I learned a few days ago, that Bob Kohler, Queer liberation activist, died.
I didn’t know Bob well, but had spent time with him when I was working with FIERCE! –a queer youth of color community organizaing project. Bob was a long-time resident and business owner of the West Village, and a real vet of the Stonewall riots (probably one of the few white men in attendance). He was always very supportive of the work FIERCE! was doing, and always turned up to assist us when he could.
He always shared very openly his life, his work, and the history of the West Vill, Stonewall, the Gay Liberation Front, his lifelong friendships with Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, and any other work he was involved in. He was a real shit-stirrer, and sometimes not in the best way. He could be extremely cranky, too!
I mean, REALLY, cranky!
But at the end of the day, Bob always had our back. And not just other activists and organizers. Bob helped a lot of homeless queeer youth who would have otherwise been jobless or homeless. In terms of his activism, he also worked outside the “gay civil rights” paradigm, and very much sought to support Black and Latino struggles, especially around homelessness and police brutality.
He led a really interesting life, and I am glad to have crossed paths with him for the short time I did. The Village Voice just republished a 1999 profile of him…
In 1999, after his arrest in front of One Police Plaza /a>, where protesters set up vigil after the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, Kohler told the Voice:
“I do not equate my oppression with the oppression of blacks and Latinos. You can’t. It is not the same struggle, but it is one struggle. And, if my being here as a longtime gay activist can influence other people in the gay community, it’s worth getting arrested. I’m an old man now. I don’t look forward to spending 24 hours in a cell. But these arrests are giving some kind of message. I don’t know what else you can do.”
Some folks I know are having a political funeral for Bob, starting this Sunday, December 9th, beginning at the NYC LGBT Center at 4pm, and ending at the Christopher St. piers.