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Legacy Walk unveils five new bronze memorial plaques
by Melissa Wasserman

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Chicago's Legacy Walk gained five new bronze memorial plaques that were unveiled in the Phase IV dedication ceremony on Oct. 10 in Boystown.

There are 35 plaques mounted on the rainbow pylons standing on Halsted Street. The five new inductees include The Pink Triangle, Billy Strayhorn, Rudolf Nureyev, Leonard Bernstein and Josephine Baker.

By coincidence, Legacy Project Executive Director and Founder Victor Salvo said this is the first year all of the inductees have come from the entertainment industry. The selection, he added, are also a diverse group.

The induction ceremony took the walking group of visitors North on Halsted Street to see each of the new plaques. At each stop, Salvo did the introductions; then, friends, relatives and bronze-plaque donors shared thoughts and personal anecdotes on each of the historic LGBT figures. High school students from gay-straight alliances around the Chicagoland area, including Lincoln Park High School and Lyon Township High School, read brief biographies before the plaques were revealed.

Usually, the dedication ceremony is held on National Coming Out Day ( Oct. 11 ). However, the Chicago Marathon pushed the date this year.

"It's always important that we have the LGBT youth read the plaques and are here because so much of what we're doing is for them; to try to give them role models, to record history," Ralph Kennedy, president of Legacy Project's board of directors.

Each of the speakers and donors held a connection with a particular honoree. Some of those speakers included Legacy Project Board Vice President/plaque sponsor group spokesperson Paul Highfield; professor/author Dr. Danny M. Cohen; the Auditorium Theatre's Christina Bourne; Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. President Alyce Claerbaut; Joel Hall Dance Company Founder Joel Hall; WFMT Radio Executive Vice President/plaque sponsor Steve Robinson; Tom Batchell, the surviving partner of critic Andrew Patner; and author, WGN television/radio personality and plaque sponsor Dr. Paul Lisnek. Kennedy also said a few words during the walk.

"We try to get people that have personal connection in some way," said Kennedy.

The Legacy Project represents history, but also takes steps into the future with new technology. Salvo explained visitors of the walk will be able to scan a code on the pylons and obtain more information about featured figures.

The walk ended with a new plaque in front of Center on Halsted, with the celebration concluding with a pizza party inside the Center. The celebration continues Oct. 17 with a celebration reception at Sidetrack at 2-5 p.m., with an admission of $75. Scott Duff and Ellen Miller from WCPT's "Out! Chicago" show are set to host.

"I think what we're doing is important," said Salvo, who hopes that, by 2020, there will actually be a brick-and-mortar museum. "We're trying to make history accessible in a way that it never really has been—anybody's history, let alone LGBT history."

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