By Victoria Mullen, WKTV
June is Gay Pride Month, and to commemorate the end of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, WKTV will air a special documentary, People’s History: LGBTQ in Grand Rapids on WKTV 25 on Wednesday, June 14 at 12 p.m. and Saturday, June 17 at 6:30 p.m.
The Stonewall Riots precipitated the gay rights movement around the world.
Produced by Girbe Eefsting and Thomas Henry in 2011, People’s History: LGBTQ in Grand Rapids runs 1 hour, 42 minutes and includes material culled from over 70 interviews conducted by Jeff Smith. The full interviews are archived at the Milt Ford LGBT Center at Grand Valley State University.
“I can’t say that the documentary will do this for everyone, but it changed my life,” said Eefsting, who was inspired by the stories shared by the interviewees. “It changed my consciousness.
“The first question we asked each person was, ‘How did you come to terms with your sexuality?’ Eefsting said. “And it occurred to me that I never had to ask myself that question.”
The Grand Rapids People’s History Project was inspired by radical historian and author of A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, who passed away in 2010. It uses the insurgent and radical people’s history approach that Zinn developed and is being continued through the Zinn Education Project.
The first Pride Celebration took place in 1988 in downtown Grand Rapids at the Monroe Amphitheater (now Rosa Parks Circle). Watch footage of that event here.
“I make documentaries to remind people that we have the power to make social change,” said Eesting. “This is evident throughout history.”
The Grand Rapids People’s History Project’s goal is to research and create media that gives voice to the people and movements in Grand Rapids that are often marginalized or ignored by “official” history. It also seeks to provide a context for the struggles against systems of oppression that have denied people basic rights and the opportunity for collective liberation.