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A People’s History of the LGBTQ community in Grand Rapids – Project Update

June 10, 2011

For the past several months GRIID has been working with the LGBT Resource Center at GVSU on a People’s History project focusing the LGBTQ community in the greater Grand Rapids area.

So far we have conducted dozens of interviews and plan on doing many more over the next 6 weeks. GRIID we be at the annual West Michigan Pride Festival on Saturday, June 18 and the Network’s Neighborhood Bash on July 16.  However, most of the interviews are being conducted in a film studio and we are inviting people to contact us ( to set up an interview time.

Listening to the stories from the interviews we have already done has been amazing and inspiring. As was expected with any People’s History project we are discovering that there is a rich history of organizing and struggle in the LGBTQ community. We have heard about the Grand Rapids response to the 1980s AIDS crisis, the creation of organizations and the campaign to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance in the mid – 90s.

We are also hearing painful stories of discrimination, bias and violence against the LGBTQ community. Many of those we have interviewed so far state that the ultra-conservative Christian element creates a climate of fear, ignorance and hatred. There are numerous individuals, families and institutions that are overtly homophobic and can be seen in their words and funding of anti-gay policies.

GRIID has also been doing research in preparation for this project. One area of research is to look at other People’s History projects with an LGBTQ focus. We read Vicki Eaklor’s Queer America: A People’s GLBT History of the United States and found it very useful for framing some of the questions used during the interviews.  We are also doing a project that looks at the Grand Rapids Press coverage of the LGBTQ community.

In addition, GRIID is looking for any archival material that people might have – old articles, photos, video, newsletters – anything that would help to tell the history of the LGBTQ community in Grand Rapids.

The goal is to have a documentary completed this fall and to do numerous public screenings. In addition to the screenings we will be posting online all the interviews in their entirety and all archival material we have been given permission to use.

This has been an amazing project so far and we anticipate that the outcome will be equally amazing. Again, if anyone wants to participate in this project please contacts us to set up interview times, to speak with us, to provide archival material or to volunteer. We will announce the completion of the project this fall and invite the public to the screenings.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Carol Tanis permalink
    June 10, 2011 4:10 pm

    Oh, I’m so glad this project is being done. The Grand Rapids LGBTQ community has an important story to tell. We know that if history not documented, it can be lost, forgotten or denied by some that it ever happened.

    Thank you!
    Carol Tanis

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