New Dallas LGBT exhibit and pride flag unveiling event kicks off Pride Month in celebration, reflection

New Dallas LGBT exhibit and pride flag unveiling event kicks off Pride Month in celebration, reflection

New Dallas LGBT exhibit and pride flag unveiling event kicks off Pride Month in celebration, reflection
June 02
19:11 2018

In celebration of National Pride Month, the Dallas City Hall flew its LGBT pride flag as part of the Being Here: Exhibit and Pride Flag Unveiling event.

Hosted by the LGBT Employee Association of Dallas, UNT Special Collections and The Dallas Way, the Being Here event exposed not only the struggles of the LGBT community, but also the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Dallas LGBT community. This event was filled with presentations by UNT graphic designer Tyler Cogburn and keynote speakers and ultimately ended with the unveiling of the pride flag within the City Hall.

Prior to presentations by keynote speakers, many attendees mingled and admired the exhibit as the light noises of other people walking around filled Dallas City Hall. Dallas City Planner Brian Price started off the speeches by listing a variety of other upcoming LGBT events in Dallas and thanking those who participated in helping to create the exhibit, which will be open throughout the month of June.

“I’m very grateful for the hard work the Special Collections Department has put into this exhibit, and to The Dallas Way for working diligently to collect and share the history of our community,” Price said.

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem and LGBT Task Force Chair Adam Medrano was then introduced by Price to speak.

Medrano recounted how Pride Month was originally established to honor the people fighting for equal rights for LGBT individuals who were lost in the Stonewall Riots, which was ignited by gay liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson in New York City. Years before the Stonewall Riots, the Circle of Friends – an organization in the Dallas in which gays, lesbians and allies gathered to confront issues in the community – was created in 1965.

“We’ve come a long way since 1965, and we’ve won many battles for recognition and fair treatment, but we still have a long way to go,” Medrano said. “I’m proud that I chair the LGBT Task Force for the mayor. We’ve done amazing things.”

After Medrano spoke, Omar Narvaez, member of the LGBT Task Force and the first openly gay council member elected in more than a decade in Dallas, was introduced to speak. He announced that on June 1, the Bank of America Tower, Thanksgiving Tower, KPMG Plaza at Hall Arts, AT&T Plaza and the Omni Dallas Hotel will be lit up with rainbows in celebration of Pride Month.

“My dream was to light up something in the city in rainbow colors, and of course we want to do the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge,” Narvaez said. “Then we found out we would have to raise $30,000 to get the cells to do it. I said, ‘You know, for that kind of a dream, I’d rather raise $30,000 and get it to a non-profit that’s helping our LGBT [people].’”

UNT Head of Special Collections Morgan Gieringer had some time behind the podium to reflect on the successes and the journey of the LGBT community in North Texas.

“I’m so excited that we have so much to celebrate during Pride month, but I think as we’re celebrating all of these important victories that have happened, it’s also important to look back at the past and recognize where we have come from,” Gieringer said.

The UNT Special Collections LGBT archive contains more than 30 collections, which are preserved and available to access every day on the Denton campus. One of the collections is displayed in the Dallas Chapter of the NAMES Project.

The Dallas Chapter of the NAMES Project is a national organization that constructed more than 800 quilt squares to memorialize those who died from AIDS in Dallas and met in White Rock Community Church in Dallas. It was not until the church started remodeling when an individual found the previously lost archives, which ended up including photographs of every quilt square they created as well as every time the quilt squares were displayed in Dallas and Washington D.C.

“It was one person who recognized what these materials were who called the archive,” Grieringer said. “I came, I looked at them, and I immediately recognized what they were and how important they were to preserve.”

President of The Dallas Way Dr. Evilu Pridgeon followed Grieringer and spoke about how she had the opportunity to tour the special collections, go behind the scenes and see how everything works.

“It was amazing,” Pridgeon said. “I was so impressed and happy, and if that [means I am] a nerd, then just call me a nerd.”

Pridgeon went on to a more serious note, saying how when people were passing away from HIV and AIDS, nobody in positions of power were speaking up about the effects of the horrible disease.

“It was up to us to speak truth to that power,” Pridgeon said. “It still is true today, if not more-so, as it was back then. In today’s climate of antagonism towards and fear of the disenfranchised and other minorities [from those] who seek to silence us, sharing our history means we won’t be silenced, and we will keep the memories of those we lost alive. We must tell our history so the future can be informed and lead us to [a] better tomorrow.”

Pridgeon transitioned the microphone to one of her heroines: one of the first medical professionals to stem the time of death of HIV/AIDS victims, Penny Pickle Krispin.

Krispin grew up in Greenville, Texas, with her two siblings and talked about how on the wedding day reception, her brother suddenly collapsed with a high fever and pneumocystis pneumonia.

“We were suddenly removed from our privileged pinnacle to our own line of separation and took our place a gay man struggling with AIDS and his lesbian sister,” Pridgeon said.

Working as an ICU nurse at the time, Krispin heard of an aerosol treatment and preventative for pneumocystis pneumonia. Krispin took action and formed a small health company that delivered the aerosol door-to-door when other, larger medical companies hesitated to treat the gay community.

“It was a terrible time, but such an uplifting time to be able to assist in bringing comfort, site saving antivirals and pain control to the community I love so deeply,” Krispin said.

Krispin started getting emotional toward the end of her speech.

“Eventually every person in America was touched by the virus in one way or another, and the measurement of our work as people was in our ability to drop the lines of separation and offer our whole selves to the crisis for which we were confronted,” Krispin said. “Our task today is to carry on that memory and that commitment and to love each other unconditionally and to support any fallen brother whenever we can. To forget this time or this lesson is to bury memories of the millions of men, women and children whose lives were lost to HIV and those we had the privilege of knowing and serving.”

When Krispin finished speaking, Pridgeon introduced another one of her heroes, LGBT activist Gary Swisher.

Swisher came to Dallas and the gay community in 1984 at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

“It hadn’t really impacted me [or] any of my friends before I got to Dallas,” Swisher said. “Then being gay in the gay community with the AIDS crisis, it was like dancing in an open field during a lightning storm. You never knew where it was going to hit, but you [were] sure it was going to hit.”

Swisher said the AIDS crisis left society pointing fingers to try to find a cause for the deaths.

“People were dying at an alarming rate and [were told] they got what they deserved,” Swisher said. “To me, that was the biggest waste of human resources I’d ever seen, and I could not fathom feeling this way about a fellow human being.”

Swisher volunteered to work and help with victims of HIV/AIDS cope during the crisis.

“It was rough, but it was rewarding,” Swisher said. “You got to be close to really figuring out what life was really all about—what was important, and what wasn’t. Leave it to the gays: you give them a budget and a mission, and they’ll get it done.”

AIDS took away more than just Swisher’s friends and family — it also took his sight and part of his colon, and is making his kidneys crumble.

“I’m still here, and I’m still fighting,” Swisher said. “I’m … still alive and kicking — maybe not quite as high as I used to, not quite as gracefully as I used to — but we’re still kicking. That’s I believe, in part, due to what was available to me in Dallas. That’s the Dallas way.”

Featured Image: The Pride flag being unveiled during the Being Here: Exhibit and Pride Flag Unveiling at Dallas City Hall in Dallas on Friday. Emily Olkkola

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Emily Olkkola

Emily Olkkola

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