On the evening of Jan. 28, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership hosted StoryCorps OutLoud in an event where members of the Kalamazoo LGBTQ community shared their experiences through recorded clips, as well as a questions and answers panel.
The event, titled “Honoring Identity: LGBTQ Stories From Kalamazoo,” was sponsored by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and created in partnership between the WMUK public radio station, the Resource Center, and the Arcus Center.
Gordon Bolar, General Manager of WMUK, further explained the vision behind the project.
“Kalamazoo had a lot of stories from the LGBTQ community that needed to be preserved, validated and heard.” It is the intention of WMUK and partners that these stories will help to make history.
At “Honoring Identity”, the audience listened to four clips from a larger pool of eighteen interviews conducted in November of 2015 at WMUK studios on Western Michigan University’s campus. In the first three clips shared on Thursday, interviewees Alex, Sandino, and Chris documented their experiences coming out as part of the LGBTQ community. In the fourth clip, Rick, co-founder of the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, detailed the center’s early history, which, at the time, consisted of volunteers and a single phone line.
The recordings were followed by a question and answer panel consisting of LGQTB community members Sandino, River, Chris, Rick and Jerry. Panelists shared experiences ranging from coming out to their friends, families, and children, to the founding of the Resource Center.
When asked by an audience member for advice on how to encourage young adults to recognize and accept their sexuality, panelist Chris shared, “Going through that process is painful… but [it is also] healing and needs to happen. So I think it is not only important for us to tell our story but for everyone in the room to tell their stories.”
When asked about the importance of “Honoring Identity”, Anders Dalbert of WMUK commented, “I think it’s important to come and be a good ally for diversity ‘cause [diversity] is important to the strength of the community.”
All eighteen interviews by StoryCorps OutLoud will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.