Allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community have an opportunity to witness the Columbus Pride movement through the eyes and cameras of the activists who started it all this weekend.
Ken Schneck, author of “LGBTQ Columbus: Images of Modern America,” will lead an open discussion, called “Columbus is SO Gay: An Image History of LGBTQ Activism,” on his new book at Stonewall Columbus Friday. He said attendees will analyze some of the photos in the book and confer what they have to teach about activism in a classroom-type setting.
Schneck, a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University and editor of Prizm Magazine — an Ohio LGBTQ+ community publication — said the book documents the pride movement in Columbus, Ohio, over the decades through a compilation of photos and his commentary.
“LGBTQ Columbus: Images of Modern America” was released in June, preceded by a Cleveland version Schneck published in 2018. While working on the Cleveland book, Schneck said he realized how intertwined LGBTQ+ history was among cities in Ohio, leading him to work on the Columbus book and a Cincinnati edition, set to release next year.
“The LGBTQ history books are really about collating images of the history that would be lost if we didn’t put it all together,” Schneck said. “Ultimately, it’s going from person to person to person in people’s basements, their attics and photo albums in their living rooms and putting together decades and decades of history of activism that has happened in various cities in Ohio.”
The book is centered on images due to their human interest and ability to provide an access point that can’t be achieved through text, Schneck said.
“Capturing the images and the emotions of people’s faces that are at a rally, or at a very early Pride, or even something that has happened in more recent time as people in Ohio continue to fight for rights that we don’t have — that just tells a much different story than I could tell with words,” Schneck said.
The story the book tells has been validating for LGBTQ+ elders and presented an opportunity for a younger generation to have an intergenerational connection, Schneck said. He said the best result of events like the one Friday is when attendees ask how activism tactics from the past can be used today.
Sabrina Boykin, Pride coordinator at Stonewall Columbus, said LGBTQ+ history isn’t necessarily taught in school, heightening the importance of events such as this one.
“If you want to find out about what has come before you in the movement, you really have to do some digging,” Boykin said. “So I’m hoping that people will get to see a good historical perspective and just learn a little bit about what came before them.”
Boykin said more than 100 people have signed up for the event, and she hopes the big crowd will lead to productive conversation within the community.
Informing all audiences, not just the LGBTQ+ community, of the perils of the Pride movement in Ohio over the years provides some perspective, Schneck said.
“It gives people an opportunity to reflect on where we are now, how far we’ve come, but also, how much more work there is to do,” he said.
“Columbus is SO Gay: An Image History of LGBTQ Activism” will run 7-9 p.m. Friday at Stonewall Columbus. Tickets are free and available online on the organization’s Facebook page.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly used she/her pronouns for Boykin.