Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeActivismDr. Ford's queer history timeline exhibit opens next week

Dr. Ford’s queer history timeline exhibit opens next week

Our local LGBTQ history scholar has partnered with Hampton Roads Pride, Selden Market, and TOC Creative to create a queer history pop up exhibit just in time for Pride.

Standard accounts of queer history usually revolve around epochal events in large, metropolitan areas such as the Stonewall rebellion of 1969. Yet a generation of scholarly research into the hidden narratives in the seemingly unlikely place of the American South has revealed that we truly were and are everywhere – from rural Mississippi through the Florida panhandle.  

Accordingly, drawing upon the spirit and methods of this growing body of work, Dr. Charles H. Ford, professor of history at Norfolk State University, has exhibited placards on the important people, places, and institutions in the local queer history of eastern Virginia at Hampton Roads Pride’s annual extravaganza – Pridefest – at Waterside in downtown Norfolk since 2013. 

Recently, in conjunction with Jason McDonald, a fellow board member at Hampton Roads Pride, TOC Creative, the local gay-owned videographic firm, and Carey Weinberg, manager of the Selden Market. Ford has helped to design a more permanent exhibit with an explicit timeline and looped screenings of his two local queer history films to be hosted at the Selden Market itself from late May to July 1, 2024.

The timeline at the Selden begins with acknowledging the expressions of same-sex desires and fluid gender identities before colonization and the making of the Atlantic world and goes all the way to the present. 

The queerness of the British royals who gave their names to key places in Tidewater such as Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Princess Anne are noted early on. 

Then, from the eighteenth through the mid-twentieth century, the timeline delves into national and international developments until it becomes much more local with the emergence of gay liberation. 

The establishment of what would become Our Own Community Press in 1976 provided many of the fascinating details for this part of the exhibit. Here are events ranging from the familiar Anita Bryant protests in 1977 through the relatively unfamiliar opening of Raphael’s in South Norfolk by Jeanette Parham in 1993 – the first openly queer and African American space in the area. 

Then, for this century, the timeline becomes much more focused on the transformation of Hampton Roads Pride itself from a one-off potluck picnic in a neighborhood park to year-round programming in all seven cities of Tidewater culminating in a front-and-center extravaganza attracting over 40,000 people in Norfolk’s Town Point Park. 

The timeline is in no way comprehensive, but it does give the viewer a taste of the nuances and progress of our struggle to be equal.

Visitors can view the timeline and associated exhibits at the Selden Market in Downtown Norfolk on the on the wall leading to the entrance to the Slover Library. To its right are two modern 55” televisions that show the two local queer history films produced by Dr. Ford and TOC Creative and funded by Hampton Roads Pride. 

The one on the left of the viewer features the one on Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood, and the other one on the right offers the one on the City of Hampton. 

These films are just the first two installments in a series deemed “Red Lights and Civil Rights” that will ultimately cover all of Norfolk and its sister cities in southeastern Virginia. The exhibit will also have a display case to the far right of the televisions that will display priceless artifacts, mementos, and artwork that highlight aspects of our LGBTQ+ communities and cultures. Accordingly, do not miss this unprecedented and sustained effort to acquaint the general public with these important facts and narratives. 

The installation is free and will be at the Selden Market during business hours until July 1.

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