In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and emphasizing the importance of being prepared for a professional world, LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC) welcomed Angie Cruz on October 31st in the E-building’s Poolside Café. Ms. Cruz, who previously visited the campus in 2017, is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, writer of short stories and […]
A historical double header event for the LGBTQIA community occurred on March 26th at LaGuardia Community College.
Associate Provost and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Paul Arcario opened the event with a speech highlighting an exhibit and installation depicting the Lavender Line movement from the 1930’s to 1990’s. He spoke of how The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation funded a grant allowing three LaGuardia Gardiner-Shenker student scholars mentored by the English Department’s Dr. Neil Meyers and Dr. James Wilson, and the LaGuardia and Wagner Archive team, creating the historical photo installation and companion book.
Photos drawn from the extensive collection donated by New York City’s Councilman Daniel Dromm and housed in the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives Center, were used to create the permanent exhibit “Building a Rainbow Coalition” which featured photographs from the Lavender Line movement. There is also a 105-paged companion book titled The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens that was discussed and given out to attendees.
After an introduction by Dr. Arcario, speeches were given by the activist honorees, Councilmen Dromm, Cory Johnson and Jimmy Van Bramer to an overflowing crowd filling the Skylight room and adjacent spaces in the M-building.
The councilmen were followed by Dr. Stephen Petrus and Soraya Ciego-Lemur, the editors of the companion book, who spoke about the research project to a smaller crowd explaining that it consisted of a volume of essays by the three student scholars, Jham Valenzuela, Robert Michael Cleary and Chris Gomez, and a historical report on the Lavender Line movement by Dr. Petrus.
Additional speakers were Mohamed Q. Amin of the Caribbean Equality Project from Queens College; Tina Arniotis, the co-chair of the Queens Pride Parade; and Allison Minto, a LaGuardia alumni and Yale graduate in commercial photography.
The first incarnation of the photo installation was presented at the Queens Museum in the summer of 2017, marking the 25th anniversary of the Queens Pride Parade and has since made a round at every CUNY campus in Queens, landing at LaGuardia.
Councilman Dromm said, “I was involved from the very beginning in this evolution.” He was arrested with a group of a thousand protesters in the 1990’s during his activism for the Lavender Line movement. “This exhibit is to combat homophobia…Queens has its own unique LGBTQIA history and people should know about it,” said Councilman Dromm.
During the same time, different LGBTQIA groups unified their efforts to expand the Lavender Line movement. The movement was triggered by acts of violence such as the murder of Julio Rivera, a gay bartender, in 1990 by three young men out “hunting homos” in Jackson Heights.
The gay bashing also spurred the movement surrounding the controversial Rainbow Curriculum when Councilman Dromm was a fourth grade teacher, leading the push for adoption of the curriculum by the NYC Board of Education.
Councilman Dromm’s collection of photos and documents cover his activist experiences and efforts to garner recognition and rights for the LGBTQIA communities. His activism started with his 1992 founding of the Flushing Gays and Lesbians in Recovery (Alcoholics Anonymous) Group, and the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee. The committee then went on to lead the formation of the first March for Truth and the inaugural Queens Lesbian and Gay Parade in 1993. Councilman Johnson said, “I am moved and honored to be here, passing this on to the next generation in Queens and New York City” and referred to New York as “a city of immigrants.” He added: “This exhibit is not just LGBTQIA History, it is New York City history, and it is American history.” He said, “It was the invisibility that the LGBTQIA community members felt the need to come out, to talk and to survive amongst the spate of HIV/AIDS infections.”
Councilman Van Bramer said, “The World would come to know us, every single person, welcomed, valued, going on to be all they can be.” The permanent “Building a Rainbow Coalition” installation, and the four-page flier containing the captions for all the photos, occupies about fifty feet on the inside wall of the Hall of Flags in the LaGuardia M-building just north of the Skylight room.
In attendance was Brendan Fay, a familiar longtime participant in the Alternate St. Patrick’s Day Parade and founder of the “St. Pat’s For All” inclusive parade in Queens along Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, just blocks from the college. Mr. Fay, who was arrested at several Gay Pride parades and protests is depicted in many pictures in the book.
The Lavender Line continues with an upcoming documentary film, featuring materials from the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives.