Tuesday, October 23, 2012

For the Women of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, 2012

Last week a young friend, Maddy, wrote to tell me that somehow I had ended up as the gay icon of the day on the Huffington Post and while I appreciate this honor, more like the taste of the day I hope, I am moved to make some things clear. While for the first twenty-five or so years of LHA's life, I breathed it every day, and all the wonderful and sometimes exhausting life it brought with it, for the last 13 years, since my bout with breast cancer and the need to relocate to Melbourne, Australia, to be with La Professoressa, my involvement with the archives has been mostly through e-mail, keeping in touch with old friends and offering what might be seen, from to time, my intrusive opinions about LHA issues. In the past when we were in New York on long visits, I gave a few tours, sat around the table and gazed upon the dedicated faces that were engaged on a daily basis with keeping the archives the flourishing and ever- growing rich cultural and historical grassroots project that it is.

But where the real honor lies now is in the daily dedication of the women who sit around that old farmer's table on a weekly basis, who welcome visitors, plan the special events, face the financial challenges, extend the availability of the collection, maintain the website, welcome the student groups, researchers, visitors just dropping in and keep that wonderful old Brooklyn sand stone building standing strong. Yes, the archives is in my blood, it flows through all my work, but now I am far removed from its every day life. I want to name, to give all honors to Deb Edel, who started it all with me, and still sits at the table; Paula Grant who always traveled the longest to staff and attend meetings for all these years, who makes our traveling exhibits live in new places;Teddy Minucci, Deb's partner, who as she says, is LHA's step -mom and dedicated periodicals carer; Saskia Scheffer, a most wonderful photographer who works on all things visual and makes LHA's images available on the web; Maxine Wolf, organizer extraordinaire who brings her long time activist visions to the table, Desiree Yael Vester, who care-takes the building, not an easy task, and plans the best LHA Valentine parties; Leni Goodman who keeps our volunteer contacts growing; Devin Lindow, all around staffer who welcomes, files, plans; Shawnta Smith, writer, cultural worker, bringing a new generations' energies and insights to LHA; Gabrielle Korn, all around staffer; Flavia Rando who spans many years of lesbian feminist culture, now La Professoressa of LHA with her ever- growing- in- popularity Lesbian History classes; Heather, who keeps the website alive. These descriptive phrases are only to give a sense of the wide world of activities and responsibilities that are at the heart of LHA.

 To coordinators, volunteers, near and far, old and new, over the years, in 13A and at 484, you are at the heart of LHA's vision, you have delineated it, supported, expanded it, for close to forty years and hopefully for many many more.  To Judith Schwarz, to Gerogia Brooks, Morgan Gwenwald, Beth Haskill, Linda McKinney, to Amy Beth, Polly Thistlewaite, to Sabrina,  Lucinda Zoe, to so many more whose names live in the collections that they worked on, to Rota Silverstrini, who lives in our memory. To the thousands of visitors over all these years, it was the delight in your faces, the cultural products you produced, the at- homes you attended, the stories you told, the cups of tea, the boxes and bags of documents, the books, the buttons, the t-shirts you either hand delivered or mailed in, the words of support and the donations you dropped in the glass bottle or sent in, that makes this project of lesbian remembering glow with meaning.

On November 17th, the Lesbian Herstory Archives "is celebrating the lives and contributions of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich with a marathon reading of their work," from 12noon to 12:00midnight. Surrounded by their special collections, their books and articles, photographs, their taped voices reading and talking of their passions, a marathon of dedicated rememberance and connections to activism, where you are welcome to tell your stories of what the work of these two women meant in your lives. "Items from the life and work of both Lorde and Rich will be on display throughout the day," and light refreshment will be served. Suggested donations will be collected at the door ($5-10, more if less if) No One Will Be Turned Away. Here with this event, you have all the moments of LHA's vision, created by the dedication of the women I have mentioned and more I do not know of. Both Adrienne and Audre had belief in LHA's project in its so early years, both understood. How I wish I could be there for this day-night celebration, to see all your faces, to hear the old words and see how they live in lives today. I can't but perhaps you can. All that LHA has to offer, our collective past, our complex present, and our unknown future, will be in those rooms.


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