PRIDE! Of the Community is a collection housed digitally with the UNCG library system that has been working to create a history of the Triad’s LGBTQ+ community for the past five years.
According to TriadHistory, “it is the first large-scale initiative” of its kind. This month, the creators of the project, David Gwynn and Stacey Krim, have brought an exhibit on the Guilford Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Equality to the Greensboro History Museum on April 19.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Do each of you have a favorite item or a favorite experience in this collection?
Stacey: There have been a lot of really good experiences. All the oral histories we went to all made you feel good, but they were also all emotional rollercoasters. I’ll go with two because I can’t choose between them.
We were allowed to digitize three scrapbooks of a former UNCG student; his name is Dirk Robertson, he was a graduate of the LAS program here and he is a school media specialist. When he came out it was late nineties early two-thousands, and he created three scrapbooks documenting the entire process up until the point he got married.
That was such an amazing glimpse into someone’s life and the coming out process. As he was joining organizations you got to see what was important to him, the places he traveled, he writes personal little thoughts about things. I love scrapbooks for that reason. They can be hard to digitize, but that was really fabulous.
My favorite item donated would be the yarmulke that was given out as a party favor for Lennie Gerber’s wedding. They [Ellen W. Gerber (Lennie) and Pearl Berlin] are one of the most famous gay couples in North Carolina. They were the first gay marriage at Beth David Synagogue, so they had customized yarmulkes and things like that. That was really touching because they were both in their eighties so they had been waiting to get married for a very long time.
We have tons of photos of their wedding too. Pearl Berlin was a faculty member here, she started the graduate physical education program. Lennie actually was going to come here but they wouldn’t hire her because they were too openly out as a couple. So, Lennie went to become a civil rights lawyer. *laughter*
David: She said, okay, deny me will you!
Stacey: She was one of the leading women in the topic of women’s athletics and the philosophy of physical education. We didn’t hire her because they were afraid if they put the two of them together they would be too out — too visible. So she just went to Chapel Hill and got a law degree. She still has cases on books that are still cited. She’s a fabulously interesting person, so those are mine.
David: I honestly have a hard time picking out a favorite. And, I’m biased because I donated some of the stuff so some of it’s mine! *laughter* Clearly I’m going to like that stuff. I think as far as content the oral history with Lennie Gerber is absolutely one of my favorite things and not just because of their hedgehog and the cats. *laughter* It was a really inspiring thing to listen to, and if there’s one everybody needs to listen to where at the end you just go, whew *David slumps and wipes his eyes dramatically*. That’s definitely the one.
My favorite donation we’ve had is from a gentleman who didn’t have a lot of stuff, but there were a few things he had related to the March on Washington, et cetera. It was not so much the actual stuff he donated, but the fact that he was so excited when he found out about the project and was able to donate the stuff. It was really cool that he was able to do that and he had an interesting story to tell.
It felt like we had done something useful in that he had found us and felt like he could tell that story and had an outlet for it. That one made me feel good.
And it should.
David: Plus there’s my pictures! *laughter*
Stacey: Yes, David donated four of his t-shirts. One of them is the Babylon t-shirt which is absolutely fabulous, it’s a later club shirt.
David: The pictures that Marilyn Rivers gave us too. Mars going back to the early eighties.
Stacey: The Marilyn Rivers interview was great because it was our first drag interview with a veteran from back in the days. Drag has become so popular, but if you view it not just for the LGBTQ history but as a performing art it’s changed so much and he talks about that quite a bit. It’s under Joel Cudworth if you’re looking for it.
For my last question, I’d like to hear where you want the project to go? What should it look like in ten or twenty years?
Stacey: I hope we can bring more diverse representation into the collection. I want to get histories with trans people and people who are black, indigenous or are people of color. Part of the problem is that it’s often more difficult for people in those demographics to interview publicly with us. The person being interviewed has total control over the process, but if they’re comfortable with us publishing their history there’s no way around it being public.
I also suspect we will see a transition from an older generation who had to fight for their LGBTQ+ identity to a younger generation who was able to grow up in a more accepting environment and might be puzzled as to why we even created the project. We’ll get there one day.
David: I hope the project can last and continue to be sustainable. I just want there to be a future for the collection.
I’d like to thank Stacey and David for indulging me in this interview and providing such wonderful commentary. They’re a pleasure to work with, and I hope if any of our student readers have an oral history or items to share you won’t hesitate to contact them.
You can find PRIDE! Of the Community online here. Stacey Krim and David Gwynn are actively looking for more materials and people to give oral histories. If you are interested in speaking with them, they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.