Shoulders to Stand On State of the Project

A year and a half after the Producer’s Premier and the World Premier of Shoulders To Stand On, we are more visible, we are more aware of our successes and our challenges, and we experience on a daily basis how far we have yet to go. Our visibility has been extended to Washington, DC and New York City through the University of Rochester Alumni Relations. Comments after viewing this documentary range from pride, awe, surprise to anger at the unfair treatment of LGBT men and women. We recognize that the battles are not over. We continue to fight for equality and justice until we are ALL free.

The year following the Premiers, Shoulders To Stand On needed: closed captioning; jackets for the DVD/BluRay case; 200 copies of the DVD/BluRay made and mailed; reformatting of some archival materials. By the end of 2013 we had raised $96,500 and our expenses for the documentary and DVD/BluRay copies came to $89,000. Over the next year and 5 months you generously donated another $5,000 to the Shoulders To Stand On Program bringing the total raised for the documentary and program to just over $101,000. During that time Shoulders continued to accept record collections from RATFA, David Emert, Marriage Equality, John Noble, Sue Cowell, and many others. Each of these collections was surveyed and in one case records scanned.   The documentary was also broken into 19 chapters for flexibility of use and convenience. In January, 2015 we had the unique opportunity to interview Dr. Michael Gottlieb who was the first doctor in the United States to identify the AIDS virus. After the cost incurred by these expenses, Shoulders To Stand On has a balance of approximately $6,000.

What does the future hold? We will continue to conduct oral history interviews documenting the contributions made by our pioneers in the areas of the Transgender Community, Faith Community and AIDS. We will continue to accept record collections from members of the community and to continue to archive the Gay Alliance records. In July we will submit an NEH Grant to reformat the raw footage from Shoulders and other materials to be preserved at the University of Rochester, and to provide access to those materials by educators, researchers and the general public online. In preparation for the NEH submission Shoulders has been holding Photo Id Days to help identify who, what, where and when for 3600+ Empty Closet photographs from the 70’s through 2009. The Library Initiative, funded by a grant from the LGBT Giving Circle of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, which allows libraries in the Monroe County and Pioneer Library Systems free screenings of the documentary is going well and will continue on beyond its grant year. There is interest in doing an AIDS Documentary to include: documenting the Quilt Workshop organized and run by the Gay Alliance to create panels for the Quilt; the Names Project & Quilt coming to MCC and its continued presence in the community through displays at Equal Ground; World AIDS Day celebrations; the AIDS Rembrance Garden; HPA (Helping People With AIDS); AIDS Research and treatment; the Faces of AIDS Exhibit that knew no bounds in terms of race, creed, sexual orientation or gender expression. These and many more contributions of the Rochester LGBT community which provided care, support, consolation and comfort to HIV patients, their family and friends need to be documented. Funding for this will come from grants, foundations, and a few private donors.

As you can see the state of the STSO Program is in motion moving forward. I invite you to share your thoughts, and to volunteer for Shoulders to Stand On Program of the Gay Alliance that continues to document and preserve Rochester’s LGBT history.