When we produced A Grand Rapids People’s History of the LGBTQ Community, we were inspired by all the people who came forward to tell their story and demonstrate the rich history of organizing in West Michigan for collective liberation.
In addition to the stories, we were gifted with lots of archival materials, especially from Bryan Ribbons, who in our estimation made the project truly come alive. From the pictures, to the documents and all the amazing video, Ribbons had so much material that we couldn’t use it all in the film.
However, one of the benefits of living in the digital age is that you can still use all the material, which is why we created an archival site that houses all this rich material.
For example, there is this powerful video of a Network event in 1992 billed as a discussion about the lessons learned from Stonewall. In this video (embedded below), Holly VanScoy and Dennis Komack facilitate this discussion which covers a whole range of topics, such as the Lesbian influence in the local movement, how Grand Rapids responded to the AIDS crisis, dealing with the reaction right in West Michigan and the evolution of Pride events.
At one point in the discussion, one of the participants makes the point about “necessary radical thought.” This comment stands out in many ways, because what the person was saying is that it is absolutely necessary that we not only continue to reflect on where we came from as a community, but that we continue to challenge our understanding of who we are and where we are going. Movements for social change are resilient to the degree that they can embrace the idea of necessary radical thought.
Here is this powerful video from 1992 that should inspire all of us to continue to reflect and challenge what it means to be liberated in a world that either despises us or wants to co-opt us.