An LGBT plenary session is lined up for the 44th annual Oral History Association conference in Atlanta this weekend at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. Local and national gay and lesbian panelists will speak on the importance of oral history projects.

Oral history projects in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have been underway for many years — in Atlanta, there is Touching Up Our Roots headed up by Dave Hayward and the artist collective John Q, including Wesley Chenault of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Andy Ditzler and Joey Orr.

Touching Up Our Roots filmed a documentary on noted Atlanta gay activist Jesse Peel, “The Saga of Dr. Jesse Peel,” who was a leader in the fight against AIDS when it hit the city.

LGBT oral history projects

‘Times of Crisis, Times of Change: Human Stories on the Edge of Transformation’
presented by the Oral History Association
LGBT plenary session
Oct. 31, 10:15 a.m.-noon
Sheraton Atlanta Hotel
165 Courtland St., Atlanta, GA 30303

The John Q collective completed a public art project on LGBT history in April titled “Memory Flash” that invited participants to visit, listen and hear stories from Atlanta’s gay past in a day-long project that included Freddie Styles, an original member of the Jolly 12, a black gay social club. Styles shared his story on the same street where he and his gay friends would walk in unison while interacting with their neighbors.

While oral projects are helpful and provide great information for the community they record, “such projects face many challenges typical of community-based oral history projects, including locating appropriate interviewees, organizing and sustaining the effort, garnering community support, securing funding and facing divisions within the community as well as determining how to represent LGBT community histories with authenticity and honesty,” reads a description of the LGBT panel slated for Oct. 30 titled, “Reclaiming Our Stories: A Conversation with Organizers of LGBT Community-Based Oral History Projects.”

The LGBT plenary will be moderated by Ian Lekus, lecturer at Harvard University and chair of the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History, an affiliate of the American Historical Association.

Panelists are Hayward; Chenault; Chicago-based lesbian journalist Tracy Baim who is also executive director of Chicago Gay History, a web-based project with more than 270 video interviews; and Clenne McElhinney, director of Impact Stories Oral History Project that documents the LGBT movement of the 1960s-1980s with a focus on California.

The AIDS Quilt will also be on display throughout the hotel during the conference.