overview

In 1994, a coalition of mostly Latina lesbians from three lesbian activist groups executed a months-long protest campaign against homophobic radio show El Vacilón de la Mañana and its parent company, whose headquarters and studios were in this building.

The coalition’s actions included infiltrating the station’s studios during a broadcast, as well as pickets and a protest march in which over 100 multi-racial lesbians rallied outside of the building.

See Arnold Scaasi Residence, Showrooms & Design Studio for more information on this site’s LGBT history.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

History

In 1994, activist Ana María Simo of the Lesbian Avengers led an effort “to bring [the Avengers’ work] into the barrios” by mobilizing immigrant, Latina, and working-class lesbians against the hate-mongering tactics of Spanish radio station La Mega 97.9 and its parent company, the Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS), which began leasing 26 West 56th Street as its headquarters and studios in 1988. The hosts of El Vacilón de la Mañana, La Mega’s morning show, regularly insulted and propagated stereotypes about LGBT, Asian, Black, and Jewish peoples, and joked about the rape and domestic abuse of women. In response, the Lesbian Avengers, Las Buenas Amigas, and African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change (formerly Salsa Soul Sisters) formed a coalition and staged multiple demonstrations at SBS after extensive planning at Simo’s apartment.

In flyers, newsletters, and press releases, the coalition (sometimes called the Fearless Radio Action Brigade) specified how “the hatred spread by MEGA KQ legitimizes violence and contempt against us in our Latino community,” while also emphasizing the wider implications of hate-mongering:

All lesbians, each and every one of us, are hurt by hate-mongering anywhere. MEGA-KQ’s hate is not a Latino-only problem; it’s a New York City problem; it’s a lesbian problem.

Lesbian Avengers, Las Buenas Amigas, and African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change, December 1994 newsletter

On August 17, seven coalition members disrupted the show’s broadcast by invading the two studios on the fifth floor and seizing the hosts’ microphones to yell, “Enough! Hate is not funny! Basta ya! Con el odio no se juega!” Meanwhile, over 20 other members demonstrated outside, distributing flyers and chanting “Boycott La Mega!” “MEGA KQ is hate radio!” and “MEGA KQ es Mega Ca Ca!” in Spanish and English. The hosts denied any wrongdoing yet swiftly reverted to their bigoted tactics, so the coalition returned for another picket two weeks later, initiated a city-wide wheat pasting campaign, amended La Mega’s subway advertisements with stickers, and incessantly sent letters to the station’s president and sponsors.

Then, during rush hour on November 17, a racially and socioeconomically diverse group of over 100 lesbians marched from 57th Street and Fifth Avenue to SBS. They drummed, chanted, and carried a homemade piñata of a “three-headed monster of hate,” which they decapitated while rallying in front of SBS. Although SBS ignored the coalition’s demand to meet face-to-face with management, one of the hosts was dismissed and the show gradually retired its hateful characters, jokes, and skits following the actions.

See Arnold Scaasi Residence, Showrooms & Design Studio for more information on this site’s LGBT history.

Entry by Ethan Brown, project consultant (January 2024).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Harry Allan Jacobs (remodeled façade)
  • Year Built: 1907-08 (remodeled façade)

Sources

  1. Ana María Simo, “Is Spanish Radio Training Bigots?,” The Gully (accessed December 15, 2023), bit.ly/48hgMRR.

  2. Kelly Cogswell, Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).

  3. Lesbian Avengers research file, Lesbian Herstory Archives. [source of pull quote]

  4. “Lesbians Strike Back at Hate Radio,” The Progressive (January 1995).

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