May 1, 2006
San Francisco Pride Announces Sergeant Elliot Blackstone
Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal
Advocate for Transgender Rights at Compton’s Cafeteria Riot to Be Honored
It’s with great honor, pride, and excitement, that the SFLGBT Pride Celebration Committee announces the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal Award Winner: Sergeant Elliot Blackstone (Ret.). In the days, months, and years after the August 1966 riot at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, Sgt. Blackstone sought a way to bridge the gap of understanding between the San Francisco police and the Queer community. Sgt. Blackstone stood up for the rights of Transgendered persons, street kids, and the marginalized, pushing for recognition of their rights as citizens and for dialogue with and respect of them.
Joey Cain, Pride Board President, said:
“At a time when most San Francisco cops would just as soon as bust a queer’s head open as look at them, Sgt. Blackstone was a lone voice of compassion and understanding in the SFPD. To stand up as a heterosexual and a cop and challenge the entrenched homophobia in the police department in 1967 took an unimaginable amount of bravery. I’m so glad we have the chance to recognize and honor this true unsung hero of our community’s road to equality.”
Upon learning of his appointment as Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal, Sergeant Blackstone said:
“My thanks to San Francisco Pride for what is probably the highest honor of my life. I am grateful to be alive today to see the positive changes in this community.”
In August 1966, police responded to a call at Compton’s Cafeteria, a café and restaurant frequented by drag queens and street hustlers. Police were used to roughing up Compton’s clientele without fear of interference or retribution. On that night, however, the harassed customers fought back against the police. In the days and weeks following the event and at a time when things could have taken a turn for the worse, Sgt. Blackstone took the initiative to argue on behalf of the transgender community and sought to implement programs aimed at bringing about détente and securing a more stable role in society for transgender people.
Sgt. Blackstone’s activism did not begin solely as a result of the events at Compton’s Cafeteria, but the efforts he undertook on behalf of the community were truly revolutionary, groundbreaking, and radical. Because the changes Sgt. Blackstone sought and pushed for were such a departure from what had been the norm and were such a threat to established practices and understandings, his advocacy of them were undertaken at great personal risk. Sgt. Blackstone’s reputation came under assault from his fellow police officers, but he stayed the course and still worked toward a greater good and for better understanding within and between the communities of The City.
Although relations between the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community and the police are not always perfect, the relatively good state of themnot to mention the number of out officers on the forceis possible because of the efforts of Sgt. Blackstone and the community’s other straight allies in our common quest for human rights. Selfless drives, such as those undertaken by Sgt. Blackstone, dignify us all and make movements like ours possible.
Lindsey Jones, Executive Director said, “Recognizing our LGBT heroes and straight allies is an important process; through their unique life stories we learn our history, connect with our worth and, hopefully, commit more deeply to the fight for our human and civil rights. We are honored to have Sgt. Blackstone in the parade as our Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal.”
The Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal is awarded to someone who has a demonstrated long term commitment to the LGBT community.
This year marks the 36th anniversary of the San Francisco Pride Parade and Celebration. The event theme is, “Commemorate, Educate, Liberate, Celebrate!”, and will be held the June 24/25 weekend. For more information about San Francisco LGBT Pride please visit our website at: www.sfpride.org.