LGBT Resource Center to screen people’s history documentary

Courtesy Photo/
A group of people represent Grand Rapids at a LGBT march in DC.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo/ A group of people represent Grand Rapids at a LGBT march in DC.

Judson Rodriguez

Produced by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy and co-sponsored by Grand Valley State University’s LGBT Resource Center and Kutsche Office of Local History, the premiere of “A People’s History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids” is scheduled for screening on Thursday.

The film includes material that has been archived and projected in accordance with the views of the late historian Howard Zinn.

“A People’s History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids” was the brainchild of Jeff Smith from the GRIID, who had been teaching a class on the history of U.S. social movements when he decided with a few others to do their own people’s history project for Grand Rapids. The film was carried into action with the help of Colette Seguin Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center.

Sixty-six interviews were conducted for the film, with a focus on people involved in activism and organizing in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Smith said.

“What we discovered is that there is a rich history of organizing in the LGBT community that can inform us about the gains made, but also what lessons we can learn from this struggle,” he said.

He said main struggles the LGBT community has faced in Grand Rapids have been largely centered on HIV and AIDS, organizing pride celebrations, passing anti-discrimination ordinances and creating spaces for people to feel safe in challenging more conservative views.

One portion of the film will focus solely on GVSU. The section will begin in the ’70s and includes a battle for domestic partner benefits, the creation of student groups and the opening of the LGBT Resource Center.

After an incident of racial graffiti and the assault of a gay couple walking across campus five years ago, GVSU conducted a campus climate survey. Seguin Beighley said after the results were released, several recommendations were made to make a more hospitable climate for all types of students.

GVSU then began to develop a Bias Incident Protocol policy, and opened the office of Inclusion and Equity, keeping the policies in the context of the West Michigan community.

GVSU has a huge voice for initial imperative of creating more vision for the community and mainstreaming issues,” Seguin Beighley said.

She said the film has been a multi-generational endeavor, spanning community members aged 18 to 86 and gives students an understanding of the legacy of those who have worked for equality and justice, an understanding Seguin Beighley said our society still lacks.

“While our campus has made great strides toward LGBTQ inclusion, the community, state and nation are not in the same place,” she said. “The film allows us to examine past barriers to justice and provides an opportunity to look at current barriers in the context of a longer, larger struggle.”

Seguin Beighley said that currently only 7 percent of U.S. college campuses have a resource center for LGBT students, which is a major component of getting programs like this film into the community.

Smith said the overall goal of the film is to inform the community of the history and struggles of the LGBT community and to build community cohesion.

“The project, in my opinion, has been a great community builder and will hopefully influence not only our collective understanding of this struggle but will provide inspiration for what still needs to be done in the fight for greater equality and justice,” Smith said.

“A People’s History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids” will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Pew Campus’ Loosemore Auditorium.

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