Throughout its history, Rochester, New York has been a powerful voice for dignity and civil rights. Even before the days of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, the region was built on the quest of people seeking to better their lives with opportunities to express free thought, innovation, education and worship.
Today, we stand on the shoulders of many who have made Rochester a city that celebrates diversity and has often set benchmarks for civil liberties throughout the nation. At the forefront, Rochester’s gay community has also been there – making history – championing the cause of equality and freedom for all. But, even as history is made, our story remains fragile and can be quickly lost.The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley has been engaged in a strategic effort to document and preserve the history of the LGBT Community in the Rochester region and its impact on New York State and the nation in advancing the cause for justice and equal rights. This project gives credibility to our community and culture, and will be available to teach and inspire future generations.
The Shoulders To Stand On Program has six initiatives:
1. Roots Chronology
- The digitization of the Empty Closet Newspaper, the oldest continuously published monthly gay newspaper in New York State and the country, and the official paper of record which documents the Rochester gay community’s struggle for full civil rights.
- Volunteer project to identify headlines, people, groups, events and gay friendly establishments through the Empty Closet Newspaper. Completed 1/2011.
- Indexing and chronicling the New Women’s Times Newspaper, 1978 – 1984, which focused on the Lesbian community, the women’s peace movement in opposition to nuclear weapons storage in Upstate New York and the struggle for women’s rights.
- Each year the next 11 issues of the Empty Closet are digitized and uploaded to the University of Rochester site. Every five years, the digitzed copies will be microfilmed by the University of Rochester for preservation.
2. GAGV NYS Archives Documentation Project
This project documented the history of the GLBT community in Rochester, New York and its influences locally and nationally. The program will identify, survey, and make recommendations for the care, custody, and control of the records of 10 to 20 of the over 260+ gay organizations, agencies, groups and individuals who made history during 1969 to 2012 in Rochester, NY. The project was supported through grants awarded from the NYS Archives for 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012.
3. Writing and Publishing the History of the Rochester LGBT Community
The successful completion of the Roots Chronology and the Documentation Project will allow the research needed to write and publish the history of the Rochester LGBT Community. A rough outline for the book is in place.
4. Documentary Film
Shoulders To Stand On, a full length documentary film, captures the stories, struggles and achievements of our gay pioneers, highlights many events that put Rochester, NY in the local and national spotlight, and celebrates the spirit of a community that is bound together with a steadfast sense of pride.
Production was completed in September, 2013. The digitized data from the Empty Closet provided a foundation for the documentary, but it was the personal stories and memorabilia that completed the picture.
The Producer’s Premier was September 29, 2013. The World Premier was at the ImageOut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in October, 2014. The Closed Caption Premier was at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on April 17, 2014. The documentary was broadcast on New York PBS Station WXXI on June 3, 2014.
5. Oral Histories
The oral histories collected for the documentary will be shared online through the Interactive Website Educational Kit. The oral histories will also be shared with NPR’s StoryCorp. Oral histories will continue to be collected on an ongoing basis.
6. Website Educational Kit
In conjunction with the archival and documentary project, a website will be launched to engage the community into conversations about Rochester’s LGBT history. The website will allow people to submit their stories and/or materials that represent their own LGBT history. In addition, the Educational Kit will provide study guides and resources for educators wanting to include LGBT studies in their curriculums.
Why is this project important?
It is imperative to safeguard our Rochester LGBT history. As many of our pioneers are passing on, stories and archival materials are quickly being lost. In order to celebrate and understand who we are, we need to be able to reflect back on where we have come from, the struggles we have faced, and the achievements of a community founded on the principles of equality and justice for all.
For more information or questions, contact us at email@example.com.