Happy Pride Month! SF’s Castro neighborhood features a walk down memory lane honoring queer icons throughout history. Keep an eye out for the Rainbow Honor Walk, which is composed of 36 bronze plaques on the sidewalk commemorating such figures as Keith Haring, James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Freddie Mercury, Gertrude Stein, and Frida Kahlo.
The Walk is situated primarily around the intersection of Castro and Market Streets, with several more plaques on 19th Street. Thirty-six total plaques are installed on the sidewalks, each of which shows a rendering of the individual, a short bio, and an etching of the person’s signature. Honorees are chosen as “self-expressed LGBTQ individuals, now deceased, who made significant contributions in their fields.” Eight additional plaques are in the works for additional honorees.
The first round of honorees was installed in 2014 on Castro Street between 19th and Market, and 19th Street between Castro and Collingwood. It includes Jane Addams, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize; author James Baldwin; AIDS awareness activist George Choy; Spanish poet Federico G. Lorca, Beat poet Allen Ginsburg; artist Keith Haring; English writer Harry Hay, transgender pioneer Christine Jorgensen; artist Frida Kahlo; Japanese author and director Yukio Mishima; civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, author Randy Shilts, author Gertrude Stein, singer-songwriter Sylvester James, British scientist Alan Turing, sportsman Tom Waddell, playwright and author Oscar Wilde, novelist and poet Tennessee Williams, and author Virginia Woolf.
You’ll notice that Harvey Milk is not included due to the fact that he has multiple other plaques and city landmarks honoring him, although the author of his 1982 biography, Randy Shilts, is honored.
In 2018 and 2019 the Rainbow Honor Walk added another slew of honorees, this time going down Market Street between Castro and Sanchez. The plaques are dedicated to Colombian political activist Jose Sarria, political activist Rikki Streicher, baseball player Glenn Burke, Native American artist We’wha, musician Chavela Vargas, ballet dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, politician Gerry Studds, astronaut and astrophysicist Sally Ride, Iranian singer and TV personality Fereydoun Farrokhzad, Texas congressional representative Barbara Jordan, civil rights activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya, dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker, author and transgender pioneer Lou Sullivan, physician and activist Marie Equi, English poet W.H. Auden, and singer Freddie Mercury.
The additional 8 plaques are expected to honor singer Gladys Bentley, writer Audre Lorde, actor and drag queen Divine, activist Sylvia Rivera, Vietnam War veteran Leonard Matlovich, activist and author Vito Russo, English writer Quentin Crisp, and illustrator Maurice Sendak. The Rainbow Honor Walk website states that these additions are still in process of being created.
Check out the Rainbow Honor Walk at Castro and Market Streets, and while you’re at it take a peek at the rainbow crosswalk at 18th and Castro Streets.
Featured image: canyalcin via Shutterstock