LGBT leaders from around the city gathered at the Palmer House Hilton downtown to begin fundraising efforts for the Legacy Walk, the LGBT walking museum headed for permanent display on Halsted street next year.
The luncheon featured a keynote address from superstar activist Cleve Jones. The first 36 inductees were also unveiled at the lunch ( see sidebar for a complete list ) .
"Today we're living through an epidemic of suicides by young people who cannot cope with the world," said Victor Salvo, creator and executive director of the Legacy Project. "The willful redaction of GLBT history can no longer be endured."
Salvo said that he had been inspired to create the project by the life of Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke the Nazi code that ended Hitler's reign. Turing, who was gay, suffered chemical castration as punishment for his sexuality by the British government. He later killed himself.
Salvo tearfully said that Turing's story "went through me like a hot spear," and made him realize that many community heroes were being lost to history because they were LGBT.
Jones spoke of the impact that his discovery of gay history had on him as a young person who thought he was alone in being gay.
"When I was little, they told me that I was different, and I understand that the different that I was was a bad kind of difference," Jones said. "It was these little glimpses into our history that not only intrigued me but strengthened me."
Jones said that projects like the Legacy Walk should ensure that young LGBT people don't grow up feeling isolated.
Still, Jones said, people should remember that those inducted were also regular people who worked hard and loved their communities.
"As much as we want to see them as extraordinary… they are ordinary people," he said. "Now that Harvey [ Milk ] has become this mythic figure, I want to assure you, he was an ordinary person."
In addition to Jones' address, the attendees got the first look at the Legacy Walk video which featured words from longtime activists Lori Cannon, Owen Keehnen and Salvo. The video will be used to educate community members and possible donors about the project.
The Legacy Walk is scheduled to be unveiled next Oct. 11, " National Coming Out Day." The walking museum will feature educational plaques of LGBT heroes. It will occupy a home on the 22 rainbow pylons that line the half mile strip on Halsted in Boystown.
To see the presentation shown at the event, go to the link: www.youtube.com/watch
More information on the Legacy Project is available at www.legacyprojectchicago.org .
2012 Legacy Walk Inductees
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Dr. Margaret Chung
Dr. Alfred Kinsey
Two Spirit People
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Federico Garcia Lorca
Dr. Antonia Pantoja
The Stonewall Riot
Photos by Kate Sosin