It’s very important to remember the odious legacy of Anita Bryant. Her successful character assassination of Florida’s gays and lesbians in 1977 stripped us of the few civil rights advances we had received at that time, and her actions made sure we wouldn’t make any sizable strides for years afterward. Some of the damage she caused took decades to undo; her quest to discredit gays as child molesters caused the state legislature to ban gays from adopting children, a ban that was only reversed by court decision four years ago.
Now, Florida’s gay community is further along than ever before in the quest for equality. The Stonewall National Museum and Archives celebrates the grand opening of its new gallery space at 2157 Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors with a new exhibit, “Days Without Sunshine: Anita Bryant’s Anti-Gay Crusade,” because the people at Stonewall believe an educated public is key in ensuring that such a regrettable scenario won’t happen again to anyone else.
I got a chance to talk to Stonewall National Museum and Archives Executive Director David Jobin this week about this exhibit, the new gallery space, and what’s coming up later this year.
How are things going with the gallery space on Wilton Drive?
Things are going well. Our initial dream was to be ready to open at the end of the week of June 2, because we wanted it to coincide with the screening of The Day It Snowed in Miami at the Gateway. We wanted people to see the movie on Thursday and march into the gallery on Friday. Now it looks like we will be opening on June 19, which times us perfectly with Stonewall Pride.
Tell us about your upcoming exhibits and what we can hope to see this year.
We want to open our doors on June 19, two days before Stonewall Pride, and the exhibit we’ll be showing starting on that date will be the exhibit that was inspired by The Day It Snowed in Miami, called “Days Without Sunshine: Anita Bryant’s Anti-Gay Crusade.”
How important is it for younger gays and lesbian Floridians to know Anita Bryant and her legacy?
It’s very important. History continues to repeat itself. We have red state leadership going on right now in Florida trying to push a similar agenda. I think it would surprise a lot of young people to see how far back in history these same aspersions and arguments against gay rights and gay equality were made. When you come to the exhibit, and you see and hear her words, they were very hate-filled. I think people might see her under a different lens because of how long ago these events took place, but when you listen to her, she was just like the Westboro Baptist Church, in a time before those specific people went nationwide spreading hate.
Please continue telling me about your exhibits.
In August, we’re partnering with The Pride Center to organize and showcase an exhibit on The Pride Center’s history. We’re also happy to announce that they will be giving us their archives, so we will be preserving all of their archives in our archives.
In September and October, the exhibit focus on the transgender movement, which of course has also made incredible strides, especially considering the TIME cover subject this week is Laverne Cox.
In November and December, the exhibit is going to be called “Queer Kids” and is going to focus on the photography of Michael Sharkey. He is an LGBT celebrity photographer and “Queer Kids” is a project he was passionate about. He took photographs of LGBT and questioning youth and gave them the same questionnaire to fill out, and through his photographs he gets to tell the stories of some amazing young people.
The Stonewall National Museum and Archives, located at 1300 East Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, is opening its new gallery space at 2157 Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors on June 19. For more information about the gallery opening, the Anita Bryant exhibit and the rest of the 2014 exhibits, visit stonewallnationalmuseum.org.