By PHILIP CLARK
I was pleased to see multiple pieces of coverage of GLBT history in the Oct. 4 issue of the Blade, from St. Sukie de la Croix’s remembrance of Chicago’s early gay rights activist Henry Gerber to Chris Kane’s column about the potential creation of the Velvet Foundation’s National LGBT Museum. This museum project, in development for some time, shows in particular a desire to construct and memorialize a narrative about LGBT lives and their place in national history.
It is easy, though, in the excitement of creating a national story, to forget about local LGBT histories and the battles for respect and equality that are fought and won on a personal, local level. It is organizations like D.C.’s Rainbow History Project (for which I am a board member) that work to preserve these place-specific stories and memories. Since 2000, Rainbow History has been collecting oral histories of D.C.-area LGBT people, guiding walking tours of neighborhood sites, researching local LGBT figures and organizations, and through public events and the archives on its website (rainbowhistory.org), working to promote a knowledge and understanding of what being LGBT in Washington D.C. has meant to its residents.
Our archival partnership with the Historical Society of Washington also provides a place where researchers or community members can go to view documents, publications, and objects related to D.C.’s rich LGBT history.
The Rainbow History Project encourages all Blade readers to check out our website to see our online archives, learn about our upcoming events, and even get involved with the organization and its efforts. We are interested in working with organizations and individuals in the community to get their paperwork sorted, preserved and made accessible to scholars and future generations. If you are interested in donating materials, or volunteering to assist in this effort, please contact us.
As national LGBT history gets its due, let’s not forget about the existence and the importance of the history right outside our own windows.
Philip Clark is a board member of the Rainbow History Project. Reach him via rainbowhistory.org.