Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities

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By: Ian Maloney

HistoryMiami Museum’s Newest Exhibit

HistoryMiami Museum honors LGBTQ history and commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with the launch of a new exhibit called Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities. HistoryMiami is the area’s preeminent history museum, telling the story of Miami’s people and the events that have made those people who they are. Queer Miami opened March 26, 2019 and runs through September 1, 2019. The museum hosted a special free preview on Friday, March 15, featuring special guest presentations, live music, free refreshments and more.

Queer Miami

Queer Miami is curated by Miami native Dr. Julio Capó Jr. who is currently an Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After completing his PhD at Florida International University in 2011, Dr. Capó wrote Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940 and has emerged as one of the few voices dedicated to studying Miami’s queer history. Now, he’s bringing that history to life. “It’s an exciting—and most necessary—time to tell these stories,” said Capó. “One of the greatest challenges in studying LGBTQ history is that our lives and experiences are so often purposefully erased from history books and archives. As this exhibit will show, our LGBTQ community, of which I am also a proud member, has persisted and persevered in Miami since its inception.” He added “often the national narrative of LGBTQ history is told through experiences of people in cities like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, which of course are also very important, but events that took place in Miami helped shape the trajectory of a national movement in remarkable ways. This year, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion that helped launch a new era in gay organizing and reform, I hope this exhibit shows the significance of seeing an event like Stonewall as one event among many of other such moments of LGBTQ resistance and empowerment that existed both prior and after that moment.”

Stonewall

The Stonewall Riots mark one of the first times the country’s LGBTQ community publicly fought for their rights and they are remembered as one of the seminal events in LGBTQ history. In late June 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar that served the LGBTQ community in the city’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. For the first time, patrons of the bar along with other members of the community fought back and attacked the police who were arresting them simply for being gay or dressing in drag. At the time, it was illegal in NYC to serve alcohol to gays and lesbians and it was illegal to dress as a member of the opposite sex. That night, instead of slinking into the shadows, a riot broke out, the bar was torched and history was made! The fight continued the next night when police refused to release several members of the community who were arrested. A year later, the riots were remembered as Christopher Street Liberation Day and a group of survivors and activists marched from the remains of the bar up along 5th Avenue to Central Park. What started as a few dozen people, grew to several thousand by the time the group made it to the park. The riots and the commemorative march each year grew into the modern Pride movement and the fight for LGBTQ rights had officially begun.

Through September 1, 2019

Queer Miami is HistoryMiami Museum’s featured exhibition through September 1, 2019. Displayed in the museum’s 5,000-square-foot gallery, are topics such as: policing and criminalization, community development, advocacy and activism, immigration and the AIDS crisis, and what the future holds for Miami’s queer community. Visitors are able to see memorabilia from some of Miami’s oldest gay bars, photographs of rallies and marches, archival material from Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign, historical footage and original video interviews from the people involved in creating Miami’s LGBTQ communities. Interactive components encourage visitors to contribute their own story to the exhibition.

The exhibit is the first of its kind for HistoryMiami Museum, which is spotlighting LGBTQ communities for the first time. Through their affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, the museum is able to enrich the community by bringing world-acclaimed Smithsonian exhibits to South Florida. HistoryMiami Museum has set a goal to safeguard and share Miami stories to foster learning, inspire a sense of place, and cultivate an engaged community, so a yearlong exhibit on the area’s queer history is not only needed, but is important for the museum to highlight. “We are thrilled to show Miami’s LGBTQ community of today and the journey to this present moment,” said HistoryMiami Museum Executive Director Jorge Zamanillo. “This exhibit is unique because the story is still being told and changing every day. We’re inviting visitors to tell their own stories and be a part of history.”

Tickets

The museum is closed on Mondays. Tuesday through Saturday it is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 - 12, and free for children under 6 years old.

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