Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's Left of Our Communities?

So ... there used to be a couple of offices in LA where the Mattachine Society and Foundation operated. Gone - now a parking lot and a modern office building. There used to be a whole neighborhood of clubs and entertainment spots in DC, including the city's longest running and best drag show. Gone - obliterated when the city fathers wanted to build a baseball stadium for a team so bad that Montreal sold it.

Can we start saving our historic places instead of kissing them goodbye?! Queer America is still getting into the history business - writing up its past and collecting its documents and artifacts. We have hardly even begun preserving our historic sites. Ten years ago the Stonewall got listed as a historic national landmark. Nothing else has made the list. No one has pushed anything else on to the list. Between California and New York, virtually nothing has been saved or preserved, with the exception of Henry Gerber's house in Chicago. [see earlier posts]

Forty years after Stonewall, it's time for local queer communities to tally up the spots that celebrate their history, document them and get them onto the historic preservation/landmark lists before they're gone. And where there is already local preservation as with Milk's home and camera shop and Gerber's home, local communities need to press their state historic preservation officer (that's what they call the guy who recommends sites to the national register) to submit those local sites to the National Register of Historic Places run by the National Park Service, and maybe even to the National Historic Landmarks list.

With a new administration coming in, there is more of a chance that queer history won't be shoved into a closet the way it was during the Bush years.

We're a people with a past and we're a people with historic places. We need to keep those places safe, organize walking tours, and invite straight society to learn about our civil rights struggle.

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