Issue: 19.17, Aug. 22, 2002
New LGBT History Advisory Group Forms
Milwaukee - In a new collaborative effort, Milwaukee area organizations, activists and historians have formed the Milwaukee LGBT History Advisory Committee. The immediate goal of the committee is to produce an exhibit that will capture the rich and colorful history of Milwaukee’s LGBT community.
The exhibit, which organizers hope will be displayed at PrideFest, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, and the UW-Milwaukee campus among other sites, will include profiles of individuals whose life experiences offer a flavor of LGBT community history. Members of the Advisory Committee are also establishing a process for archiving personal materials and memorabilia relating to local LGBT history at the Golda Meir Library at UWM.
“There are great advantages to this,” said journalist and historian Jamakaya. “We need to start getting materials out of people’s basements and attics and into facilities where the information can be properly catalogued and preserved. It will still be available for the gay community to see, but it will also be open to the wider public and be there for researchers in the future.”
Jerry Johnson, former publisher of the Wisconsin Light, has pledged to donate his extensive photo collection to the project. The thousands of photos capture significant events in the LGBT community over the past 30 years..
Johnson expressed concern that some of the “pioneers” of the local LGBT civil rights movement have passed away and others are getting older. “It’s very important that we start interviewing these people and getting all their stories down so that we don’t lose that history,” he said.
“Capturing the history of our community is an important investment,” said Neil Albrecht, Executive Director of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. “It can teach us where we have been, but also where we need to go in the future.”
The Cream City Foundation, Milwaukee’s LGBT community foundation, provided a grant to PrideFest in the amount of $5,000 for the project. Part of the grant will cover the costs of developing the exhibit for display at PrideFest 2003, with the remainder going towards the development of the permanent exhibit.
“CCF is very pleased to provide funding for the project,” said Michael Salinas, Executive Director of the foundation. “We are enthused by the level of collaboration community groups and individuals are giving this project for the sake of a permanent exhibit that will benefit future generations of Milwaukeeans.”
In addition to the Cream City Foundation, the LGBT Community Center, PrideFest and the Cultures & Communities program at UWM, which provides seed money for campus/community collaborations, have made financial commitments to the history project.
According to Advisory Committee member Jeffrey Merrick, chair of the History Department and director of the LGBT Studies program at UW-Milwaukee, “This project exemplifies UWM’s ‘Milwaukee Idea,’ a set of initiatives intended to promote communication and collaboration between campus and community.”
“The collection of materials to be used in the history exhibit and preserved in the UWM library will form a valuable resource for the Milwaukee LGBT community and for the LGBT Studies program,” Merrick noted.
Ted Berg, Vice President of PrideFest and Coordinator of the His/Herstory Tent, said: “Two years ago, PrideFest brought back the His/Herstory Tent due to requests on numerous surveys we conducted. In the two years since it has returned, thousands of people have seen a small part of our LGBT history.”
Anyone with historical materials or information to share may call Neil Albrecht at the LGBT Center at (414) 271-2656.