Smash the Church, Smash the State!
The Early Years of Gay Liberation

Edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Politics, Theater, and Victory
Mar 7, 2010

"Our guest this week on the 4 o'clock hour is the legendary activist, author, poet, and organizer, Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

He is, most recently, the editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation(City Lights Books, 2009), an anthology of writings about the post-Stonewall gay liberation movement."

- Justin Desmangles, New Day

The Midwest Book Review

"When everyone hates you, it's natural to hate them right back. Smash the Church, Smash the State!: The Early Years of Gay Liberation is a look at the early days of gay liberation where much of society grew finally tired of hiding a major part of them and took a stand for their rights. A fight that rages on to this day, the stories of those who threw the first stone are inspiring and will motivate current civil rights fighters to stand their ground. Smash the Church, Smash the State! is an ideal addition to any history collection focusing on civil rights." —James A. Cox

The Guide

"Let's posit the Stonewall riots that rocked New York City in 1969 as the Big Bang of the gay movement. Ater that, all things seemed to be loose in the universe. It was a cultural, sexual and political revolution, or, as Thomas Foran commented at the time, 'a freakin' faggot revolution.' And it was about time. Edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Smash the Church, Smash the State! (City Lights, $18.96) is a lively account by many of the people who were there at the revolution and others whose lives were changed forever by the push for gay liberation." —John Mitzel

The Freedom Socialist

"The book makes crystal clear that it was the organizing that followed the dust-up that made Stonewall the start of the modern gay liberation movement. . . . kudos to Tommi Avicolli Mecca for being the driving force behind assembling and publishing this important history of the early, radical LGBT movement." —Bob Schwartz

Smash the Church, Smash the State
Aug 3, 2009

"Tommi Avicolli Mecca was on the frontlines of action and thought during the Gay Liberation years immediately following the Stonewall Riots of 1969.  He is still a firey activist and oftentimes a devil's advocate of sorts, challenging the direction and thinking of the current LGBTQ rights movement (described by Jeffrey Escoffier as the "gay citizenship movement") with the ideas and opinions of a liberationist and a revolutionary. Tommi and many of the activists of the late 1960s and 1970s were interested social justice and freedom across the board for all people, a complete paradigm shift for our entire society . . .

City Lights Books has just published Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca.  Tommi collected essays from numerous activists of that era about Gay Liberation in the late 60s and into the mid-to late 70s.  He has the essays divided into to four sections beginning with 'Out of the Bars and Into the Streets' and ending with '40 Years After Stonewall.' Many of the individual authors included their own analysis of the politics of the times as well as their reminiscences. Some also compared and contrasted then with now. The book is insightful and fascinating and at times enlightening especially in regards to divisions within the LGBTQ community along race and gender lines."

- Lin Orndorf, Stereotypd


"The anthology contains fifty profound and heartwarming stories which includes manifestos, important gay revolutionary documents, insightful articles, poetry, reminiscences and biting commentary on contemporary gay life and political consciousness. . . Read Smash the Church, Smash the State to understand your history. If possible, buy an extra copy and gift it to someone under thirty. It's one of those gay history books that is a 'must' for your bookshelf." —Don Kilhefner

Book News

"To many Americans, the gay liberation movement began sometime in the 1960s as a seemingly sudden phenomenon of all manner of queer men and women doing silly things, militant things, and serious things to express their dissatisfaction with what they viewed as a repressive social order. According to Mecca, editor of this engaging anthology and a dedicated participant in gay liberation, the movement actually began decades earlier, possibly as early as 1949. This anthology is a collection of stories shared by many individuals from the perspective of their lives inside the movement."

Smashing convention
Jul 10, 2009

"Tommi Avicolli Mecca thinks the gay rights movement has gotten a little, well, boring. A veteran of its rowdiest days at the end of the '60s and into the '70s, he’s using the Stonewall anniversary as a springboard for veterans of the Gay Liberation Front to share their memories of that heady era.

"Smash the Church, Smash the State!: the Early Years of Gay Liberation" is a collection of essays by those who have first-hand memories to share of those years. Its title is taken from a chant that was commonly used by queer protesters of the time."

- Joey DiGuglielmo, Washington Blade

He found his heart in San Francisco
Jun 29, 2009

"TOMMI AVICOLLI MECCA was gay before it was fashionable, before 'Will & Grace' and Adam Lambert. The 57-year-old South Philadelphian-turned-San Franciscan was out there before most of us knew what out meant. If Tommi were any more gay, he'd burst into flames.

Radicalized while at Temple, where he earned a creative-writing degree in 1974, Mecca now works for a tenants'-rights group in the City by the Bay. In this 40th anniversary year of the uprising at New York's Stonewall Inn, where gays fought back against harassing cops, Mecca has produced a 303-page book of personal remembrances of the early gay days - Smash the Church, Smash the State. The title comes from a popular battle cry at the time, used by gays (and others, Mecca concedes) . . . As editor of the book, published by San Francisco's City Lights, that's what Mecca tried to capture by assembling three dozen writers - from Berkeley to Boston to New York to Philly - to offer revelations about the roots of what they call the 'revolution,' which looks to straight eyes more like slo-mo evolution."

- Stu Bykofsky, Philadelphia Daily News


"Everyone in the San Francisco activist scene today knows Tommi Avicolli-Mecca – or as many call him, 'Tommi the Commie.' At Beyond Chron, we are privileged to have him as a columnist (we jokingly call him our "religion editor") – as he balances op-ed writing with a full-time job counselling tenants at the Housing Rights Committee. Tommi is an eloquent voice against gentrification in the Castro, and in 2006 many progressives urged him to run against Supervisor Bevan Dufty. But as Tommi told me at the time, he is more of a “smash the church, smash the state” kind of guy – making the book title appropriate. . . There are many who now say the American era of conservatism is over – and we are now seeing a progressive transformation. As the queer community elaborates where it is going, Smash the Church, Smash the State should not be viewed as a mere historical anthology – but as a critical examination of where to go from here." —Paul Hogarth

Instinct Magazine

"Before Queer Eye or Adam Lambert, there were courageous everyday men and women unapologetically living out queer lives, challenging social norms and demanding acceptance.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to these pion-queers who created our civil rights movement.  This inspiring collection of essays--highlighting those who fought the fight, never gave up and believed in a world where 'gay was okay'--ensures their efforts will never be forgotten.  Required reading!"

New Book Chronicles 40 Years of Gay Liberation
Jun 25, 2009

"'I think our movement could learn from what happened 40 years ago, but it looks like we haven't.'

So says gay writer and activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, speaking about his new book, 'Smash the Church, Smash the State!' a collection of essays from writers, artists and activists sharing their varied and diverse perspectives about the early days of the gay-rights movement.

'I was surprised by the fact that nobody really dredged up the old conflicts that we had,' he said. 'There were a lot of conflicts in the movement 40 years ago. I guess, when I was putting this together, I was a little worried that it was going to get too personal, but it really doesn't. People are really good at being able to put those battles in perspective. They are able to look back at them and reflect on them in a way that's constructive.'

'Smash' is both a celebratory and critical tome, as many of the writers, including Mecca, often lament the issues and divisions within the gay-rights movement that haven’t been resolved in the 40 years since the Stonewall Riots."

- Larry Nichols, Philadelphia Gay News

Stonewall Voices - On Scene With Bill Wilson
Jun 24, 2009

"This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall 'Riots', 'rebellion' 'uprising' or 'revolution.' The myriad of words used to describe the events of those June nights of 1969 are proof that history is written by the survivors and as time goes on we need to listen to those writers of history who actually experienced it. This volume edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca provides fascinating glimpses of what the subtitle calls 'The Early Years of Gay Liberation.'"

This is an except from the book Smash the Church:

"GLFers were young, hot headed, sure of our own opinions. We quarreled with each other and dissolved into splinter groups: Radicalesbians, Red Butterfly, Third World Gay Revolution, the Effeminists, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, the Gay Activists Alliance. Utopian quests are always short lived. But if we hadn't exploded into existence, gays would still be pleading politely for acceptance, and the world would still be deaf to their pleas. (p.96)"

- Bill Wilson, San Francisco Sentinel

The Price of Normal
Jun 24, 2009

"I'm not against gay marriage. If queer couples want to be as miserable as straight ones, that's their choice. Marriage is a failed institution. With a 54.8 percent divorce rate nationally and a 60 percent rate here in California, there's no doubt in my mind that heterosexual "wedded bliss" is more of an oxymoron than a reality.

What's troubling to me as a queer activist of almost 40 years (much of that time spent on economic justice work) is that, with the tremendous amount of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment in our community, we are spending so much dough on the fight to give a minority of folks — those who opt for tying the knot — rights and privileges that straight married folks have."

- Tommi Avicolli Mecca, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Library Journal

"The 40th anniversary of the historic June 1969 Stonewall Uprising that marked a turning point in the gay liberation movement seems to be passing with little notice. Mecca (Between Little Rock and a Hard Place) marks the occasion with this anthology that commemorates the anarchic spirit of those heady early days. Mecca digs into the countercultural roots of the movement, especially of the Gay Liberation Front of which he was a member, emphasizing that much of the energy that propelled the gay movement at the time drew from its more radical elements. The essays (and some poems) assembled here, some previously published, represent that vanguard of the LGBT community that did not seek acceptance from or assimilation into society at large, but to live openly and unabashedly queer, with social justice for all. Even if one doesn't agree with their attitude, their passion, commitment, and enthusiasm is undeniable. Mecca particularly highlights the reminiscences of women, the trangendered, and persons of color, whose roles historically are too often given short shrift." —Richard J. Violette


"For a couple of hours on the afternoon of June 3 it wasn't 2009 but 1969 and the years immediately following the Stonewall riot at the book launch for Smash the Church. Smash the State: the early years of gay liberation. . . San Francisco Supervisor David Campos read an official proclamation from the city marking the 40th anniversary of Stonewall and recognized Mr. Mecca for pulling the anthology together. Mr Campos called the post-Stonewall period, 'one of the most dynamic" in the history of the Gay movement.' 'We kicked ass forty years ago.' Tommi Avicolli Mecca said." —Sidney Brinkley

Bay Area Reporter

"Tommi Avicolli Mecca's new anthology, Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation offers a fascinating look at the rise of gay liberation and its place in the era's radical panoply. . . Avicolli Mecca's collection is unique in bringing together first-person accounts from people who lived the life and some of the key manifestos that inspired them." —Liz Highleyman

Gay City News

"Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, is the new anthology edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, himself a veteran of the earliest gay liberation struggles, and today an activist, gender-bending performance artist, and writer well-known to San Francisco queers. . . The personal testimonies collected for Smash the Church, Smash the State!, augmented by manifestos and documents of that early period and biographical sketches of important movement figures, help recreate those heady, joyously rambunctious days of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll" as queers, influenced by the hippies, Yippies, and Zippies, built their own radical wing of the prevailing youth counterculture, and created their own influential publications." —Doug Ireland

Stonewall Riot was Clarion Call for Gay Rights
Jun 22, 2009

"He arrived in the Castro in October 1991 and eventually edited 'Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation,' a 40th anniversary anthology being released by City Lights Press. 'I wanted to mark it by remembering how radical we were,' he says."

- Sam Whiting, San Francisco Chronicle

From Smash the Church to Going to the Chapel
Jun 19, 2009

"The struggle for queer rights hasn't been a smooth ride—but as a 19-year-old Italian American in South Philly running around in halter top and platform shoes in 1970, I wouldn't have expected it to be! 

None of us who participated in gay liberation protests in the early 70s expected an easy path—but we also didn't think that 40 years later some of the most important issues we raised would be ignored by the very movement we created." 

- Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Counterpunch

Gay Liberation
Jun 15, 2009

"Forty years to the month after the Stonewall Riots sparked the gay liberation movement, a new volume edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca remembers the radical activism of the '60s and '70s and assesses the current state of LGBT organizing. Paola Bacchetta's essay recalls her involvement with a lesbian political group in Philadelphia."

- "Against the Grain", KPFA Radio


"The personal is riotously political and the history is tangibly personal in this anthology of diverse, down-to-earth reflections on the early days of Gay Liberation, from both queers who were there, and from others looking back 40 years later . . . Avicolli Mecca, himself a longtime activist who marched the streets of Philadelphia not long after the 1969 bar riot in Greenwich Village, has compiled a vivid, colorful history, blending original essays, poems and songs with reprints of historical manifestos and brief biographical vignettes of activists no longer alive to craft a co-gendered collection that is by turns emotional, joyous, poignant, occasionally contradictory - and enthusiastically defiant." —Richard Labonte

The Morning Show
Jun 2, 2009

"Then we'll ask the question, "Does California Need a Constitutional Convention?" In the second hour 40 Years Since the Stonewall Rebellion will be remembered with Tommi Avicolli Mecca, editor of 'Smash the Church, Smash the State!'"



"Edited by San Francisco journalist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Smash the Church, Smash the State! The Early Years of Gay Liberation (City Lights, June) documents early gay culture as it emerged after the 1969 Stonewall riots.  The anthology includes the essays, photographs, manifestos, and artwork of the movement, the aims of which were gleefully radical, the methods often intentionally outrageous."  —Bookforum

Avanti Popolo: An Interview with Tommi Avicolli-Mecca
"On so-called Columbus Day 2008, Keely Malone (co-host of Parapolitics) and Matt Dineen (host of Passions and Survival) interview San Francisco-based activist/writer Tommi Avicolli-Mecca about a new anthology of Italian-American writers "sailing beyond Columbus."" - Tony Shannon, Open Source Audio

Bloc Party: Fighting with the Gay Liberation Front
Oct 2, 2008
"Gay liberation was a product of its times. Its birth at the end of the '60s was no accident. By the time street queens and others rioted outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in late June, 1969, the groundwork had been laid for one of America's most despised minorities to get militant.

Social change was in the air. The civil-rights movement had succeeded in passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Black Panthers, a militant black-power group, were feeding poor people and developing a strategy for black self-empowerment -- not to mention having run-ins with the police.

The women's movement had been reborn from the embers left by the struggle to gain the vote half a century before. The anti-Vietnam War movement was beginning to draw huge numbers of protesters into the streets. Campuses were igniting with student strikes and takeovers of administration offices." - Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Metro Weekly

The Traditional Family that Prop 8 Defends
Nov 3, 2008
"I am so sick and tired of hearing proponents of Prop 8, which will outlaw gay nuptials in California, talk about traditional marriage. What is this "traditional marriage" that the religious right thinks is the end-all and be-all of human existence?

In the 50 and 60s, it was glorified in sitcoms such as Ozzie and Harriet and the Donna Reed Show. Those popular comedies presented a portrait of white bread families that didn't look anything like my own very ethnic clan. I’m not sure that many families in America actually behaved like the Nelsons or the Reeds. They certainly don’t these days. A examination of some quick statistics shows that “traditional marriage” is not all that the Christian zealots make it out to be. It probably never was ..." - Tommi Avicolli Mecca, BeyondChron

Lennon Doesn't Need Forgiving
Nov 24, 2008
"How well I remember that horrible cold morning in early December 1980 when I turned on the radio to hear that John Lennon had been shot the night before.
Lennon was my hero. His musical contributions to the Beatles were among my favorites. Whether he was commenting on the apathy of the masses ('Day in the life'), the latest religious cult ('Sexy Sadie'), the proliferation of guns ('Happiness is a Warm Gun') or the counterculture ('Revolution'), Lennon spoke to my own dissatisfaction with the status quo or the 'establishment,' as we called it back then."
- Tommi Avicolli-Mecca, BeyondChron

Obama: "Non-Believers" Part of Our Diversity
Jan 22, 2009

"Much to my surprise, our new President actually dared to go where no chief executive has gone before. Founding fathers may have said that they didn't like religion, but I don’t think (and I could be wrong) that any of the early Presidents actually made any public comments affirming that there are people like myself who don’t believe in the pie in the sky and the lightning throwing deity with the bad temper.

President Barack Obama, in talking about the rich diversity of our nation in his inauguration speech after being sworn-in on Tuesday morning, said it clearly: 'We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.' Amid the comments about the wonderful and rich ethnic fabric of this nation, Obama affirmed, by using the word 'non-believers,' that atheists and agnostics are part of 'our patchwork heritage' that is 'a strength, not a weakness.'"

- Tommi Avicolli-Mecca, BeyondChron