Recording Newark's LGBTQ Community's Past and Present
Steve Adubato sits down with Whitney Strub, Co-Director of Rutgers Queer Newark Oral History Project, to learn how his organization’s digital initiative, “Free to All,” is helping record the rich, complicated and inspiring past and present of Brick City’s LGBTQ community.
"A fascinating guest here at NJPAC is Whitney Strub, program director, Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University in Newark. Good to see you Whitney. Oh, thanks for having me Steve. You're involved in a fascinating project, codirector of the Queer Newark Oral History Project which is? The Queer Newark Oral History Project is an effort to document and record an archive of Newark's LGBT history, which really hadn't been documented very well, up until the fairly recent past. Why is that important? Well I think it's important for a lot of reasons. You know, I think it's important partly because Newark's history itself is so important, and gets so overlooked in the national narrative as you well know. Well in New York, across the river, that will happen. Absolutely. You know, I mean, a lot of people think of Newark as being in the shadow of New York, but in reality, it's got its own really vibrant, robust history, and its LGBT history has also really been forgotten. But it's a really distinct history in a lot of ways. For example? Well for example, you know, for the last fifty years, Newark has been a working class black majority city. And so its LGBT history differs from Chicago, New York, L.A., cities where middle class white activist organizations really dominated LGBT politics. You know, here in Newark, people of color are at the center of our local history and also our queer history. Okay but you know what's so interesting about that? Is that being someone who was born and raised in this city... Mm hmm. Understanding a little bit about, let's say, racial politics in the city, someone might argue that the African American community, particularly dominated by the church, right? The Baptist Church? AME? Hmm. Right? Church. Not as supportive as some might think of the community you're talking about? Am I getting that wrong? There's a national narrative of black homophobia that's, I think, really oversimplified. Not that simple? No. No, I don't think so. You know, the reality is, homophobia cuts across racial, ethnic, religious lines, we know that. Right. We know white communities, black communities, latino, have all been complicit in homophobia in the past. But I think the black church has been particularly blamed for a disproportionate amount of homophobia. And so when we look at the story up close, what we really see is, you know, a complication of that narrative. We see that for a lot of young queer people the black church has often been a place of solace and community. Places like the choir have been a safe place for, you know, sort of non normative people of various stripes..."