Elton John Joins President Biden, Katy Perry at Stonewall Visitor Center Unveiling: “One of the Biggest Honors”

On the heels of a controversial debate with Republican opponent Donald Trump, President Joe Biden bounced back with a busy Friday schedule.

The morning saw Biden hit a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he seemingly ignored calls to step aside in the 2024 election by declaring, “I know how to do this job.” By the afternoon, Biden was in New York alongside his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, superstars Elton John and Katy Perry, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and other politicos and New York officials to unveil the city’s Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center. The grand opening was timed to kick off New York City’s Pride weekend and mark the 55th anniversary of the historic rebellion that marked a turning point for LGBTQ liberation.

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“Fifty-five years ago today on this hallowed ground, a pivotal story for our nation unfolded. The soul of the nation was literally tested — that’s not hyperbole, the soul of the nation was tested — and the heart of this movement was ignited and the course of history was changed forever,” President Biden said from the podium. “This beloved bar became the site of a call to cry for freedom, dignity, and equality and respect. Rebellion had galvanized the LGBTQ+ community all across the nation, quite frankly all around the world.”

He said the events that took place on June 28, 1969, marked a turning point for civil rights in America, and he hailed Stonewall “as a symbol of a legacy of the leadership” of the LGBTQ+ community, “especially trans women of color,” who were key members of the movement and the riot that changed the course of history. Biden then acknowledged current times by leaning on something he’s said numerous times during his administration amid the cavernous political divide between liberals and conservatives: “We remain in a battle for the soul of America. I look at around at the pride, hope and light that all of you bring, I know [it’s] a battle we’re going to win and continue to make progress.”

Biden praised the LGBTQ community by adding, “Your courage and contributions enrich every part of American life. Today, let’s proudly remember who we are — we’re the United States of America. There’s nothing beyond our capacity to work together, and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect no matter what their background. Period. Period. Period.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and President Joe Biden
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and President Joe Biden appear onstage together with the senator exclaiming, “He’s the best! He’s a fighter!”

SNMVC is a program of Pride Live in partnership with the National Park Service, making it the first LGBTQIA+ center in the park’s network. As such, it will be staffed by Stonewall National Monument NPS park rangers charged with welcoming visitors, monitoring access to the facilities, hosting meetings and stamping National Parks Passports for guests. The center, six years in the making, is credited with being led by two queer women of color, Pride Live co-founders Diana Rodriguez and Ann Marie Gothard. New York studio EDG Architecture + Engineering led architectural design and renovation. Gay couple and Chicago-based designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent are credited with contributing to the interiors while New York’s Local Projects spearheaded the design of SNMVC’s exhibits.

In her remarks, First Lady Jill Biden singled out Rodriguez and Gothard for their contributions. “This is American history,” she said. “And like so many victories the LGBTQ community has won throughout the years, this is a work of love. Diana, Ann Marie, with your hope and dedication, you have shown us that love can move mountains. You have the kind of partnership, both in life and in your work, that everyone hopes to find. And you’ve made sure to keep the diversity of this community at the center of your work. From today on, the Visitor Center and Monument will tell our nation’s story to the teenager who comes here and discovers she isn’t alone.”

The space is designed to offer a look back at the community’s history and culture and the fight for equality through a variety of programs (in-person and virtual), exhibitions, visual art displays, a lecture series and a dedicated theater space. SNMVC spans 2,100 sq. feet at 51 Christopher Street, located between Waverly Place and 7th Avenue South in Greenwich Village. Back in the day, the Stonewall Inn occupied two adjoining storefronts at 51 and 53 Christopher Street. In the years that followed 1969, the real estate changed hands and separated into two different businesses with the current bar at 53 Christopher Street reopening its doors in 1990. Meanwhile, 51 Christopher Street housed a number of businesses, including a bagel shop, retail store and nail salon.

Elton John sits at a piano during the grand opening ceremony for the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center
Elton John performs for the crowd during the ceremony. After an introduction from Perry, the legendary entertainer closed the program a set that included “Bennie and The Jets,” “I’m Still Standing” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

After Biden’s remarks, he introduced EGOT winner John as a close friend of the family. In 2022, the Bidens presented John a National Humanities Medal during an event at the White House. “I can say as a proud English gay man, this is one of the biggest honors of my lifetime,” John said in his brief remarks from the podium. “The fight for freedom and equality is an ongoing one.” John, who was welcomed to the stage by another superstar entertainer, Katy Perry, closed the program with an electric set that included some of his biggest hits including “Bennie and The Jets,” “I’m Still Standing” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

The full program also featured performances from Cynthia Erivo (singing “Home” from The Wiz), Johnny Manuel and Sing Harlem Choir, remarks by Perry, Adam Lambert, Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander, Humans Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Google’s Torrence Boone, SNMVC founding partner Henry Muñoz III, Alina Torres-Zickler and Kaila Torres-Zickler, Gillibrand, Governor Hochul, New York City Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Visitor Center co-founders Gothard and Rodriguez, and Stonewall pioneer Mark Segal and others.

The event hosted boldfaced names like newly-minted Tony winner Jonathan Groff, Fellow Travelers star Jelani Aladdin, Alan Cumming, Erich Bergen, Michael Kors, Lance Le Pere, Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka, Irina Shayk, Billy Eichner, Courtney Act, Gayle Rankin, Irina Shayk, Olivia Ponton and more. An overview of exhibits and experiences is below. Admission is free and reservations are available.

Cynthia Erivo performs at the grand opening celebration for the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center
Cynthia Erivo performs “Home” from The Wiz.
Katy Perry poses in a cream dress and open toe shoes against a backdrop featuring Google branding
Katy Perry poses ahead of the ceremony wearing Sportmax spring/summer 2024 (Look 29).
Michael Kors, Lance LePere, Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Cumming and David Burtka pose at a Stonewall event
Michael Kors, Lance LePere, Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Cumming and David Burtka attend the opening ceremony for New York’s Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center hosted by Pride Live on June 28, 2024.
A look inside the Stonewall National Monument Visitors Center in New York
A look inside the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center in New York
A rendering of the Stonewall National Monument Visitors Center
A rendering of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center.
Diana Rodriguez and Ann Marie Gothard speak during a celebration for the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center
Diana Rodriguez, co-founder and CEO Pride Live and SNMVC, and Ann Marie Gothard, co-founder of SNMVC and chair of the board of directors for Pride Live.

The Booking.com Theater
Booking.com supported the theater and is creating original programming in collaboration with Pride Live. The content showcases diverse stories of LGBTQIA+ travelers. Pride Live will screen films and host events in the venue.

Wall of Solidarity
Google installed an interactive exhibit that features digital screens that convey the impact of Stonewall’s legacy around the world and spotlights the voices of hope.

The West Wall
Stonewall pioneer and SNMVC founding partner Mark Segal curated a series of panels for the west wall, each offering a first-hand account of the events that led up to the Stonewall Rebellion. The panels provide visitors with a comprehensive telling of the Stonewall legacy, including historical moments that shaped LGBTQIA+ activism across the country.

With support from founding partner Amazon, the exhibit features a 1967 Rowe AMI, a replica of the original jukebox that was present inside the Stonewall bar in 1969. Curated by Honey Dijon, the jukebox features songs that capture the rebellious spirit and collective joy of the Stonewall community. Honey Dijon’s playlist is available exclusively on Amazon Music.

Parsons School of Design Student Exhibit
Pride Live established a partnership with the New School’s Parsons School of Design to create an elective class for students, who curate a rotating exhibit at the Visitor Center that shares the experiences of young queer people and allies.

Mothers of Star AR Experience
B. Hawk Snipes, Tourmaline and Kinfolk Foundation joined forces to create a historical archive featuring community figures that have been “celebrated, silenced, uplifted and even erased throughout history” like Storme DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and Zazu Nova.

Stonewall Generations
Stonewall Generations is a video series produced by Pride Live with support from founding partner AARP. The series highlights, celebrates and archives the voices of the movement as a way to underscore the reverberations of Stonewall in the fight for equality today. Chelsea Clinton, Adam Lambert, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado and more are included.

FEWOCiOUS Original Art
An original work titled “How Are You?” from the queer artist FEWOCiOUS is featured on the east wall of the Visitor Center. The artist created the painting in real-time in Christopher Park at the SNMVC’s 2022 Groundbreaking Ceremony.

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