The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens: June 10 to July 30, 2017
Draws from records of City Council Member Daniel Dromm who co-founded Queens Pride, and explores how the 1990 hate crime murder of Julio Rivera impacted the LGBTQ movement in Queens
—Presented by the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at
LaGuardia Community College—
A museum visitor examines The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens exhibition at the Queens Museum (credit: LaGuardia Community College).
Queens, NY (June 12, 2017)—Marking the 25th anniversary of the Queens Pride Parade, a new multimedia exhibition at the Queens Museum spotlights the largely unknown history of LGBTQ activism in Queens from the 1990s to the present. The exhibition runs through July 30 and is located in the Museum’s famed Panorama Room. The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens , draws largely from the Collection of Queens City Council MemberDaniel Dromm, recently acquired by the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College, which is presenting the exhibit.
This exhibition curated by LaGuardia commercial photography faculty Thierry Gourjon and Javier Larenas, and by LaGuardia’s Gardiner-Shenker Student Scholars, marks the first-ever showing of materials from the Dromm Collection. The exhibition’s title celebrates lavender as both a symbol of the original gay liberation movement and the color of a line marking the Queens Pride Parade route in Jackson Heights.
Following a series of anti-gay incidents in the early 1990s, including the brutal murder of Julio Rivera, and controversy over references to same-sex couples in the Children of the Rainbow Curriculum, Dromm and fellow activist Maritza Martinez co-founded the Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee, Inc., known as Queens Pride. One of their first acts was to organize a march to take their advocacy to the streets. The first Queens Pride Parade in 1993 drew 1,000 marchers. Today it’s an annual tradition that attracts crowds of over 40,000, and draws support of politicians and corporate sponsors.
With both historical and contemporary work, The Lavender Line comprises photographs, flyers, video footage, and audio recollections, illustrating the pride and protests of a community unknown to most New Yorkers. The title celebrates lavender not only as a symbol of the original gay liberation movement but also as the color of the line painted on the Queens Pride Parade route along 37th Avenue, from 89th Street to 75th Street.
The contemporary photographs in the exhibition by LaGuardia’s Gardiner-Shenker Student Scholars chronicle a range of Queens LGBTQ social organizations and cultural institutions. These include centers that offer social and counseling services as well as bars that function as leisure and entertainment spaces. What results is a representation of struggle and pride that continues today.
“Queens has its own unique lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history and people should know about it,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm (D – Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). “We didn’t just one day wake up and have same sex marriage. It’s been a long struggle for LGBT acceptance especially in the borough once known for being the home of Archie Bunker. This exhibition highlights a dynamic period in the history of the Queens LGBT rights movement. The anti-gay murder of Julio Rivera and the battle over the Children of the Rainbow Curriculum are Queens’ equivalent of the Stonewall Rebellion.”
Through his work on Queens Pride, Dromm came out publicly as gay. Dromm, who at the time was a public school elementary teacher in Queens, was called before a school board disciplinary hearing where he was “ordered never to discuss his homosexuality with his fourth-grade students.” He stood firm and refused to be silenced; this activism helped seed his decision to leave teaching for public office.
City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer contributed materials from his personal archives to The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens. Van Bramer, then a student at St John’s University, drew attention in the 1990s for his activism work encouraging members of the LGBTQ community to stand proud and in public, and for raising awareness of the AIDS epidemic and bias crimes.
“For far too long, the stories, experiences, trials, and victories of the LGBTQ movement in our country and in Queens have often gone untold,” said Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “The history of the LGBTQ movement in Queens is a deeply human story of ordinary people fighting for the right to openly and freely love without fear. I’m thankful and honored for the opportunity to contribute personal pieces to the new Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens exhibition at the Queens Museum.”
“The Queens Museum is very proud to be a part of the celebration of such an important milestone for the history of LGBTQAI advocacy and rights. Our involvement exemplifies our commitment to the communities that find a home here at the Museum, and our desire to address with urgency the factors that threaten freedom and diversity,” said Laura Raicovich, Executive Director of the Queens Museum.
“Most New Yorkers don’t know that Queens was the first outer borough to publicly support gay rights by holding a parade. We developed this exhibition to share the remarkable stories of LGBTQ activism in Queens, which have been largely absent from the historical narrative,” said Richard Lieberman, PhD, professor of history and director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives. “It’s an incredible story of activism in the face of tremendous opposition.”
“This is an important exhibition to both the history of New York City and the story of LGBTQ activism in Queens, and we’re enormously proud of the work of our faculty, staff, and students that went into creating it,” said LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow. “The opportunity for our students to learn valuable research and curatorial skills, while working on this significant exhibition, is sure to benefit their professional careers. And it showcases our LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, the only archives of its kind to document NYC’s social and political history.”
Honored guests at the opening reception for The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens on Friday, June 9, 2017 (credit: LaGuardia Community College).
“The project gave me an excellent opportunity to get to know the Queens LGBTQ community,” said Jham Valenzuela, a LaGuardia student who worked on the exhibition. “And as a gay man, this project was deeply fulfilling to me on a personal level.”
NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray shakes hands with Jham Valenzuela, one of the LaGuardia Community College Gardiner-Shenker student scholars who worked on the exhibit (credit: LaGuardia Community College).
“I am proud to have contributed my papers and artifacts from the last 25 years to help create this commemoration. I thank the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College and the Queens Museum for producing this extremely important display,” added Dromm.
To capture additional information about the LGBTQ movement in Queens from the 1990s to today, the Queens Memory project at the Queens Library conducted interviews with members of the Queens LGBTQ community and will encourage The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens visitors to use their mobile app to contribute their memories. Additionally, an audio booth will be set up at the Museum where visitors can contribute their memories of this period to this archival collection.
After the conclusion of the exhibition at the Queens Museum, The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens will travel to all five CUNY campuses in Queens, dates TBD.
The exhibition is made possible through generous support from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, and the New York City Council through the office of Daniel Dromm.
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About the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College
The LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, established in 1982, serves as a repository for NYC’s social and political history, which includes the largest collection of New York City mayoral papers. Archive records include the personal papers and official documents of Mayors Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Robert F. Wagner, Abraham D. Beame and Edward I. Koch, the records of the New York City Housing Authority, the piano maker Steinway & Sons, The Council of the City of New York and a Queens Local History Collection. Assets from these collections are regularly referenced in news stories, and studied by journalists, policy makers, and other researchers. The Archives regularly produces public programs exploring its collections, including an annual calendar produced in partnership with The New York Times and the City University of New York. Each year, the calendar is devoted to a theme of importance to the Greater New York Metropolitan area. The 2017 calendar is devoted to housing in NYC. Click here to learn more.
About LaGuardia Community College
LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, educates more than 50,000 New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. Our guiding principle Dare To Do More reflects our belief in the transformative power of education—not just for individuals, but for our community and our country—creating pathways for achievement and safeguarding the middle class. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all US college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education. We invite you to join us in imagining what our students, our community, and our country can become. Visit www.LaGuardia.edu to learn more. Or on Twitter at @LaGuardiaLIC.
About the Queens Museum
The Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park features contemporary art, events of hyperlocal and international impact, and educational programs reflecting the diversity of Queens and New York City. Changing exhibitions present the work of emerging and established artists, both local and global, that often explore contemporary social issues, as well as the rich history of its site. In November 2013, the Museum reopened with an expanded footprint of 105,000 square feet, a soaring skylit atrium, a suite of daylight galleries, nine artist studios, and flexible event space. The Museum works outside its walls through engagement initiatives ranging from multilingual outreach and educational opportunities for adult immigrants, to a plethora of community led art and activism projects. The Museum’s educational programming connects with schoolchildren, teens, families, seniors as well as those individuals with physical and mental disabilities. The Queens Museum is located on property owned in full by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Visit www.queensmuseum.org. On Twitter at @queensmuseum.
About the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation
The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, established in 1987, primarily supports the study of New York State history. Robert David Lion Gardiner was, until his death in August 2004, the 16th Lord of the Manor of Gardiner’s Island, NY. The Gardiner family and their descendants have owned Gardiner’s Island since 1639, obtained as part of a royal grant from King Charles I of England. The Foundation is inspired by Robert David Lion Gardiner’s personal passion for New York history.
- The purpose of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation is:
- To educate and inform the general public in the State of New York, particularly in the area of the Town of Islip and more generally in Suffolk County, concerning the culture, art and tradition of the locality;
- To cultivate, foster and promote interest in, and understanding and appreciation of the societal heritage of Town of Islip, particularly during the nineteenth century;
- To encourage and sponsor the creation and perpetuation by existing and future historical societies of collections and repositories for the deposit, collection and examination of documents and artifacts of various kinds relevant to such heritage and traditions; and
- To sponsor and encourage the preservation, restoration and exhibition by existing and future historical societies of at least one facility appropriate to such purpose.
What: Marking the 25th anniversary of Queens Pride Parade is a new multimedia exhibition at the Queens Museum that spotlights the largely unknown history of LGBTQ activism in Queens from the 1990s to the present.
The exhibition explores the impact of the 1990 hate crime murder of Julio Rivera, and the blocked “Children of the Rainbow” curriculum, on the LGBTQ movement in Queens. The exhibition draws from records of City Council Member Daniel Dromm who co-founded Queens Pride, and from the personal archives of City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer.
Why: While Manhattan is well-recognized as the birthplace of NYC’s LGBTQ movement, the remarkable stories of LGBTQ activism in Queens are largely absent from the historical narrative. It’s an incredible story of activism in the face of tremendous opposition, and helped motivate Council Member Danny Dromm’s career shift from teaching to public office.
The New York region has the highest number of people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, nationwide. A recent survey found that nearly 800,000 New Yorkers identify as LGBTQ.
Who: Curated by LaGuardia Community College/CUNY commercial photography faculty, as well as by LaGuardia students, the exhibition uses photographs, flyers, video footage, and audio recollections to illuminate the pride and protests of a community unknown to most New Yorkers.
Coming Out in Queens is made possible through the generous support of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, and the New York City Council, through the office of Daniel Dromm.
Where: Queens Museum, Panorama Room
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Corona, NY 11368
When: June 10 through July 30, during museum hrs: Wednesday—Sunday 11AM-5PM