This week I conducted my memory mapping outreach project at Philadelphia's PrideFest, I met with Helen and Bonnie to check in on next steps, continued filling in and then organizing the spreadsheet of Philadelphia LGBTQ historic sites, and stayed on top of current events in Philadelphia's LGBT Community.
Sunday, June 18th, was Philadelphia's PrideFest at Penn's Landing and, as planned, I conducted the memory mapping project at the William Way Community Center outreach booth. I have counted thirty-six pins on the map, which includes a few repeated pins. Despite the modest turnout represented quantitatively by the pins, there were considerably more people who visited the map, asked about it, and expressed interest and appreciation for it. Those who approached me but did not add pins to the map were often folks not from Philadelphia. There were also groups of people who would approach, but would collectively contribute one pin. I asked participants where they first felt connected to Philadelphia's LGBT community, and when. I received answers as people (Mel Heifetz and Carmen Lewis), bars (Sisters, Dirty Frank's, Woody's), events (Pride/Fest, first crushes), institutions (AIDS Fund, William Way, University of Pennsylvania LGBT Center, Temple University, Trans Health Conference), and even churches (United Methodist Church in Germantown). This is useful because, although most of the pins are consolidated within Center City, there is variety in the kinds of spaces submitted. These different answers imply the different spaces that participants consider important, and that judgment of value is one I will keep in mind as I continue to assess sites.
Tuesday morning, I met with Helen and Bonnie individually to check in and discuss where the project is headed. My meeting with Helen was largely to check in, discuss how PrideFest went and where things stand with site assessment, and we also discussed the exhibit to be done in partnership with William Way. My meeting with Bonnie largely regarded the spreadsheet of sites. Bonnie and I met along this same line Thursday. Tuesday she suggested I look for which of these sites are already on the National Register in some capacity, or have any preservation/commemorative status, and also that I start to organize it, not just alphabetically as I had been, but also by nomination potential. We also established that I will be submitting the list for internal review within the Park Service next Wednesday, June 28th. The list of people I reached out to is as follows: Bonnie, Chris Beagan with the Olmsted Center in Boston, Megan Springate in D.C., Susan Ferentinos, and Amanda Casper. Thursday I spoke with Bonnie again for additional pointers on how to ensure I submit the best possible version of this list. She was very helpful in providing some optic suggestions, and other points to better refine the list which I have since followed.
Along these lines, I did spend most of my time this week working on the list. This involved adding new sites (birthplace and possible residence for Clark Polak), discovering better locations for sites (namely BEBASHI), and researching any ways in which certain sites on my list might already have preservation/commemorative status. In addition to these points, I also started organizing and refining the list in preparation for its submission next Wednesday, June 28th. The newest place added to the list was Clark Polak's birthplace/childhood home at 3719 Pulaski Street and a potential residence of his at 215 Locust Street. Polak was the president of the Janus Society between 1963 and 1969 when it disbanded, and also the organization's president which defied other homophile groups' respectability politics, taking a more radical attitude of sexual liberation. Polak was also the editor for the Janus Society's newsletter, Drum, which was the most widely distributed homophile publication in the 1960s. Regarding BEBASHI, I found the organization's original location at 1319 Locust Street. I also discovered that the Barbara Gittings residence at 241 S. 21st St. is already on the National Register as part of the Hockley Row historic rowhouses. The rowhouse at 241 S. 21st St. we converted into individual housing units, and Gittings lived in one of these with Kay Tobin Lahusen between 1961 and 1967. Organizationally, I have structured the list by nomination potential. If I think a site has a case for national significance or for the National Register it is colored blue. If I think it might have a case but I am not sure, it is green. If I think the significance is strictly local, I color it red. I have also noted whether a building is demolished under the "building type/property type" heading, as it makes better sense to note that there.
With regard to current events, the most significant event was the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court's refusal to reconsider its decision in an anti-bias dispute with SEPTA at the city of Philadelphia's request. SEPTA argued that it was not subject to Philadelphia's Fair Practice Ordinances because it is a state agency that operates outside of just the city. In April the high court sided with SEPTA in a 4-3 vote, and in May attorneys from the city requested that the court reconsider, arguing that SEPTA is not exempt from all anti-bias complaints handled by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. This week the State Supreme Court upheld its decision. Civil-rights attorney, Justin Robinette, expressed he was not surprised by the decision, but he did not approve of it. He further expressed concerns over SEPTA's own anti-bias policy, which the organization claims are LGBT inclusive. Robinette stated, "SEPTA reassures us they would never discriminate against LGBT people," Robinette noted. "However, SEPTA could withdraw that policy tomorrow, thanks to this court's ruling today." This was a surprising and interesting case to read about, and it will be interesting to see how things play out going forward.