The Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project unveiled its "Gay Liberation NOW!" exhibition at Karpeles Museum Sunday. It culminates the History Project's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the founding of Buffalo's first gay rights organization.
The exhibit uses a mixture of archival images, written narrative and oral history audio to tell the story of the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City's Greenwich Village, an event widely considered to be the catalyst for the LGBTQ civil rights movement. It also explains the social and political circumstances 50 years ago that led to the formation of the Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier, Buffalo's first gay rights organization.
"One of the things about a local history project like this is that it challenges dominant narratives about LGBTQ history," said Adrienne Hill, co-founder of the the Buffalo Niagara LGBTQ History Project. "The dominant narrative is that the LGBTQ Movement was born in New York City, the Bay Area mostly, and as the movement became national, other cities did esssentially the same thing as those larger cities, but later and not as well. We want to challenge that narrative."
Hill insisted it is just as important to understand the uniqueness of how smaller communities like Buffalo formed an LGBTQ community, in order to understand how the national movement flourished.
"Buffalo has had an active LGBTQ community since at least the '30s and there are hints of it earlier," she said.
The exhibition will be at Karpeles North Hall through Nov. 20, after which it will tour local schools, libraries, community centers and other venues throughout Western New York.
"Learn from your elders that you need to be willing to fight for what you want. Be thankful because of what they've done in past eras," Hill said. "I think more information about how a movement has grown and survived is always better."