Before the chance to preserve history is lost, the Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance is creating a timeline of the LGBTQIA community in Santa Fe and across New Mexico from 1870 – 2020 and wants the public to actively contribute to the process.
The first public event will be held Thursday February 27, from 6:00 to 7:30pm in the community room of the Santa Fe Public Library, just off the Plaza at 145 Washington Ave.
“We’re calling this initiative ‘The Shoulders We Stand On – Our Proud Heritage,’” says HRA President Kevin Bowen. “If you are part of this history or know someone or an event that is part of our state’s history, please join us for this first in a series of community meetings. And if you’re just interested in this topic, it is going to be a fun, lively event.”
Local Celebrities Add to the Excitement
Special kick-off event guests will include Sen. Liz Stefanics, Linda Siegel, Eric Gustafson and Roger Montoya. The first openly LGBT member of the New Mexico legislature, Stefanics is currently serving in the New Mexico Senate and previously on the Santa Fe County Commission; her partner, Siegel, has been a high-profile LGBTQIA activist since the early 1990’s. Gustafson is a Santa Fe-based author, world traveler, and art connoisseur. Montoya is co-founder of Moving Arts Espanola and a finalist for a 2019 CNN Heroes Award.
“Yes, our special guests will speak, and they’ll all great speakers,” Bowen says. “More important, we want to hear from other members of the community, including elders we haven’t met yet who can share more details about Santa Fe’s gay history and connect us with others who have stories to tell.”
The plan is to begin developing a comprehensive LGBTQIA History timeline, complete with images from the past 150+ years, he says. “Our ultimate goal is to create a museum-quality exhibit to present locally.”
The February 27 meeting will be the first of many, Bowen emphasizes, and HRA will follow up with questionnaires and online MailChimp surveys to expand the organization’s knowledge and understanding of the region’s queer history. The questionnaire also will ask the community about projects they’d like to see HRA undertake over the next few years, he adds.
Bowen is excited to be working with Bennett Hammer, a longtime civil rights activist, former National ACLU Board Director and founder of the Bennett A. Hammer LGBT Archives Project. “Bennett’s been a really interesting resource. He’s been collecting these archives for over 40 years,” he says.
Almost 3 Decades of Activism
As head of Santa Fe’s Human Rights Alliance, Bowen (who became President late last year) says he wants to reignite the organization’s original mission as a civil and human rights organization lobbying to reinforce the progress Santa Fe’s community has made since the organization was founded in 1993.
Part of this mission includes developing an LGBTQIA Community Center by 2022 and better publicizing HRA’s annual scholarship program. Currently, he’s working with his board to rebuild support for Santa Fe’s annual Pride Parade (Saturday, June 27) and accompanying events, motivating more of the community to turn out for the actual pride event on the Plaza and recruiting more volunteers.
“We need support for Pride Week events, including the Tea Dance and Drag Bingo. The city says we need 25 volunteers for Pride on the Plaza. Last year we barely had 10,” Bowen says.
“We need to get people back to pride. Everyone thinks it’s big,’ but attendance was higher in the past. The Plaza would be bumper-to-bumper. We want to get there again.”
If you’re interested in the contributing to The Shoulders We Stand On, volunteering for Pride 2020 or other HRA initiatives, contact Kevin A. Bowen President: firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, visit www.hrasantafe.org