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The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot –
San Francisco Film Proposal
A creative team in the Bay Area will be making a short film with the goal of bringing attention to The Compton’s Cafeteria riot of 1966 — a lesser known historical event that marked the beginning of transgender activism in San Francisco. The Compton’s Cafeteria riot was one of the first LGBT related uprisings in the United States. In fact, it preceded the infamous 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City.
We hope to illustrate how The Compton’s Cafeteria uprising continues to inspire today’s fight for the rights of sex workers and trans women in San Francisco. The film will use this event as a starting point to address the intersection between sex work activism and trans activism.
The film will open with a brief recounting of the general climate around The Compton’s Cafeteria riot and describe the events that took place that night through animation and voice over.
We’ll then open up the conversation to our chosen subjects through a series of interviews. Since we’re focusing on a topic that was led by the trans community, we’re turning to speakers who can tell the story authentically, through their voices. The interviews will have a conversational tone. The footage will be most likely shot in the homes of the speakers and/or in recognizable spots throughout San Francisco.
We’ll use animation to create a mixed media look, with hand drawn marker and paint-like splotches over archival images, as well as a little bit of collage. We’ll also include b-roll of San Francisco and any relevant images to intercut with footage of the interviewees. The film will run between five and ten minutes.
Janetta Louise Johnson is the Executive Director at at Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project. She is a formerly incarcerated Black transgender woman and has been an activist and advocate in the transgender communities since 1997, when she moved to San Francisco from her hometown of Tampa, Florida.
In 2016 she co-founded The Compton’s Transgender Cultural District in San Francisco, which is the first transgender cultural district in the country; and TAJA’s Coalition, community accountability for Black trans safety in San Francisco.
Stephany Ashley (she/her) is a housing, homelessness, and sex worker advocate who is currently working at Brilliant Corners to expand access to affordable housing and emergency beds for folks experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. She was the ED of St James Infirmary for four years prior to that.
Vandell is a southern queer and genderqueer organizer who was brought into community resistance and empowerment work in their youth. Their movement roots instilled the love of storytelling and self-discovery as an act of resistance. They center black, indigenous, and TGI POC narratives primarily, but enjoy traversing the many stories that need to be told. Examples of some common themes in their writing include personal and communal stories of grief and trauma healing, ancestral channeling, discovering the decolonial alternatives to life, and envisioning new liberated landscapes. Van’s big loves in life are making things just a tad bit more gay/queer, virgo-ing out, and living in a vintage camper trailer with fluffy cats and journals.
Vanessa Warri is a Nigerian-American community-based researcher, strategist, and advocate, committed to the liberation, empowerment, and safety of Black transgender women, queer and transgender people of color, and all communities existing at the various intersections of oppression. For over 12 years Vanessa has provided empowerment based direct services and peer education for transgender communities, LGBTQQIA+ youth, and the incarcerated. Vanessa hopes to be able to support younger queer and transgender people of color in their educational attainments by creating initiatives that center their experiential expertise in research about them.
Lessa Millet is a filmmaker and animator. Their work is a mix of hand crafted animation and stylized live action. Born in Barcelona, they relocated to New York City in 2006, where they first learned about animation, art and pizza. In 2016, they packed all their books and records into a blue Subaru Outback and moved to sunny Los Angeles. It is here that they finally began exploring bread making and ceramics. They strive to use their filmmaking skills to document, honor and amplify the visibility of queerness, and other vulnerable and marginalized communities.
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The life of Mary Jones gives us a glimpse into the lives of old pros, transgender, and queer experiences in the early 19th century.
Harriet Hicks worked as a prostitute during inception of the Contagious Diseases Act (CDA) in 19th century England.
Ah Toy was a Chinese American prostitute and madam who dominated the booming sex work industry in San Francisco during the Gold Rush.
Courtesan, poet, and author Veronica Franco endured public shaming during the 16th Century in Venice, Italy.
The goddess of romantic love and fertility, Ishtar was worshipped through the bodies of church-sanctioned prostitutes.