Oral History – Richard Sacher

Richard Sacher

Richard Sacher was born in 1941 in the Bronx, New York City. His family moved to New Jersey suburbs where he attended Catholic school. Upon graduating high school, he joined a Trappist community in Berryville, Virginia, in 1960 with the intent to become a Trappist monk. During his four years in the community, he was able to nurture his love of plants and gardening. He left the community because after four years, there was an expectation to take vows, and he was not comfortable with the commitment. He then left to attend college at Rutgers University in New Jersey to obtain a degree in ornamental horticulture. While working at Longwood Gardens for a summer internship, he found out he was gay, because other students working at the garden helped him realize his sexuality.
After graduating, he moved to Starkville, Mississippi to be closer to his partner, Michael, whom he met at Longwood. Richard and Michael decided to leave Starkville because the racism of the Deep South made them feel unsafe. They moved to New Orleans and found a private gay community. They lived in the French Quarter for seven years before saving up the money to buy a house in a predominately Black community. After Michael left New Orleans, Richard met Bill. They bought and worked to renovate and preserve historic houses. In what he called his alphabet years, Richard was active in numerous organizations in the community including: PFLAG, ACLU, NAACP, Dignity, Act Up and NO/AIDS. During the AIDS epidemic, Michael contracted AIDS while he was in California. He would return to New Orleans and live with Richard and Bill where they cared for him until his passing due to the disease.
In the 1990s he would buy the former lesbian bar, The Sensible Pumps, and turn it into a plan nursery. American Aquatic Gardens would become a queer place for the community by hanging a Pride flag and raising funds for PFLAG to provide scholarships for gay and lesbian students. After 20 years, Bill and Richard split up. Richard met his current partner, Kevin, in 2000, and they married around 2017. Bill and Richard retired and sold American Aquatic Gardens in 2019. At the time of the interview, Richard and Kevin still celebrate holidays with Bill and his partner.

Interviewee: Richard Sacher
Interviewer: Erica Kates
Transcriber: Erica Kates
Tape 01
Session I
12 April, 2022
[Begin Tape 01. Begin Session I.]

ERICA KATES: [0:02] All right, looks like we’re recording. My name is Erica Kates, and I’m here interviewing Mr. Richard Sacher as part of the LGBT Plus Archives Project of Louisiana’s oral history project. Today is Tuesday, April 12, 2022, and I’m interviewing Mr. Sacher in his home via Zoom. So Rich, before we begin, I just want to let you know you can pause or stop the interview anytime. After the interview is transcribed, you’re going to be given an opportunity to read it over and edit it for accuracy and transparency, as well as to restrict any portions you might not feel comfortable with sharing. So, do you understand, and do I have your consent to record our session?

RICHARD SACHER: Yes, I understand, and you have my consent.

KATES: Awesome. Okay, so I’m going to begin. I’m going to start by asking you some questions about your life, starting with your childhood, your family, school, and then we’re going to move into moving to New Orleans and your experience as part of the LGBT community there. So, let’s start with: when and where were you born?

SACHER: Hi. Well, my name is Rich Sacher and I was born in 1941 in the Bronx, New York City, and my parents were Henry and Kitty Sacher, and I’m the oldest of five children.

KATES: And your parents: could you give me a little description of their personalities, what they were like, what they did for work?

SACHER: Well, my dad was an architectural draftsman, and my mother had worked for the telephone company before she was married. And after all five children were born she went back towork again at the telephone company, so as a teenager I was the parent at home, taking care of my younger siblings because mom and dad both had to work.

KATES: What were the age differences between you and your siblings?

SACHER: Well, about every two years [laughs], so, you know, I have three brothers and the youngest was my sister Betty Lou. She was a fifth-born and she was a sort of a surprise because it was…I think my mother was 42 when Betty Lou was born, so that was a bit of a surprise – a welcome surprise – after having four boys, they were happy to have a girl.

KATES: And were there any other family members that you were close with: aunts, uncles, grandparents?

SACHER: Up the block from us I had an aunt, Margaret, my mother’s sister, and so I would often visit with her. Because eventually we moved from the Bronx out into New Jersey, the suburbs. And so many of our relatives were still in New York City, so I would only see them occasionally when we went to visit.

KATES: All right, and I know that you mentioned that your love of plants was inspired as a young boy by your grandmother, could you tell me a little bit about that?

SACHER: [3:29] Yeah, looking back on that, that was very special. My grandmother, who was…spoke with a wonderful Irish lilt, we would go to visit her. And I remember, I was only about five years old when she cut open an orange, and there was a seed beginning to germinate, and she showed me how to plant it in a small pot. And so, every time we went to visit my grandmother in the Bronx, I would look at this little seedling that she had on her windowsill, and I would see how it had begun to grow, and that was the beginning of my lifelong interest in plants. My grandmother planted the seed.

KATES: [4:11] And then, regarding your early childhood, where did you go to school when you were a boy?

SACHER: Well, my mother’s side of the family were devoted Irish Catholics, so I always went to Catholic schools for grammar school and high school, and that was in South Amboy, New Jersey. But when I graduated from high school, I decided I wanted to be a Trappist monk, so I joined a Trappist community in Berryville, Virginia in 1960. And there were about 60 monks in the community; we supported ourselves by farming and baking bread, and our lives revolved around work, prayer, and meditation. So that really was the beginning of my interest in and acknowledgement of a spiritual component to life.

KATES: Before then had you been religious or spiritual at all, I mean what spurred your decision to…

SACHER: I would say so, and that was probably the reason for my interest in the Trappists – having been taught by nuns, going through a Catholic school – that all inspired me to want to go in that direction and become a priest or become a monk. The monks could be priests, or brothers, and this was something that really appealed to me at the time.

KATES: What did you enjoy most about that life? You were there for four years?

SACHER: Yes, for four years. Well, it was very, very interesting because it was very quiet. It was very introspective. You know, lives are usually filled with thoughts about yesterday, thoughts about tomorrow, and very little about now, and that’s the human condition. And that sort of put me being in the monastery put me in the now. And my relationship with my fellow monks and my relationship with God seemed to be something that was really, really important and very valuable. And it almost seemed like a luxury that most people don’t have the opportunity to pursue because it’s too many extraneous factors affecting lives.

KATES: [6:36] Were you able to continue your interest or passion in gardening and growing while you were there?

SACHER: Actually, that’s a good question because I pretty soon – I don’t know how they knew – but I was pretty soon to help the novice master in the vegetable garden. We raised a lot of our own food, and at some point, they decided they wanted to have an orchard. And there I was, like, 18 years old, and they decided I was the one who would decide what trees to plant, where to plant them. And I remember going with the novice master into town to a wholesale place, and we bought the fruit trees that we needed, and we came back and planted them in the site where I knew that they would do well.

KATES: [7:26] That’s incredible. So why did you decide to leave the Trappist monastery?

SACHER: Well, at that point, after four years it was time to take permanent vows which is like getting married forever…

KATES: Yeah.

SACHER: …And I wasn’t sure of that, and although I had had a lot of Latin and Greek training and lots of scripture training, I didn’t have any college credits. And I decided I wanted to start college, so that’s when I left and started at Rutgers University in New Jersey to pursue my degree in ornamental horticulture.

KATES: Ornamental horticulture, you said. And what is the difference between that and, maybe, agriculture as a major?

SACHER: Well, no, horticulture is those plants that are grown in a garden for their beauty, whereas agriculture are crops that are planted in a field for food. So, it’s really something that’s more for the aesthetics of enjoyment, rather than for a necessity. So, it really appealed to my aesthetic sense of what was beautiful in the world, and it’s always been a springboard between my love of plants and my spirituality. Somehow, they’ve always been connected.

KATES: [8:52] So, I understand that, while you were at Rutgers, during one of your summers you did an internship experience at Longwood Gardens. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

SACHER: Yeah. It may sound strange, but there I was, about 23 or 24 years old, and I didn’t know I was gay. However, I’d been in a monastery for four years. Where, you know, one did not have sex or think about sex. Well, that was pretty hard not to do as a young man, but, coming out of the monastery, I was very engaged in my studies, and I guess I was a late bloomer. So, when I was selected to participate in a summer program for horticulture students at Longwood Gardens, that’s the summer that I found out I was gay because there were a number of fellow gay students in the summer program who are gay. And they recognized that I was gay. And that’s where I met Michael, my first partner in life. And Michael was the one who helped me understand my sexuality, and helped me accept it, and we were just wildly in love that summer, to the point that some of the other students recognized it. And there was some gentle – but kind – teasing about it because it was something that, back in those days, you just really didn’t talk about in public, except among fellow gay people.

KATES: [10:34] So, I want to talk about that a little bit. How exactly did you come to realize that you were gay? Was it that, maybe, other people recognized it, or they spoke about it, or was it just that you saw Michael and – bam! – you’re in love?

SACHER: It was part of both of those things, and, looking back on it, I always had an attraction to men, but I didn’t understand it as a sexual attraction – I love the superhero Superman and people like that. But having met Michael and understanding why I had that attraction, and why I had never been interested in having a girlfriend, that sort of tipped the scales like, “Dumb-dumb!” Now you understand, but, when I was working my way through college, I was so intensely focused on my studies – and I had to work through college – because, although I lived at home most of the time, I really needed to support myself through college. So, having this ideal situation, where I was among other students who loved plants at a fantastic institution which is one of the best botanic gardens in the United States, which was like a dream come true for all of us, and then having met two or three other gay people who sat me down and said, “Uh listen, we think [laughs] you’re gay, and this is why we think so.” And Michael was one of the ones who did that because he was interested in me. And it was very clear to me that they were correct, and so I came out at Longwood Gardens at 24 years of age. It was the first time I’d ever been kissed, or anything else, and it was really a mind-blowing, soul-opening discovery for me.

KATES: Yeah. How did you feel when you came to that realization: was there relief, or confliction, or how did you feel?

SACHER: It was a great deal of relief, and, looking back on my time in the monastery: if one were socially or sexually repressed in one’s sexual orientation, what better place to go than a community of men who loved each other, who were not sexual with each other, of whom society approved, and you could live together in that harmony? Of course, it’s simply repressed, the sexual aspect of it. And so, it’s almost as though, if society is going to deny you love, you look in those places where you can find love: the love of God and the love of your fellow man. So, this was all in retrospect, looking back and understanding what my attractions were in the monastery. But understanding that I was gay, and it was possible that somebody would actually love me – even though I was that way – was incredibly freeing.

KATES: [14:04] So you came out the first time during your internship in Longwood Gardens. Did you come out to your parents or siblings at all?

SACHER: Oh no [laughs]. This was like 1960. And I knew that my parents would be disappointed because I was the oldest son, I almost became a priest, homosexuality was evil. The church’s teaching was you will go to hell for all eternity, and society’s teaching was that you’re a criminal, and if you get caught, you’ll go to jail. So that was a pretty repressive regime to grow up under, and so I did not come out to my family at all for many, many years. Probably a good 10 years after that, because society was completely closed, we were illegal in all the States. It was illegal to have sex with somebody of the same sex, and the penalties were severe and included prison terms.

KATES: And do you remember the experience when you did decide to come out to your parents and/or your siblings?

SACHER: Well, it was rather subtle, and I introduced Michael as my partner, and, of course, my mother knew. But she wouldn’t discuss it. And it was interesting because many years later, when I said to her, “Mom. There are things you need to know about gay life, and you just don’t know them.” And her answer said, “We was…We are not going to discuss it.” So, it was something she was not able to listen to or talk about, but she loved me and she loved Michael, and she was really, really a very good person with my subsequent partners in life. It was just something that she just could not do, and when she got into her 70s and 80s, I really stopped forcing the issue on her; she was behaving as best she could with the information she had, and it was a lot of love there. And so, I didn’t feel that I should indulge myself in trying to educate her a little bit better on what it meant to be gay. I know from my sister that she felt somehow responsible, that she did something wrong for me to turn out that way, but I was never able to disabuse her of that feeling.

KATES: And this was Betty Lou who felt this way?

SACHER: [17:02] Betty Lou, my sister, was very open and she had no problem – none of my brothers and sisters had problems with that – and my sister managed to get to a same-sex wedding years before I did, I mean, that’s how far out she was. And my sister and her husband were both New Jersey state troopers. And my sister was something of a trailblazer herself: she was one of the very first women to be in a class of recruits for the New Jersey state police. Because they didn’t have any women troopers and they were under a court order to begin to open up the state troops to women. So, she was in the very first class of women who graduated from the New Jersey state police academy. They had 200 applicants and only 34 graduated, and she was in that class. And I went to her graduation. It was really something.

KATES: That’s great that your sister and your siblings were so open and supportive of you and Michael.


KATES: [18:18] So, after your time at Rutgers where did you go with Michael?

SACHER: Well, here’s the thing. I was still in Rutgers. So, I was at Longwood Gardens for the summer and so was Michael. And he was studying horticulture at Mississippi State University. And so, when the summer program was over, each of us had to go back home to our universities and finish our degree because he had a year left and I had a year left. And so, we went back, and I did that. And I graduated, oddly, in a January, instead of in June, and I began some graduate work at Penn State in horticulture and I had a teaching assistantship. But I missed Michael so badly and I felt so isolated at Penn State that I dropped out after one term, and I knew I just had to be with Michael. So, I decided to go to Starkville, Mississippi and stay with Michael until he graduated. And I had never been in the Deep South before, and I stayed there for three months until Michael graduated from Mississippi State.

KATES: [19:37] What year was that? When did you move to Mississippi?

SACHER: That was 1968.

KATES: 1968.

SACHER: And I guess it was springtime. Let me tell you something [laughs]: I had never been [in] the Deep South before. And I knew about racism from up North, but up North it always seemed to be unaccepted and somewhat hidden and subtle. But in Starkville it was different. I mean, I would walk into a shop and the owner would greet me kindly, whether it was a man or a woman, and before I knew it, they were inviting me to their church on Sunday. And then, as if a switch had been thrown, the most ugly, racist garbage would come out of their mouths – and this happened several times in several shops. And I began to feel that there were people in Starkville who were schizophrenic sociopaths. They thought of themselves as good Christians, “Yes, come to my church.” But the poison…

KATES: And there was no sort of provo…what kind of things would they say?

SACHER: I’ll give you some examples, but the poison that would come out of their lips was absolutely frightening. And I couldn’t believe it, I remember thinking, “My god, if they knew I was gay my life would be in danger.” And I knew that because Michael had already told me a story about one night that he was pulled over by two cops. He was giving two Black students a ride home from campus one night. The cops pulled him over, told the two girls to get out of the car and walk. And they said to him, and I quote, “Boy, we catch you with niggras in your car again, and you are a dead man.” Those are the kind of things you heard. And then there was another incident that happened while I was there. A young married couple, friends of ours, had just gotten their first apartment off-campus in Starkville. And they held an open house to celebrate and, of course, some of the students who attended their open house were Black. The neighbors complained and the landlord evicted them the next day. Now, [pauses] that was 55 years ago [pauses] and it still hurts today. One would think that – and it’s true – that college towns tend to be more open and accepting because they draw students and faculty from all over the place. So, after 55 years we would think “Well, Starkville must have changed a lot by now,” right? Maybe not.

KATES: What happened?

SACHER: Just three years ago a young woman student at Mississippi State applied for a [permit for] a gay pride parade in Starkville using the same route that all parade routes had used for decades, and she was turned down by the city council by a vote of 4 to 3. Three years ago! And the only reason that that permit was issued was because of the nationwide negative publicity that descended on Starkville. And ironically, because the mayor finally reversed the vote, that parade had, like, 2500 people attending. Probably would have been a very, very small affair, if not for all the publicity about the denial of the permit by the Starkville city council.

KATES: Right, so this was as recent as, you said, three years ago…

SACHER: Three years ago.

KATES: …So 2019.

SACHER: You can research this. You Google “Starkville gay pride parade” and all the details are there. It is just amazing. I remember thinking when I heard there was a parade in Starkville, “Oh man, they’ve really come some distance,” but then, when I read the details, and what it took to get a permit, I was really disappointed. Really, in 55 years? This is the best you can do? It really is demoralizing, I think.

KATES: [24:38] So, you didn’t…obviously you didn’t feel safe there, and is that why you decided to move to New Orleans?

SACHER: Right, I mean, the racism was so awful, and I knew that any kind of minority was hated by so many people in the Deep South and certainly in that town. And, obviously, anybody that was gay was not out; you just would not be out, it was way too dangerous. So, after Michael graduated, he said we should go to New Orleans, which is a city that’s much more open and accepting to gays. And I didn’t have any particular place in mind, so with our two diplomas in our pockets, two suitcases that contained everything we owned, $60 between us, no offer of jobs, we boarded a Greyhound bus and left Starkville for New Orleans. Now, isn’t it amazing how brave you can be when you are wildly in love? Nothing else matters. And I will tell you that we could not have survived the first few months in the French Quarter of New Orleans without the kindness of absolute strangers. It was really something.

KATES: Who helped you when you first came to New Orleans?

SACHER: [26:18] Well, because being gay was almost like being in a private club gay people looked out for each other. I mean, in most minority communities that’s the way it has to be. And we befriended a portrait artist who lived in the French Quarter. He said, “I have a spare bedroom, you can stay with me until you find a place of your own.” And our friend Joseph, who was a portrait artist, asked Michael if he would like to pose nude for a portrait. And Michael, being completely uninhibited – unlike me – said “Sure,” and so he did. And to this day, all these years later, I still have that portrait. And while we were living with Joseph, with a stroke of good luck, an apartment opened up in the building next door. It was $60 a month. Furnished. Can you believe that? And it had a balcony because it was a second story apartment, and it overlooked Main Street, and at the end of that street was a very famous gay bar – it’s still there – called Lafitte’s in Exile. And, because I was so new to gay life, I would stand on the balcony and watch guys walking down the street, try to figure out if they were gay. And if they walked into Lafitte’s then I had my answer. Back then, being gay, and being out and gay, was dangerous. It was almost like being a secret society. And gay guys would have coded language they would use to try to figure out if somebody else understood the codes and if they were gay.

KATES: So what kind of things, what sort of things?

SACHER: [28:12] Oh, you know, “Oh, hi! Are you a friend of Dorothy’s?” Have you ever heard of that?…


SACHER: …Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz? And there were a bunch of other stupid things, you know. You’d ask for a light, “You got a match?” Like that was supposed to be a code, and it’d be a knowing response. The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful movie, and it really is – I think, if you look at it – a powerful allegory for anybody who feels marginalized or not safe in society. Looking for a place…I mean, you find yourself in a strange land where you quite don’t belong and you’re looking for a way to get home. And there’s a lot of interesting analogies in that movie, and it’s probably the reason that Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, was such an icon for the gay community in those days. So, the French Quarter had a lot of friendly people in it, I have to say that. Gay people were just fine in the French Quarter; it was a place where you had the right to be different.

KATES: Other than Lafitte’s…oh, I’m sorry. I just had a follow up question.

SACHER: Yeah, go ahead.

KATES: [29:36] Other than Lafitte’s, were there other spaces in the French Quarter where it was sort of acknowledged that gay people could gather?

SACHER: Yes, but they were fairly limited to a few people, and that was the gay Mardi Gras krewes because they were private clubs. And gay people could join those clubs – they usually had to be invited – and they could plan their Mardi Gras costumes, get together, and have meetings and plan their Mardi Gras costumes, which they could display on Mardi Gras Day, which, by the way, back then was the only day of the year that you could be openly gay on the streets of the French Quarter and not worry about being arrested. That’s not very much freedom, one day a year, but that’s the way it was. So, back then, although the French Quarter was very friendly, the police department was not. The New Orleans police department would often raid gay bars, and they would arrest everybody in the bar for being in a gay bar. And they would take them down to central lock-up and book them. And the charges would usually be dismissed, but by then the newspaper would have published the names and addresses of everybody that had been arrested, and a lot of those people would lose their jobs – because they were gay – or be evicted from their apartments. So, The Big Easy was not that easy on gay people back in the late 60s and early 70s. It was a very interesting time because there really was a secret society for gay people.

KATES: [31:32] How long were you and Michael in that neighborhood in that $60-a-month apartment?

SACHER: I wish I had pictures [laughs]. It was a tiny apartment, and the furnishing was a table and two chairs, with a refrigerator and stove, and a convertible sofa in the living room. And that was the furnishings. But, you know what, it’s all we needed. So, we lived in the French Quarter for, I think, about seven years, and by then we had saved up enough money that we could buy a house. And we decided to buy an abandoned house in the historic Black community of Tremé, which was only 10 blocks from the French Quarter. And so, we moved to 2014 Saint Philip Street, and that’s where I started my first business: an interior plant maintenance service for commercial clients in the business section. I used the patio behind the house to store and grow plants for our clients. And, you know, I was a little worried about how two of us, two gay white men, would be accepted in an all-Black community. And I have to tell you, our neighbors could not have been nicer or more welcoming, and we found out real soon that we were going to be okay, as we worked to restore this 150-year-old house that we bought for $26,000 because nobody else wanted it. That was really remarkable. We had the best neighbors, and I remember when my family would come to visit and some of the neighbors would invite my mother over or they would send over a pie or cake…it was a very, very welcoming, eye-opening experience for me, and maybe for my family too. My family was always very liberal, but we had always lived in a fairly white neighborhood, although in the Bronx there were Puerto Ricans, and Italians, and Irish, and Jews; we were used to all kinds of different people. And we enjoyed the differences. We enjoyed celebrating the differences. It was fun, with something new to learn. But I lived in Tremé for over 30 years, and it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. So, Michael and I, after about three years working on this house because we had no money, and it was like: do we buy two gallons of paint, or do I buy some plants for my business? After about three years in Tremé, Michael really grew weary of working in corporate America. He wanted to travel and see the world.

KATES: And you didn’t?

SACHER: Pardon me?

KATES: And you didn’t?

SACHER: And I didn’t. I wanted to stay put and grow my business. And so, we had…with mutual grief and sorrow, we let each other go.

KATES: [35:02] And what happened after that? Did you leave the house?

SACHER: No, I stayed. And it was quite lonely for a long time, and that’s when I met my second partner in life, Bill. Bill had come to the house to pick up some plants that I was leasing to a commercial client. And there was a mutual obvious attraction, and very soon we became a committed couple and Bill moved in with me. And we continued to work on renovating that derelict house and the slave quarter apartments behind it, which took us about seven years because we really didn’t have much money. And there was always this, did we put the money into the house, or do we put it into the business? So, it was a really good experience. We helped out some neighbors who had some money problems and helped them with their houses. In around 1980, because the neighborhood around us was so worn out and run down, we started a second business, which was renovating the historic homes on our block and around the corner. And we did a really good job at it, we got awards from the City of New Orleans because of the quality of the historic renovations that we did. And after we finished each house, I had a watercolor painting done of that house by a nun who was a retired art teacher. And to this day, I still have all those watercolors proudly displayed in our house of some of the projects we worked on when we lived in Tremé.

KATES: [36:54] What was it you loved most about this kind of work?

SACHER: A lot of things. There was the interest of improving the neighborhood because we had finished our house, and other houses needed work. It saved historic buildings that may have been lost otherwise; most of these houses were 100, 120 years old. It put people to work, it provided jobs for people who were doing the renovation. And we did as much as we could ourselves, we did a lot of the painting ourselves, and landscaping – whatever we could do ourselves, we did – and, of course, you have to have electricians, and plumbers, and things like that. And it improved the neighborhood. And some of these homes, we were able to rent to the previous tenants, and some of these tenants over the years actually were able to buy those homes from us after renting them for a number of years. So, it was, to me, a win-win situation all around. We helped preserve part of the neighborhood. We provided jobs, and we provided places for people to live and managed to hold on to some of the long-term tenants who had been in those houses.

KATES: Absolutely. And was this Bill’s sole business? Was this…because you had your plant passion, as well. Was this his sole passion?

SACHER: Well, yes, because Bill helped me, not only with the restoration of the houses, but he also worked with me in the first business, which was the interior plant maintenance for commercial clients. And that was very interesting because working with commercial clients as a gay couple, as an obvious gay couple, we never had any resistance or any sign of prejudice from the business community here in New Orleans. That was really interesting, and it almost seemed like some of these businesses went out of their way to help us succeed. And, again, New Orleans is a very open city, it’s very progressive. But the business community, being focused on business, didn’t seem to want to be caught up in some of the homophobia that is typical of Louisiana as a whole. They were interested in business, and they wanted to hire people who did a good job. So, that was really interesting. And, of course, Bill worked with me on the renovations that we did. I mean, we did those over a period of a number of years. We had bought five houses at auction right on the corner of Saint Philip because a lot of these houses belonged to somebody who died without a will, and that was our chance to help improve the neighborhood. And one of my best memories about that auction, that public auction right on the corner. And there were maybe 10 white people bidding on houses, and there were about 50 neighbors – all Black – from the neighborhood. And we got…when we got the last house and the auction was finished, all those neighbors applauded. And the white bidders didn’t know what’s going on here, why are they so happy that these two white guys got all these houses? But they knew us well enough and trusted us well enough that they felt safe that we had bought these houses. That was a wonderful memory of our time in Tremé.

KATES: [40:36] That’s really beautiful. I know that you were involved in the community in a lot of ways in the 1980s and 90s. You described them as your alphabet years: could you talk a little bit about that?

SACHER: I call the late 80s and the 90s my alphabet years because so many of the groups that I belonged to, or whose boards I served on, had acronyms. There was the board of the ACLU. There were dinners for the NAACP. There were my meetings with PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. There were several boards of historic preservation that I sat on. There was Dignity, which was a gay Catholic organization. And there was Act Up, and there was NO/AIDS, and sometimes I saw myself coming and going with meetings, but it was a very, very active time in those times because that was the time when AIDS became rampant in the country. And Michael was living then in California. And he contracted AIDS. And Bill and I convinced him to move to our house on Saint Philip Street, the same house that Michael and I had lived in. And we took care of him until he died. In those days, almost everybody who got AIDS died. And most of our friends died too. AIDS was responsible for thousands of men being forced out of the closet. And it was the opportunity for so many gay women to become caretakers and supporters in the gay community. It was a very, very trying time because the federal government, and state governments, and city governments really didn’t seem to care. It was like…it was up to us to take care of each other, and that’s what we had to do. So, it was a very trying time. It’s a little hard to talk about it. [43:08] But in the 1980s I began donating and maintaining water lilies for our local botanic garden. And, believe it or not, that’s something I still do every year – now, even 42 years later. In 1984, because of my interest in water lilies, I became a founding member of the International Waterlily [and Water Gardening] Society, which has taken us around the world several times. And I became known as a fairly internationally well-known hybridizer of tropical water lilies. And I got to name my favorite hybrid water lily in memory of my late sister Betty Lou. And I have to say, in all those years with the society, I never saw any hint of prejudice or discrimination towards us in that group. It was like they were very happy to have us there for whatever we could contribute to the society. So, I really appreciated that. And, of course, people in the society came from all over. And, I don’t know, maybe it’s plant people have so much in common that they overlook anything that might be disturbing or outside their realm of experience, but that was something that, even to this day, I really enjoy being in that international society.

KATES: [44:44] What is it about water lilies that you love so much?

SACHER: Well, it’s strange because, before I went into the monastery, I built a pond in my parents’ backyard, and, although that was in New Jersey, I wanted tropical water lilies – of course, it had to be something different and hard. And I got some tropical water lilies from a nursery on Long Island and grew them, and they were absolutely wonderful. And so, it’s something that started, when I was, like, 17. So, I’ve always been charmed by something that looks so delicate that would grow in water, and yet really wasn’t that difficult to grow if you knew what you were doing. And they’re fragrant, they’re beautiful, they’re that delicate. And, of course, I love all kinds of flowers, but this was something different because it grew in water. And so, I’ve been growing water lilies now for over 60 years. So, it’s something that if I want bragging claims in the society, I can say, yeah, I’ve been growing them for about 60 years. And it’s true! So, I’m not sure exactly what the attraction was, but pretty much it’s about it; it was part of my attraction to plants in general, and I particularly liked them for their delicacy and their beauty.

KATES: What kind of places did you visit as part of the IWGS? You said you went all over the world, right?

SACHER: Oh, yeah. Well, there were…because it was an international organization every few years they…by charter, although it started out as mostly an American society…so every three years or so we have to have a meeting abroad. So, there were society meetings held in Scotland and England. More recently, in France. Also, in Thailand. There were meetings in other places that I didn’t get to, like Germany. All over the United States. There was one in Texas, there was one in New York. So, there were lots of different places to go to, and one of the more interesting ones was when we went to Thailand, which had a beginning waterlily society. And, of course, that was an international group, but half the people at that lecture were Thai and the other half were international visitors. And I foolishly decided that I would open my first few sentences in Thai because the rest of my lecture was in English, and it was about water lilies. So, I found the wife of a Thai restaurant owner and she worked with me for a couple of weeks, just to get me to memorize a few sentences in Thai so I could greet my audience in Thai. And Thai is a very difficult language, it’s almost like Chinese, it’s tonal: if your tongue goes up it means one thing, if your tongue goes down it means something else. But I did a fairly good job – there was some giggling, and when I was finished there was applause. And I was invited back again, so I guess I didn’t murder anybody – I killed the language – but that was lots of fun, and I appreciated the language. So, it really has been a reason to travel the world and meet all kinds of different people. And I really value the experiences and the people that I met along the way.

KATES: [48:42] Was Thailand your favorite foreign destination, or is there some somewhere else that you think was the most fun or the most beautiful?

SACHER: Well, it’s hard to say. Thailand is lucky because they have a year-round warm temperature, and so I envy them; they can grow all kinds of water lilies year-round. And here in New Orleans we are only semi-tropical, so there are four months out of the year when we can’t have tropical water lilies. And you go up to New York, New Jersey, and their season is only four months, where ours is eight months. I loved the Thai people. It’s interesting because in Thai culture I think most boys have to join a Buddhist monastery for a year. This is a great unifying element in Thai culture, and the peacefulness, and the living in the now, and the acceptance that one learns in Buddhism spreads all through the culture, and it’s very noticeable. I mean, you can be in a horrible traffic jam in Bangkok, and people are…they don’t get upset, they don’t honk their horns. They say, “Well, that’s the way it is.” And they proceed to work around it or do something useful in the same time. So, I really love Thailand. But, you know, we took a private tour of Italy, and that was mind-boggling and wonderful. And France is wonderful. It really does help to travel, and see other cultures, and see how people handle things. I think it’s a wonderful education. And I think more Americans need to travel, so they’re not so isolated and thinking everything has to be just one way: the way I always do it. There are other ways to do and think and different traditions. And I think it’s a very mind-expanding thing to do is to travel.

KATES: Yeah. If you don’t mind, I would like to backtrack just a little bit.


KATES: [51:02] I don’t want to revisit anything painful for you regarding your friends who passed from AIDS, but I would like to focus a little bit on the activism, a little bit more on the activism that you did during the 1980s with all of these organizations. And I was just wondering if there were maybe one or two experiences that stand out for you or that you’re proudest of?

SACHER: Yes. For some reason, over the years, if there was a need for somebody to do something along the spiritual or religious bent, I seemed to be called on to do it. And in those years during the AIDS crisis, I was singing in a church choir. And my friend John was responsible for mostly Act Up demonstrations here in New Orleans. We had to get the city to do something, and they were doing nothing to help people with AIDS. And John and I participated in several street demonstrations with Act Up. And they were very successful – they really resulted in some changes, well, and embarrassed the city into doing things that they just weren’t even thinking about. So, when John died of AIDS I was asked to give his eulogy. [pauses] And I gave his eulogy in the very same Catholic church where we sang in the choir. And I remember thinking, “Here’s my chance. Here’s my chance to say from the pulpit what John would say if he was up here.” So as part of the eulogy I said, in John’s name, that the use of condoms can stop the spread of AIDS. And I don’t know if those words have ever been spoken from the pulpit of a Catholic church before then or since then. But I do recall the smiles of approval on the two Catholic priests who were there. Because I had spoken the truth, and they were not allowed to. In that same period, our good friend Al died of AIDS. And Al owned La Peniche Restaurant, which was a tremendous supporter of the gay community and people with AIDS. I mean, he fed people who had no money. And the restaurant was almost a gay community center where groups would get together for meetings. But when Al died, his family would not put a death notice in the paper. And they would not hold a memorial service. And you would be surprised how many families did that.

KATES: I was going to ask.

SACHER: They did not want anybody to know that somebody had died of AIDS, and they would not acknowledge a family member who was gay. It was very, very common. So, I decided to print up a bunch of flyers. I posted them all over the French Quarter announcing there would be a memorial service for Al at Saint Mark’s Methodist Church. And I delivered the eulogy to our church with standing room only. Because there was no way [pauses] that we were going to let his life not be celebrated, considering all he’d done for the gay community. As you can tell, [pauses] it still hurts a lot. You can edit some of this out if you need to. Or…

KATES: I can’t imagine.

SACHER: …Or leave it in because it’s the truth.

KATES: It’s important to hear. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been.

SACHER: [56:40] Also around that time – it was in the late 1980s – we had a meeting with our mayor, Dutch Morial, about the continuing harassment of the gay community by the New Orleans Police Department. And, as a result, I became part of a group that conducted sensitivity training for police recruits at the academy. And also, for over 10 years I was part of a panel that lectured at the Tulane School of Social Work [to] graduate students, explaining to them what our lives were like as gay men and women and then answering questions from that group. And that was a wonderful thing to be able to do, lecture to people who were going to be social workers and maybe had very little or no knowledge about gay people. It made our lives real for them. And there were two men and two women on that panel, so they had a variety of experiences. And one of my best memories from that year of…years of lecturing was that one day, there was a deaf woman student in that class with her sign language interpreter. And I had learned sign language many years before, and I was able to address her personally in sign language and explain to her that in New Orleans there were quite a few gay and lesbian deaf people, which really surprised her. She had no idea. And I commended her on all the hard work it must have taken for her to get to that point in her life and to work towards a degree in social work, which meant that she could work with the deaf community one-on-one without the need for an intervening sign language interpreter. I thought that was really a wonderful thing for the entire class to know and hear.

KATES: In your experience on this panel, how did you find the graduate students to be? How in-the-dark did you find them to be about gay and lesbian life in Louisiana?

SACHER: Some of them were pretty much in-tune. Some of them were gay and lesbian themselves. It is interesting: my opinion is that in the helping professions there seems to be a larger percentage of gay and lesbian people. And I often wonder if our personal experiences of knowing what it’s like to be isolated or marginalized give us greater insight and empathy and make us want to help other people who find themselves in that same situation. The statistics on that are really sort of interesting. And I think there is some component to being marginalized – not just being gay or lesbian – but being marginalized in the wider community that can, under the right circumstances, make you more susceptible to the idea that you can be helpful because you know what it’s like, and you can make a difference for people who need help. I think that that was one of the interesting things about that period of time.

KATES: [1:00:53] Absolutely. You’re a testament to that with how involved you were with all of these community organizations in the 80s and the 90s. Would you say that your most active period was the 1980s? Did you continue your activism into the 1990s?

SACHER: Yes, and part of it – I guess, a great deal of it – had to do with the way the state and the city was neglecting people with AIDS…

KATES: How so?

SACHER: [1:01:29] …And harassment the by the police department, which had gone on for decades now. It was great fun for them, and we were a very marginalized and vulnerable community. Just ask the Black community how they feel today about various police departments. And, by the way, my sister and her husband were state troopers in New Jersey for over 20 years. And I remember recently asking my brother-in-law, “Did you ever have to fire your gun in the all the years you were a state trooper?” and he said, “No, only at the firing range.” And I said, “Did you ever pull your gun?” He said, “Only once. But I knew I wasn’t going to use it.” And I said, “What about Betty Lou?” because my sister had passed by then, and he said, “No, she never pulled her gun once.” This says something about training. If you really have a professional police force, they know how to de-escalate, they know how to get control without harming somebody, and they know when their lives are in danger and when it’s not. I think that’s really interesting. [1:02:55] But the police department was a…it was a real problem for us, and…So, part of that was not having any kind of gay rights ordinance, and so in 1986 we knew we had the votes for the very first gay rights ordinance to be introduced in the New Orleans City Council. And we had a representative; one of the councilmen was Mike Early, who represented the gayest part of town, the French Quarter. And he promised to vote for the ordinance. With his vote we knew we had enough votes to pass the ordinance. So, with gay support and gay money he won his election. And then he voted against the ordinance, and it was defeated. And to make matters worse, he used disinformation about AIDS as his excuse to vote against the gay rights ordinance. And we were furious. We knew that the Catholic archbishop of New Orleans had put pressure on the city council not to vote for this very first ordinance, which would have given some protection to the gay community with jobs and housing. And at that time, every single member of the city council was Catholic. So, we decided – a number of us – to picket Saint Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square handing out flyers to the church members as they went in for high mass on Corpus Christi Sunday. And I very cleverly thought, let’s put a coupon on this flyer that people can tear out and put into the collection baskets in place of money. And the flyer, the little coupon, called for the church to recognize the humanity of the gay community and open a dialogue about our worth as human beings. And I will tell you that, to this day, that dialogue has not happened. But I do know from several ushers inside the cathedral that day that there were many, many white pieces of paper in those collection baskets on that Sunday. And I made sure that I gave a flyer personally to Archbishop Hannon when he exited the cathedral that day after high mass. I think it was very interesting that so many people took those flyers, and – because they obviously weren’t all gay people – and tore out those little coupons and put them in the collection baskets. It was something we really had to do because we knew the church had played a large role in defeating that very first attempt at a gay rights ordinance which would prevent discrimination in jobs and housing for the gay community. It was a way we could react and say, “This is not okay.” And I’m very proud that we did it. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, there was a lot of publicity about it beforehand, so the newspapers and television people knew about it, so it was a little nerve-wracking. But it went very smoothly, very glad we did it.

KATES: And was that the only way that you protested Mike Early’s no-vote?

SACHER: Oh, no. Many stories about Mike Early, who, by the way, right now lives only three houses away from me around the corner [laughs]. We are neighbors. But a month after the ordinance was defeated Mike Early was holding a fundraiser at the New Orleans Museum of Art. So, a group of us decided to have a protest rally at the museum. And we handed out flyers to people as they got out of their cars, telling them that Mike Early was a Judas and that he would betray them too. And, by the way, after that he was indicted and convicted of tax fraud. And the best thing was, they took these flyers with them into the museum. I stood in the middle of our crowd tolling a bell for the people who had died of AIDS. [1:07:57] And it was on that night that this woman came up and introduced herself to me. It was Dr Cathy Roland. And she and I became friends and fellow activists for the next 35 years. Cathy was very active in promoting women’s rights and gay rights at all the universities where she taught in various states, and then especially here in New Orleans. And Kathy went on to become President of the American Counseling Association and helped move that organization forward in the struggle for gay rights. Here in New Orleans, she established New Orleans Women Against AIDS and community relief organizations that raised money to give financial support for food, and medicine, and rent to people with AIDS. And, sadly, my friend Cathy died just last year. And, along with many of her friends, I scattered her ashes in the Mississippi River in the French Quarter to fulfill her final wish. Cathy loved the French Quarter, and she would always often meet us for breakfast in the quarter and then walk over to the nursery to look at what was blooming that particular week. So, we were very pleased to conduct a very brief ceremony at the river as we put her ashes into the river and threw some red roses in after her. She was a really, really important person in the life of the gay and lesbian community in New Orleans, and, as I had said to somebody: if there was work to be done, Cathy was there, and she did it.

KATES: [1:10:06] And when you say the nursery do you mean your maintenance…do you mean American Aquatic Gardens?

SACHER: Yes, because American Aquatic Gardens was just three blocks from the French Quarter. And so, it was very easy to have breakfast in the French Quarter and then walk the three blocks over to the nursery, or, if it was hard to park, you could park at the nursery – which Kathy usually did – and then we’d walk into the French Quarter on Saturday to have breakfast. So, it was an interesting tourist attraction because we got quite a few people visiting New Orleans. It was easy for tourists to find us because we were so close to the French Quarter. That American Aquatic Gardens was an outgrowth of my first business, which was the interior plant business. Because at that time, we…the interior plant business had grown, and it was on three residential properties. We would renovate a house, and steal the backyard, and put a greenhouse on it, and grow plants, and we couldn’t keep that up because they were residential properties. So, eventually, we bought – of all things – a burned-out lesbian dance bar on Elysian Fields. It had been for sale for two years, nobody wanted it.

KATES: How’d you feel about being able to repurpose a lesbian dance bar for your business?

SACHER: It was ironic because I had been there once. There had been flyers posted in the French Quarter, it was a fundraiser for something, and it was a women’s gay bar. And the flyers said that there was a group playing – I’ll never forget this – and they were called The Sensible Pumps. And I thought, “I’ve got to go and listen to this, and pay something, and support the cause.” And it was a really loud rock-and-roll lesbian band, and the bar was very dark and foreboding, and it was an interesting experience to me. And who knew that, years later, that I would be buying that property to build a nursery and a gift shop for my next venture.

KATES: What year did you buy it?

SACHER: [1:12:42] That had to be 1990. And it was interesting because people said, “You’re crazy to build a nursery in the middle of the city, they’re supposed to be out on major highways.” We had a lot of traffic, we were three blocks from the river, three blocks from the French Quarter. But I knew that if we did the right thing, people would come. And it was incredibly successful for the whole 30 years that we operated. We proudly flew gay pride flags and banners, we displayed the human rights campaign stickers all over the place, we were obviously very out. Most our staff was gay. We hired whoever came along who was qualified, but a lot of our staff was gay. And they were allowed to be out. I mean, they could be as out as they wanted to be. Sometimes I was a little uncomfortable because the way some of them dressed, but I thought, “Hey, this is the real world. Get used to it!” It was that shout from Act Up, you know – we’re out, we’re gay, get used to it – kind of thing. [1:13:59] It was that year, or shortly thereafter, when I opened the nursery, that I approached PFLAG and said we should start a scholarship fund for graduating gay and lesbian students who want to go on to college. And I wrote the very first check for that fund.

KATES: Did that come out of the revenues of American Aquatic Gardens?

SACHER: Yes. Yes, that was funded by American Aquatic Gardens. And I gave it to the woman who was running PFLAG at the time, Sandra Pailet. And she said, “Oh, we don’t have our 501c3 yet, and I’m not sure we can accept the funds,” but once she had the check in her hand, I think it made it real. And so, for the next five years, the fundraisers and the awards – the scholarship awards – were held at American Aquatic Gardens. Until the crowd just got a little bit too big, and we knew we needed to have it moved to a space where there was more room and protection in case it rained. We lucked out for five years, but I was always a nervous wreck that it would rain that evening, and it would spoil the event. And that scholarship fund very soon took on a life of its own, and it gathered donations from foundations and corporations, as well as individuals. I’m very pleased to say that, as of now, PFLAG New Orleans has given out over $700,000 in scholarships since those first years at American Aquatic Gardens in 1990. I’m really, really happy about that. And the graduating – I call them the kids – the graduating students, these high school kids, make me feel like – I don’t know what – I mean, like, a slacker because they are so qualified, they are so engaged, they deserve every bit of help. Some of them come from supportive family, some of them come from terribly unsupportive families. It’s wonderful to know that we can make a difference and let people know that they have support. The other thing is that PFLAG has access to all the schools, public and private, including the Catholic schools. And they let them know that there’s a scholarship available for gay students. And that sends a powerful message to the educators in those schools, and also to the students, maybe to the straight students who say, “Wow! There are scholarships available for gay kids. You know, I guess that’s okay.” So, just having the scholarship available and having it sent to the administration and the teachers in these schools is a powerful tool all by itself. PFLAG has access where, maybe, no one else would have access. So, I’m really proud of PFLAG, I have to say. I’ve never been a member of their board, I’m basically just somebody that writes the checks and says, “Rah-rah, congratulations students! I’m so glad that you’ve made it.” That’s really my contribution to PFLAG.

KATES: [1:17:39] So, American Aquatic Gardens, it sounds, is as much a community center as it is a business?

SACHER: Yeah, it became more than I realized. We wanted to create something very special and having a lot of fountains running and splashing water everywhere. Having water lilies and all these ponds. Having beautiful flowers in bloom. Having the sculptures throughout the gardens, which was very different. Bill and I after 20 years separated as a couple, but we remained friends and partners in this business. And we had created a really wonderful oasis, and we didn’t realize it at first, until we saw that policemen, and firemen, and emergency technicians would stop by the nursery after they had had a particularly traumatic call. And they would walk through and sit down and decompress after what they had just seen or been through. It got to the point that, if I came home for lunch and there was an ambulance outside or a police car, I didn’t worry. I knew what was going on. There were cancer patients who would come by after chemo and sit on the bench somewhere and just recharge. So, the nursery, which was a way of supporting ourselves, and maybe creating something beautiful, and making a business that was attractive: it had value beyond that. It also had value for gay people when they came in because it didn’t matter whether it was a man who was effeminate or a woman who was masculine; they knew that they would be treated with all the kindness and respect that everybody was. And it didn’t matter if somebody was African American, or if they spoke with a heavy accent. They knew that they were there, and it was safe, and it was a good place to be. And we had some deaf customers, and that was always fun because I always instructed the staff: if anybody comes in, and you see them using sign language, you come and get me because I’ll be able to walk through with them and answer any of their questions. So, looking back on it, it became something a lot more, and a lot bigger, than we initially knew. It was a really special place, and I’m very glad that we created it. I wish I could still do it, but I’m now 80 years old. And it was in 2019 that Bill and I decided it’s time to retire and sell the property. And so, we did. And the property was sold to somebody who wants to put up a hotel, which is valuable because it’s only three blocks from the Mississippi River and three blocks from the French Quarter, and the land had become so valuable it really couldn’t stay as a nursery much longer. It needed a much higher economic land use. [1:21:34] So, that brings me to my Kevin. Kevin and I met in the year 2000, when a friend introduced us at our local gym. Kevin was working for the State of Louisiana until he retired three years ago. And, if you believe in it, it was literally love at first sight. We’ve been together for 22 years now. And we got married here in New Orleans about five years ago. Kevin is a real plant lover as well, and he helped me all the time with my work at the botanic gardens. [Wipes nose] Allergies. Our love of plants is mutual, and it again has taken us all around the country, into Europe, and again to Thailand. I’ve been to Thailand twice, as we attend symposia and I give lectures. And together Kevin and I have renovated three more historic homes – we’re still at it. And one of them we’re still putting the finishing touches on right now. I had already been a runner for about 20 years when Kevin and I met. And he took up running with me, and so now we run three days a week, and we’ve run the Crescent City Classic several times, which is a 10k race here in New Orleans. And we still try to get to the gym three days a week. He succeeds a little bit more often than I do. So, it’s interesting too, and I want people to know, that for over 20 years now Kevin and I still celebrate the holidays with my former partner Bill and his husband. [1:23:48] Which brings us to gay culture now. For those of us who live in large cities, it’s tempting for us to think that gay people are pretty much accepted and mainstream. But that is not true in much of the country. A dozen states right now are passing laws which forbids schools to even mention that we exist. Books are being banned, and evil politicians are calculating how to use fear of any minority to frighten ignorant voters into voting for them. You know, New Orleans is a very progressive city. But Louisiana is as conservative as Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Gay people have very few rights or protections in those states, and even nationwide. It’s…we do not have protections against discrimination in jobs and housing; there is no federal law. You know, I’ve often thought there is a gay rights ordinance now in New Orleans that offers protection in jobs and housing, but in Louisiana, if a corporation wanted to put up a billboard on the highway saying gays and lesbians need not apply for this job, they could do it, except in New Orleans. They wouldn’t because it’s bad publicity for businesses, but there are plenty of businesses that still discriminate against us. So, the willful ignorance and the calculated prejudice of so many elected officials of politicians right now is alarming and very, very dangerous. [1:26:12] Nonetheless, I’m really hopeful that each new generation will find many ways to continue the struggle against racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and xenophobia. Because we’re all in this together. And I think we need to teach by the example of our lives, where we embrace and celebrate our differences, rather than see our differences as something to fear. It’s a big job and it’s ongoing work. And I love that quote, “The moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.” But I want to tell you something. That arc will not bend by itself. We need to push it. We need to pull it. We need to climb on it. We need to add our weight to it. And we need to do the work needed until we have a society where there is justice and equality for everyone. And, being a realist, I know that that work will never be done. But on the bright side, we always have a job to do. Always. I am grateful to you and the legacy project to ask for my feelings and experiences over my life as a gay man. It’s just one man’s story. There are millions of us with histories. But I think it’s important not to forget what has happened before the gains we have made because right now, it almost appears that, although we took two steps forward as a country, we’re taking one step backwards. So, it’s that thing of we always have work to do. And we need to keep doing it. So, I thank you again for interviewing me about my life and my experiences as a gay man. I appreciate it.

KATES: Thank you for speaking with me, Rich. I just have one more question for you.


KATES: [1:29:14] If you had any advice or a message to send either to the younger generations of LGBT people, or even to your younger self, what would you say to them?

SACHER: I think we have to be fearless. We have to be out. We have to remember that we’re not alone, that there is support out there. We have to remember that we are in this together, and there are other minority communities that need our help, not just us. It was so revealing and helpful to me during all the Black Lives Matter demonstrations to see so many young people and so many people who were not people of color in those demonstrations. I think we’re on the right track. I think there is increasingly among young people the knowledge that we can’t keep dividing people into categories and groups and making it “those people.” It’s all “we, the people” who have certain rights. And until all of us have those rights, none of us really have the rights. So, I think for young people it’s very important to be aware of what’s going on around us, and especially for young people who live in progressive places or places where they feel that they don’t have discrimination, to really take a good look at the wider country and the wider world. Realize how privileged you are, and know that you have work to do. Because other people have done the work that have enabled you to be where you are. I think those are important things. We have to know our history, because if we don’t, it really is true: we will have to relive it. We don’t want to go back. We need to go forward.

KATES: Exactly. Thank you so much again, Rich, for sharing your time and your story with us. And I’m going to stop our recording now.

[1:31:52] [End Tape 01. End Session I.]