Students organize exhibit on LGBTQ history in Brooklyn

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From Walt Whitman to the DUMBA Collective, a new exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society hopes to educate the public on queer history in the borough.

A team of 21 students from across New York City worked on the exhibition, A Queer Look at Brooklyn.

The exhibit emphasizes queer history throughout the borough over the last half century. 

“There's a real need for this history and a real need for this history to be introduced into schools,” says Deborah Schwartz, of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Organizers say assembling the exhibition was a challenge for the teen council since there wasn't much information in the archives. 

“I feel like this is a topic that not a lot of people are familiar with, and so when people don't have familiarity with a topic you know that you would get from your basic history 101 textbook, it makes them a lot more apprehensive about diving into it,” says Aaron McAuliffe, Education coordinator.

The exhibit required a lot of in-person interviews, especially the story of the Starlite Lounge. It closed its doors in 2010 after the building was sold, but was once a prominent gathering space for the gay black community. 

“Learn about how impactful and inclusive and how it created a big community for the people that lived in Crown Heights and how distraught people were when it was taken away,” says Taliyah Willis, of East Flatbush.

Staff members at the historical society say everyone can learn from this. 

“It teaches that LGBTQ history is our history. It doesn't exist in some separate box off to the side as a sub-genre of history,” says Schwartz.

It will be up for the public to view through May of next year.

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