a Zuni Native American from New Mexico, a weaver, a potter, a fiber artist and the most famous Ihamana on record. In traditional Zuni culture Ihamana are male-bodied people who take on the social and ceremonial roles typically performed by women. They dress in a combination of women’s and men’s clothing, work in areas occupied by Zuni women and serve as mediators to their community by performing masculine religious and judicial functions at the same time that they perform feminine duties. We’wha served as a cultural ambassador for Native Americans and as an educator for many European-American settlers, teachers, soldiers, missionaries, and anthropologists. In 1886, We’wha was part of the Zuni delegation in Washington DC where they met President Grover Cleveland.
Christine Jorgensen an American, and the first widely known person to have sex reassignment surgery–in this case, male to female. Born in the Bronx to supportive Danish-American parents, the former army solider traveled to Copenhagen in 1951 for sex reassignment surgery. When the European press began reporting on Jorgensen, she demonstrated considerable courage and media-savvy by negotiating exclusive rights to her life story that was published in Hearst’s American Weekly news magazine. Jorgensen returned to the U.S. in 1953 as a celebrity. Widely covered by the media, she used her resulting celebrity to advocate for transgendered people. As the social acceptance of gender reassignment increased, Jorgensen received less and less burdensome media attention, which was a relief to her. She became an icon of sorts and is remembered as a pioneer in the transgender/transsexual movement.
Kiyoshi Kuromiya was born in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II and grew up to become a committed civil rights and anti-war activist. He became a personal assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and baby-sat Dr. King’s children during the many memorials for their father. Was one of the founders of Gay Liberation Front in Philadelphia. He also served as an openly gay delegate to the Black Panther Convention that endorsed the gay liberation struggle. During the AIDS epidemic, Kiyoshi was involved with ACT-UP/Philadelphia; PWA empowerment and We The People Living with HIV/AIDS. Working with R. Buckminster Fuller, Kiyoshi founded the Critical Path Project, which brought the strategies and theories of Buckminster Fuller to the struggle against AIDS.
Jane Addams the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women‘s suffrage and world peace. One of the most famous women in America in the early 20th century, Addams was also a charter member of the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Addams was a rare combination of social theorist and pragmatic reformer. She was willing to draw on the observations and ideas of this group in formulating her own programs. This open-minded deference to ideas, including those of William James and John Dewey, may have been her greatest strength in attempting to apply democratic idealism to an urban industrial setting in new ways that represented a profound break from the genteel tradition in which she was reared and educated.