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This Place Matters: The Heart of LGBT Oklahoma

Posted on: June 25th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Dennis R. Neill Equality Center

By Debby Mayabb

The Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma matters because it is the permanent home of Oklahomans for Equality – the oldest and largest organization serving the LGBT community of Oklahoma, as well as the four-state region of the Heartland.

The Equality Center is housed in a 1920's structure originally built as the business office of an oil refinery. The refinery lasted only eight months, and in 1921, the Independent Torpedo Factory purchased the building to use for its labs and business offices. Prior to 1930, torpedoes were manufactured in Tulsa as blasting mechanisms for drilling oil wells. The walls of the defunct oil refinery were reinforced so that they could withstand the blast of nitroglycerin explosions.

Today, it's our Equality Center.

In 1980, Dennis R. Neill founded a group by the name of Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights. In the 1990's, the organization opened the very first LGBT community center in Oklahoma. After 12 years of rented space and nervous landlords who would not allow the organization to display rainbow flags or signage, a capital campaign was launched to raise the funds necessary to create a permanent home for our LGBT community. Seven years of fundraising lead to the purchase of 621 E. 4th Street, and after 7,000 hours of volunteer-led renovations, the doors were opened.

The Robert S. Cisar memorial lobby maintains the original terrazzo floors, a 1920’s operational office dumbwaiter, and the original accounting partitions that lead to the still-functional vault that was installed by the Schwab Safe Company when the building first opened nine decades ago. Today, the lobby houses a reception area, a Pride gift shop and the staff offices of Oklahomans for Equality. It opens up into the Sue Welch Great Hall, which is named after the chair of the building's capital campaign. This unique space functions as the "living room" of the Equality Center, and it is where panels of the internationally-famous AIDS Quilt (once displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC) are on permanent display.

The Great Hall leads into the renovated elevator lobby, where the doors of the original freight elevator are on display. In this space, you'll also find community conference rooms and our art gallery, which offers a unique venue for regional artists through monthly showcases.

The Equality Center’s event room is the largest of our renovated spaces, and is home to holiday balls, trade shows, education and employment fairs, theatrical productions, and concerts. Because of its size, it's also where floats are built and decorated for our annual Pride parade.

On the second level of the building, you'll find the Veteran’s Billiard Lobby. This area was dedicated on November 8, 2008, to honor the many LGBT veterans of the United States. The Lambda Bowling League raised the funds to purchase and donate the pool table in honor of Sergeant Harold Joseph Hooker, a highly-decorated veteran who served in the Korean War. Close by, the Nancy and Joe McDonald Rainbow Library has over 10,000 books, including the largest children's section for LGBT families in the region. At any given time, over 5,000 books are checked out by Center members, as well as by high school and college student groups. The library also houses its own legal clinic, where attorneys aid members of our community with their legal issues on a pro bono basis.

Interested in some yoga or strength training? The second floor also features our Wellness Center, which is used for a variety of health and wellness-related endeavors. In the common area, the David Bohnett Cyber Center was created as a place where Center visitors could access the Internet. David Bohnett actually donates computers to LGBT community centers nationwide, and Oklahomans for Equality was the first center to be granted this wonderful resource. Here, members of our community check their e-mail, do homework, and fill out job applications.

The waiting area outside the Wellness Center and the David Bohnett Cyber Center was created by physician Dr. Clio Robertson in loving memory of his son, Ryan, who at the young age of 22 committed suicide. This area serves as a place of serenity and contemplation. Nearby, the Neill/Southard History Project Room archives every piece of news that has been generated by Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights and Oklahomans for Equality, creating a fascinating look at LGBT life in our state.

Sharing the same floor, the Center’s medical services room offers HIV testing five days a week. It is here that the Tulsa County Health Department has monthly health fairs focusing on issues such as diabetes screening, cholesterol testing, breast examines, hepatitis testing, and weight loss instructions. Nearby, a classroom area serves as the Center's venue for lectures on LGBT issues and workshops on coming out.

For these reasons (and so many more), the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center is a place that truly matters.

Debby Mayabb is the office manager for Oklahomans for Equality, which, like so many things, is proud to call the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center home.

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DJ & Mike

By David “DJ” Johnson

First off, I should confess something considering my audience here.

Up until this point, neither I nor Mike, my partner of over four years, considered ourselves preservation enthusiasts. Living in our nation’s capital, we were basically aware of the history that surrounded us, but more from our past history classes than through conscious knowledge or first-hand experience.

All that changed when we decided to get hitched.

Last July, I asked Mike if he would do me the honor of commemorating our love and our commitment to each other in front of our closest family and friends. While I’ve supported marriage rights for same-sex couples throughout my adult life, I didn't really know if it was something that I would do myself. Then I met Mike. Over the years, I've watched our love bloom to a point where I simply could not imagine anyone else ever understanding, contrasting (in a good way) and loving me so completely.

Now I'm a believer. 

The decision was made, but now we needed the perfect venue. Mike considers himself a New Yorker (he lived there for 13 years) by way of Minnesota (where he was born), and I’m more of a gypsy (my family moved five times before I was 16). Washington, DC is where we truly began our life together, and for this reason, it is where we decided to have our ceremony.

As for us, Mike and I are both fairly laid back people – more hoi polloi than elite (though we think it’s funny to use words like "hoi polloi"). And at this point, both of us are more spiritual than religious. We wanted a secular location that was simple but not plain, elegant but not pretentious, and that spoke to both our shared interests and to sophisticated DC life. And as someone who grew up around the lakes, forests and natural beauty of the Midwest, Michael hoped for a place with some connection to nature where we could hold our ceremony outside.

Now, here’s where I need to debunk a major gay stereotype. Unlike what you’ve seen on "Sex and the City" or "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," not all gay men have an automatic knack for event planning. Some of us have to really work at it. And some of us just flat out need help. Enter the wedding planner...

Ours booked appointments and site visits for us all over the hills and dales of Maryland, Virginia and the District. We looked at mansions (too "Gossip Girl!"), country estates (where's the public transportation?), concert halls (there goes the budget!), and even an enormous log cabin (um, bugs!).

The beautiful garden at the Woodrow Wilson House where we'll get hitched.

The beautiful garden at the Woodrow Wilson House where we'll get hitched.

Then we visited the Woodrow Wilson House, which is located only a couple of blocks from our apartment in the adjoining neighborhood of Embassy Row. On the outside it looks like a simple brick building, making it easy to underestimate. But once you step inside, it has a powerful elegance that leaves a lasting impression. From its sweeping staircases to its preserved furnishings, we fell in love with everything about the place. And the second floor outdoor garden was just the place we were looking for to hold our ceremony – stunning and bucolic without being too over the top. It also overlooks the very street where our apartment is located, which we think makes it even more special.

After we settled on the locale, I started to research our 28th president and his final residence. I didn’t know much about him before, other than the fact that he was commander-in-chief during World War I, eventually helping to write the framework for the original Treaty of Versailles. However, it turns out that he had many similarities to my family. He came from a family of Presbyterian ministers (my mother’s side), lived in New Jersey (my father’s side) and he was known as a diplomat (something I aspire to be). He also had some similarities to Mike, as Wilson was in a fraternity, had a PhD (so far, he’s the only president of that distinction), and possessed a great love of the science of structures.

Oh, and it didn’t hurt that, for two self-professed “mama’s boys” like us, Woody was the first president to declare Mother’s Day.

Of course, there were some other more thought-provoking milestones in his life. While he helped progress the women’s suffrage movement (yay!), he was also a vocal supporter of segregation (boo!). Being an interracial couple, Mike and I talked about this last fact quite a bit. Ultimately, we decided that, like with most events in history, it’s important to remember the good ideas that were ahead of their time, as well as the not-so-great ones that were simply a product of their era.

As we continue to plan every important detail of our big event (I'm trying really hard not to turn into one of those bridezillas you see on TV...yikes!), life goes on. Every morning, my fiancé and I rush to work from our one-hundred-year-old apartment building that is located across from DC’s own reproduction of the Spanish Steps in Madrid. I pass countless other older and historic buildings with amazing architectural detail along the way. However, unlike before, I now notice them.

For that, I thank the Woodrow Wilson House.

Not only will it be the backdrop to what promises to be one of the happiest days of my life, but it has taught me and mine to look at – and appreciate – our city and neighborhood with brand new eyes.

David Johnson ("DJ" to his friends and "My Boo" to his fiancé, Mike) is a journalist turned non-profit professional in Washington, DC, where he lives in the very historic – and very gay – Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Interested in having an event or commitment ceremony at the Woodrow Wilson House? With intimate and elegant spaces furnished with the personal effects of a president, Wilson House offers the perfect surroundings to entertain in classic Washington style. Dine intimately in the Presidential Dining Room, enjoy cocktails throughout the main museum rooms, linger in the tranquil period garden, or relax and unwind on the terrace. The only presidential museum in Washington, DC, Wilson House offers a unique setting for any occasion – from dinner for two to garden receptions and commitment ceremonies for up to 125. For more information, please contact Sarah Andrews at sarah_andrews@nthp.org or visit our website, WoodrowWilsonHouse.org.

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Join the National Trust for Historic Preservation as we celebrate Pride + Preservation throughout the month of June. Want to help us show some pride in place? Upload a This Place Matters photo of a building, site or neighborhood that matters to you and your local LGBT community.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

Written by Karina Muñiz

Pico Union Walking Tour  (Credit: Los Angeles Conservancy Staff)

Pico Union Walking Tour (Credit: Los Angeles Conservancy Staff)

Oprime aquí para la versión en español.

As Community Outreach Coordinator for the Los Angeles Conservancy, I am fortunate to be able to work in vibrant, diverse communities throughout the county, and one such neighborhood is Pico Union. Rich in architectural and social history, Pico Union is one of L.A.’s most architecturally distinctive neighborhoods, with two National Register Historic districts and a wide range of building types. The area was developed between 1880 and 1930 as a suburb of young Los Angeles. As the city grew, Pico Union evolved from its suburban origins to an increasingly diverse, urban neighborhood. In 2004, the area became the city’s nineteenth Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) – the city’s term for historic district. In addition to its unique architecture, Pico Union has a rich cultural heritage woven by generations of immigrants who came to the city in search of a better life – from European immigrants and Midwestern US transplants at the turn of the century, to Mexican Americans in the early twentieth century, to Central American, Cuban, Mexican and Korean populations today. Each community has shaped the built environment, and added new layers of history to the neighborhood.

To celebrate this vibrant community, the LA Conservancy launched its new bi-lingual Self-Guided Walking Tour at a Kick Off event and Community Fair on March 21st, 2009, in partnership with the Pico Union Branch Library. At our press conference, Councilmember Ed Reyes spoke and we got great coverage in the LA Times and La Opinion.

At the community fair, we had over a dozen local groups present to provide residents with information about housing, legal and social services, adult literacy, youth programs and more.

Children gather at the community fair. Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Residents were able to access information on important community resources, while at the same time learn more about the architectural and cultural history of their neighborhood. The community fair was also an opportunity to bring local groups together, and from that event discussions on doing a short documentary on the neighborhood and starting a community garden are in the works. Our most popular booth had to be the face painting for the kids, and they also enjoyed the scavenger hunt activities they could do while taking the walking tour. We had community leaders join us as docents in leading the tours – one of the tours being in Spanish.

Several sites reflecting the social history of the neighborhood are also featured on the tour. For example, Angelica Lutheran Church, originally founded by Swedish immigrants in 1888, played a key role in the LA Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s by providing shelter to Central American refugees facing deportation after fleeing civil war in their home countries.* The Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA) building was once known as “El Refugio”, and through the nonprofit group El Rescate, sheltered more than 200 refugee families in the eighties. Today IDEPSCA maintains the legacy of the building by continuing the tradition of community empowerment. This event and tour sought to celebrate landmarks and historic resources that reflect an inclusive history of diverse communities, such as Pico Union, that have formed and contributed to LA’s unique legacy. The Conservancy is continuing to partner with community groups in Pico Union, such as the Pico Union Housing Corporation, by building a curriculum for workers interested in learning rehabilitation techniques for historic homes, and by engaging young artists who are learning about the history of their neighborhood and contributing to the community’s character through public art.

Paseo auto-guiado de Pico Union y la Feria Comunitaria

Karina Muñiz

Photo: Cindy Olnick, Los Angeles Conservancy

Photo: Cindy Olnick, Los Angeles Conservancy

Como Coordinadora de Enlace Comunitario para el Los Angeles Conservancy, me siento honrada de poder trabajar con vibrantes comunidades multi-étnicas por todo el condado -- Pico Union siendo una de ellas. Con una rica arquitectura e historia social, Pico Union es uno de los barrios mas interesantes de Los Angeles desde del punto de vista arquitectónico, contando con dos distritos designados en el Registro Nacional de Lugares Históricos y exhibiendo una gran variedad de tipos de edificios. Esta zona surgió entre 1880 y 1930 como un suburbio del Los Angeles emergente. A medida que crecía la ciudad, Pico Union se desarrolló dejando atrás sus origines suburbanas para transformarse crecientemente en un barrio urbano multi-étnico. En 2004, esta zona se convirtió en el decimonoveno distrito histórico (HPOZ). Ademas de su arquitectura sin igual, Pico Union posee un rico legado cultural tejido por varias generaciones de inmigrantes que llegaron a la ciudad buscando una vida mejor. Estos eran inmigrantes europeos, migrantes internos provenientes de la parte centro-occidental de Estados Unidos que llegaron a principios del siglo veinte, Mexicanos-Americanos que también llegaron a principios del siglo veinte, hasta hoy en día las poblaciones Centro Americanas, Cubanas, Mexicanas, y Coreanas. Cada una de estas comunidades ha transformado el ambiente físico y agregado nuevas facetas a la historia del barrio.

Para honrar esta vibrante comunidad, el Los Angeles Conservancy inauguró un paseo auto-guiado bilingüe durante una feria comunitaria que tuvo lugar el 21 de marzo de 2009 en colaboración con la biblioteca de Pico Union. Durante una rueda de prensa, el concejal Ed Reyes profirió un discurso, y todo el evento fue cubierto por el Los Angeles Times y por La Opinion.

Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Más de una docena de grupos locales asistieron a la feria comunitaria y dieron informaciones a los residentes sobre asuntos tales como vivienda, servicios legales y sociales, alfabetización de adultos, programas para jovenes, etc. Los residentes pudieron obtener información sobre los recursos brindados a la comunidad, y al mismo tiempo aprender más sobre la historia arquitectónica y cultural de su barrio. La feria comunitaria también ofreció una oportunidad para reunir diferentes grupos locales. De ese evento surgieron discusiones en torno a una idea de realizar un documental sobre el barrio y también sobre un jardín comunitario – ambos proyectos están siendo implementados. Nuestro quiosco más popular fue aquel donde los niños se pintaron el rostro y también disfrutaron otras actividades. Como uno de los paseos fue realizado enteramente en español pudimos contar con la presencia de líderes comunitarios.

En el paseo figuraron varios sitios que reflejaban la historia social del barrio. Por ejemplo la Iglesia Luterana Angélica fundada inicialmente en 1888 por inmigrantes suecos, jugó un importante papel en el movimiento santuario en Los Angeles en la década de los años ochenta cuando abrió un albergue para recibir a los refugiados centro americanos que corrían el riesgo de ser deportados luego de haber huido de las guerras civiles que asolaba a sus países de origen.** El edificio que actualmente alberga al Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA), fue conocido una vez como “el refugio”. Gracias al grupo El Rescate, más de 200 familias refugiadas fueron albergadas allí durante los ochenta. Hoy, el IDEPSCA perpetúa esa herencia actuando como una entidad que obra a favor del empoderamiento de la comunidad. Este evento y el paseo buscaban honrar los sitios y recursos históricos que reflejan una historia inclusiva de todas las comunidades que formaron y contribuyeron al crecimiento singular de Los Angeles. Pico Union fue una de estas. El Los Angeles Conservancy sigue colaborando con los grupos comunitarios de Pico Union, tales como el Pico Union Housing Corporation (PUHC) (http://www.puhc.org/), en proyectos como la creación de un currículo para trabajadores interesados por aprender las técnicas de rehabilitación de residencias históricas. Y también esta trabajando con jóvenes artistas que se interesan por la historia de su barrio. A su vez, estos últimos contribuyen a elevar el perfil de su comunidad con su arte público.

* Part of an anti-war campaign protesting U.S. foreign policy in Central America, the Sanctuary Movement started in the Southwest and grew into a network of hundreds of religious congregations that provided shelter to refugees facing deportation.

** El Movimiento Santuario comenzó en el suroeste de Estados Unidos como parte de una campaña contra la guerra y como una protesta contra la política estadounidense en America Central. Este creció rápidamente, convirtiéndose en una red conformada por cientos de congregaciones religiosas que ofrecieron refugio a los inmigrantes que vivían bajo la amenaza de ser deportados.


Karina Muñiz is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Los Angeles Conservancy, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Karina Muñiz: Coordinadora de Enlace Comunitario, Para la Conservación de Los Ángeles, en colaboración con el Fideicomiso Nacional para la Preservación Histórica.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

By Ti Hays
son_des_24103

President Clinton created this 486,149-acre monument in 2001 through a proclamation authorized by the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Last Friday, in a positive development, a federal district court in Arizona reversed a previous decision that held that President Clinton had exceeded his authority by including management directives in the proclamation for the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

The case began when an environmental group — the Western Watersheds Project — filed a lawsuit claiming that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had taken too long to prepare a resource management plan and grazing suitability analysis for the Sonoran Desert. President Clinton created the 486,149-acre monument in 2001 through a proclamation authorized by the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Passed by Congress in 1906, the Antiquities Act allows presidents to establish as national monuments “historic landmarks and other objects of historic and scientific interest” located on federal land. Over the past century, presidents have used this authority to protect some of our nation’s most revered landmarks and landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, Casa Grande and Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado — a national monument with the highest known density of archaeological sites in the entire country.

In its February decision, however, the court ruled that although the Antiquities Act permitted President Clinton to establish the monument, it did not provide him with the authority to direct how the monument should be managed through the terms of the monument’s proclamation. Based on this reasoning, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint for lack of standing.

Because the decision had the potential to affect the management of national monuments throughout the country, the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed an amicus curiae brief with the court this past April in support of the plaintiff’s request for reconsideration. A coalition of law professors led by former Solicitor of the Interior Department, John Leshy, submitted a similar brief. The court agreed to reconsider the case in May, and, last week, issued a new opinion upholding the president’s authority to govern national monuments through the directives of national monument proclamations.

Of obvious importance to the plaintiff, the court’s decision also removes a jurisdictional hurdle in another lawsuit involving Clinton-era national monuments. In January, the National Trust and several conservation organizations claimed in a lawsuit over the final resource management plans for Arizona’s Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments that BLM had failed to comply with several directives of the monuments’ proclamations.

This new decision should pave the way for that lawsuit to proceed to the merits stage.

>> Download the National Trust's Amicus Curiae Brief
>> Download the Federal District Court's Final Opinion

Ti Hays is the public lands counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Pardon Me Sir, But Can I Queer Your Space?

Posted on: June 16th, 2009 by Guest Writer 10 Comments

 

Dolores Park

By Elizabeth Boylan

At what point does a neighborhood evolve into a full-out "gayborhood?"

Is it defined by a critical mass of queer people living in it or utilizing a particular space? I’ve always found rainbows to be fun and festive; perhaps we could calculate the number and size of rainbow flags in any given area to determine some sort of queer numerical value.

Certainly, the Castro in San Francisco ranks high on both of these standards of measure, and is one of the more well-known gayborhoods in America. I am a lesbian and spend a fair amount of time there, but I would not call it “my gayborhood.” See, as far as the LGBT community is concerned, the Castro runs heavy on the “G,” and relatively light on the “L,” “B” and “T.” It is primarily – and at times exclusively – a gay male-oriented space.

In my opinion, not all "gayborhoods" exist as discrete neighborhoods with clear borders. Instead, some subsist in fluidity, often occupying space in a temporary or transitory manner.

Gayborhoods can exist within, around and between any neighborhood. Places and spaces that aren’t explicitly recognized as gay can function as queer meeting areas. A strong showing of lesbians (or at least “potential lesbians”) at my weekend farmers market colors my shopping excursion queer. A gay rugby team or a women’s flag football league steps on a field and converts an ordinary patch of grass into a hub of queer activity. The individuals present transform these benign places into queer spaces, and the actors and participants of these events may feel a sense of community in this momentary queering.

Local gay bars often host “ladies nights,” but as these nights occur only for selected hours each week or month, their presence is not necessarily inscribed on the physical place. I would be hard pressed to identify a permanent, physical manifestation of the queerness of San Francisco’s Dolores Park, yet thousands of lesbians descend upon its grassy hills prior to the annual San Francisco Dyke March. Similarly, San Francisco Trans March organizers stage pre-march activities and performances for transgender folks, friends and allies in the park. Walk through that same space on the other 363 non-lesbian/trans days of the year, and you'll find a diverse, eclectic and eccentric mix of people that I would still consider “queer,” regardless of their sexual orientation.

These places, while not marked exclusively as gay, provide the opportunity for a variety of gayborhoods to coalesce temporarily or informally.

Many gay communities exist without the possession of buildings forming a unique neighborhood. We do not necessarily live in separate enclaves, as queer is but one of many dynamic identities we claim. However, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer identity becomes more salient in transient queer spaces.

While this fluidity provides flexibility and allows us to informally co-opt space, it can also render our places invisible in the built environment. That's why an inclusive analysis of gayborhoods will recognize the importance of elusive and amorphous communities, as well as those with physical borders.

Elizabeth Boylan is the administrative assistant for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Western Office in San Francisco.

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Join the National Trust for Historic Preservation as we celebrate Pride + Preservation throughout the month of June. Want to help us show some pride in place? Upload a This Place Matters photo of a building, site or neighborhood that matters to you and your local LGBT community.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.