Documenting and preserving LGBTQ voices and stories in the Central Valley for future generations is the focus of Qistory, a project under the College of Social Sciences that launched in 2018.
Women’s Studies Assistant Professor Dr. Katherine Fobear had the idea to archive the oral and digital interviews of LGBTQ elders when she came across a story in a local monthly newspaper called Community Link.
In the story, CEO of Community Link Jeffrey Robinson announced that the theme for the 2018 Fresno Pride event would be called “Raise the Bar.” One that would include the history of LGBTQ bars in the Central Valley, their owners, bar goers and the community. After reading the article, Fobear felt compelled to see how Fresno State could get involved.
“One thing that I always emphasize to my students is to always be mindful of the stories we tell and what voices are being left out,” Dr. Fobear said. “Far too often queer voices are left out and get erased from history.”
Fobear wants to get students involved by partnering with The Lavender Effect, a non-profit organization that preserves the oral histories of LGBTQ+ lives in Los Angeles. The goal is to train students, faculty and community members to record the oral history of LGBTQ elders in the Central Valley. Stories that will later be archived in the Henry Madden Library on the Fresno State campus.
“We want the history and stories to be accessible. That’s why we want to house the oral and digital interviews online and to be public for future LGBTQ generations to view and connect with,” said Fobear.
The project is the first queer oral history and public history initiative at Fresno State solely focused on preserving the stories and histories of the LGBTQ+ community in the Central Valley. Through Qistory, a small but growing, physical queer archive is housed at the Special Collections in the Henry Madden Library along with a LGBTQ+ Children’s literature collection at the Arne Nixon Center.
Fobear hopes to create a sense of community where generations can hear the stories of survival of local LGBTQ elders through the project. As the new year begins, she will conduct monthly meetings for Qistory which will be open to campus and community members. In these meetings, they will plan how to go about recording the oral/video interviews of certain individuals who are at risk of leaving this world due to their age or other circumstances.
Robinson and Fobear will host a Qistory booth at the Fresno Pride festival in the summer and plan to visit local high schools to teach LGBTQ history to its students.
“There is a lot of potential to build this out and do more than just the digital archive at the Henry Madden Library, we are in the beginning stages of this project but we want this to be more than one thing on campus, we want to involve the community as well,” said Fobear.
Qistory’s first community meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 15th from 6-8 p.m. at the Starbucks on 741 E Olive Ave, Fresno. Students, faculty and community members are welcome to attend. For more information contact Dr. Fobear at: firstname.lastname@example.org.