Day 31: Honoring Our History
Join Us for 31 Days of MGLCC
People in the community are often surprised when they learn about all the projects we manage at Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center. We surprise ourselves sometimes, too! It's such a busy place! Join us on this 31 Day journey as we share the powerful, life-changing work we do every day.
Honoring Our History: Preserving the Stories of LGBTQ Southerners
Patrons of the Stonewall Inn 1969
Our movement is as problematic as it is powerful. This year, we watched as people marched and rallied in cities all over the country to push for justice for people of color in the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement. In some cases, violence broke out at these events. Some in our community said things like, "I approve of the message, but not the violence." As LGBTQ people who follow our history, though,  we remember that our movement was energized by riots protesting harassment by law enforcement. As long as we remember Stonewall, we have to acknowledge that the fire of our American LGBTQ movement was ignited by rioting and violence. Whitewashing our history does not serve us, nor does it help those in our community who continue to be victimized. The Stonewall Riots were initiated by people of color, drag queens, street kids, and others outside the centers of power. We owe them much of our progress, just as we owe their descendants an equal place at the decision-making tables.

Gaiety Newspaper December 1975
Each generation of activists and advocates pushes for and achieves more justice and more equality than the previous generation. Our forebears were imprisoned, ridiculed, fired, ostracized, attacked, and lobotomized because of  how they identified, how they dressed or for whom they loved.  They were ridiculed in dozens of ways, even having national media report the most skewed, prejudiced views of us. But these pioneers fought back. And created change that benefits us all.

Our movement has seen progress in so many areas, yet we still struggle for full equality.We still have many obstacles to overcome, both outside and within our own community. We believe that remembering and understanding the past is crucial to our work improving our future. And preserving our true history is that much more critical.  

"We have pioneers who fought for many of the rights we have. They are dying off and must be remembered." - Vincent Astor 
In April, MGLCC partnered with StoryCorps OutLoud, a project of National Public Radio dedicated to preserving the stories of LGBTQ Americans. LGBTQ people packed the center and interviewed in pairs, telling stories about living LGBTQ in the Mid-South. These stories are now part of a curated collection with NPR and the Library of Congress. 

L-R, MGLCC Ops Manager Elokin CaPece, Vincent Astor, Dr. Suzanne Bonefas (Rhodes), Charles Hughes (Rhodes), Will Batts, MGLCC ED
Our goals have always been bigger than just that, however. We want people in TN, AR, MS, and all over the South to be able to find and explore LGBTQ history as told by the people who lived it. For that, MGLCC has partnered with Rhodes College to preserve written archives (including full runs of several local LGBTQ magazines and newspapers), old film footage of past LGBTQ events, and a growing collection of LGBTQ photos (now at 22,000!) Of highest priority is beginning to collect oral histories of people in the community with unique, historical stories to share. Starting in 2016, MGLCC staff, our Senior Services Committee, and Rhodes staff and students will work together to build a digital archive of LGBTQ historical source material and to preserve our history through our eyes. Our revamped website will have a section dedicated to telling the stories of LGBTQ people of the Mid-South. We will be recruiting assistance from you as well to help with this long-term project. 

This work  would not be possible without the dedicated, passionate leadership of GLBT Local Historian Vincent Astor.

He provides a perfect example of how one person's passion and commitment can be amplified by our community's collective resources. In 50 years, students will be using this work to write papers for their classes, publish books that recapture the imaginations of young LGBTQ people, and create documentaries about the Memphis, Jackson, Tupelo, and Nashville activists that led our movement. Because of of Vincent's dedication, Rhodes's focus on preserving Memphis history, and MGLCC's place as a hub for LGBTQ collaboration, we can create a broad comprehensive story of our local movement. 

MGLCC is committed to building a local LGBTQ historical archive and ensuring that the lived experiences of our local activists are accessible to future generations. We know that preserving our history helps us move forward and continue to fight for genuine justice and equality.

Please donate today to support MGLCC's LGBTQ Historical Archive and all the other MGLCC programs critical to the well-being of LGBTQ people in Memphis. Thank you! For more info on this, contact Elokin CaPece, Operations Manager at MGLCC.  
Join us as we highlight the MANY programs and services that we offer to the Mid-South community.

A new program or service will be added to the LIST each day in December!

And watch our progress towards our end-of-year campaign goal!
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