“Patricidal Memory and the Passerby” by Rebecca Schneider
In another class, I had to read this really, really interesting piece by Rebecca Schneider. We talked about it briefly in class, but her piece talks a lot about the interaction between the monument and the onlooker. It was super insightful. I really recommend looking at it!
I really liked browsing through the Black Liberation 1969 Archive. I found the interactive 1969 Mapping the Sit In quite useful (I also am really curious as to how to do that on Omeka??). It took me a little bit to find out the events in chronological order to be honest, but it was a really neat idea regardless. Luckily, the Timeline of Events was a bit easier for me to understand and navigate.
One thing that really shocked me what the FBI surveillance of the black student population of Swarthmore College. I supposed that I hadn’t even considered the FBI’s involvement until I browsed the collection. A part of me is terrified that this ever existed, but the other part of me is really happy that the physical evidence is able to be displayed on a accessible medium that can be used to educate other people.
I suppose it bothered me that this event happened so close to us, and impacted so many people, and yet this is the first time I’m ever hearing about it. I’m not sure why this is, because it seems to me that this was a very significant event, but I’ve never studied it in class, and I haven’t heard any students on campus talking about it. I recognize that it happened quite some time ago, but I think an event like this would be hard to forget, and would even be passed from generation to generation. This opens up other questions about the passage of memory, the transmission of information, and what events are deemed important enough to pass on.
I first saw Dean Spade at a talk at Bryn Mawr last year. Before he even began to talk to us about his presentation topic, he took a moment to reflect on the Native American land that Bryn Mawr was located on. He reminded us of the privilege that we had to be in that space, and that the things that we could take from that space could open other doors for us. He told us not to ignore this privilege, but to recognize it, and to use our resources to make effective change in order to help others. Then, he began his presentation. I had never, in my entire college career (life even), had a presenter begin by having us recognize the basic foundations upon which we stood.
In the vimeo of Dean Spade speaking at Barnard College, he begins his presentation in the same way. I’m going to use this blog post to do a self-reflection on the fact that trans folk have been excluded from educational opportunities in the context of Bryn Mawr until recently (and arguably still are today).
Only recently has Bryn Mawr opened its doors to trans women. That decision, even, had been hotly contested within the administration. I would argue, even more so, within the student body. I remember I once heard a group of students talking (I was totally ease dropping), saying something to the extent of “A Women’s college is meant for women, so I think this whole thing is ridiculous.” Something even more shocking was “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with them on campus.” This sort of transphobia ranges from mircoagressive to down-right prejudice. Who are we to place a value judgement on someone’s life in order to deny them an education? Bryn Mawr was created to give women (white, cis-gendered, traditional age, wealthy) an education because they were seen to have less opportunities to receive an excellent education. Key words: they were seen to have less opportunities to receive an excellent education. Why does this fundamental doctrine not ring true of other people- people of color, trans folk, non-traditional aged students, students from low income families. Are we not all entitled to an education that can change the way we think, the way we live, for the better? Simply on a moral stand point, I would find it hard to turn away someone searching for an education based on something as silly as their identity- I would rather focus my attention on people who have been systematically opressed and who do not have the same opportunities.
I was really bummed to miss the visit to the John C Wilcox archives with our class. I have worked at William Way for almost two years and I had been looking forward to watching my classmates experience what has so often felt like a second home to me. As both an organizer of Philly Dyke March and a Development Associate for the center I have worked with our public history in different forms. For the queer community having a space like the Wilcox archives and the larger community center is so meaningful. In a recent retrospective campaign celebrating the 40th anniversary of the center former executive director Claire Baker summed it up: “We can have nice things. We can do this. We can take care of ourselves. We don’t need to wait for anyone to rescue us. WE are our own champions.” (The video has Bob too! https://youtu.be/QVTBuzM6Loc)
Even forty years later our community must constantly challenge hegemony and become the champions for our human rights. Though we are rapidly advancing we are still in danger of one sided historicity. When the William Way Center changed their name to “LGBT Community Center” the John C Wilcox archives did not. Even though the most common modern abbreviation is LGBTQ for some reason the archive is named “GLBT”. I don’t know if my experience is unique but I am uncomfortable when someone uses GLBT instead of LGBT. It feels like a microaggression and I personally take the use as an active prioritization of gay cisgender males. For me it is as if the person is saying “Look, I know thousands of woman fought to be heard and now lesbians are supposed to be listed first BUT I still think gay men should be at the top of the food chain.” What does it mean that the people who hold the access to our community’s history can’t bear to give in to progress? When the very building the archive resides in uses LGBT it’s hard for me to assume that it’s a mere oversight.
I do not know what artifacts Bob pulled for Bryn Mawr’s visit but in my work with the archives I constantly had to dig to find images of people of color, transwomen, and even lesbian leaders. (If anyone is interested, I have our entire digital image directory on my Dropbox and would be willing to show it to whoever likes old queer pics!) My favorite part of the archive is the Gitting’s collection. Daughters of Bilitis founder & all around badass Barbara Gittings‘s widow Kay donated a huge amount of her personal effects which are a true treasure. They are so important in contextualizing the progress of LGBT rights in the past 50 years – she was everywhere. But what stories are still missing from the archives? As we move into a digital age it is becoming increasingly easy to make artifacts accessible online but the Center often has to fight to keep up with rising costs and limited resources. The center should reach out to people doing social movement work digitally and start to document the modern queer movement in a way that can be cheap and accessible.
** On Twitter, Rebecca Onion, who is the History writer for Slate, runs Slate Vault, and is an American Studies Ph.D., is doing great things under the wide umbrella of history in public: check out her feed @RebeccaOnion. If you think you’d like to talk to her at some point in class, let me know, and we’ll invite her!