ONE Archives at the USC Libraries is partnering with the California African American Museum to organize an exhibition and catalogue, Queer Black California: Art and Politics, which presents California as a pioneering site of sustained LGBTQ civil rights struggle and achievement from post-WWII to the present. The exhibition restores histories that have been excluded, adding Black stories to LGBTQ accounts, and recovering queer histories that have been suppressed in narratives of the African American past. The presentation exposits complex ways that artworks and visual culture shaped, advanced, and interpreted Black queer political and social movements. Queer Black California offers a unique perspective, showing viewers the powerful role played by queer Black historical figures in the long struggle for equality and liberation in the United States.
The exhibition concretizes history through the work and lives of people who have contributed to social transformation. Examples include: Bailey Whitaker, a founder of Knights of the Clock; Cleo Bonner, an officer in Daughters of Bilitis; civil rights icon Bayard Rustin; BLK magazine publisher, Alan Bell; performer and activists Sir Lady Java, Sylvester, and Vaginal Davis; founder of the Association of Black Gays, Ron Grayson; and, photographer and collector Lenn Keller, among others. The exhibit also interprets transformative events such as Compton’s Cafeteria riots in San Francisco, publications including BLK Magazine and Aché, and significant locations like Catch ONE in Los Angeles, Ollie’s bar in Oakland, the Love Center church in Oakland, and the Unity Fellowship Church Movement of Los Angeles.