Well, one of the stories, one of my favorite stories, is a woman named Donna Burkett, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And this is sort of how the spirit of this project has been so intuitive. We just say “OK, we’ll make a trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Who are we going to interview there?” We start digging, asking questions, and lo and behold we start to come across the name “Donna Burkett.” And we read that in 1971, Donna and her then-partner Manonia Evans, applied for a marriage license - WAYYY before marriage equality was on anyone’s radar! And Donna is an African-American woman who faced enormous challenges, partly as a result of that groundbreaking action - her family, Menonia’s family, utterly rejected them, a lot of their friends abandoned them, their relationship actually didn’t survive - but lo, these many years later, Donna was living largely forgotten by history. She’d had a stroke, lived in Public Housing, and wasn’t on anyone’s radar as an important figure in our movement. So when we were able to track her down and share her story, I think it felt so good for her to know that she is remembered and valued. And now she’s in the Book of Pride.
I’m looking at this map on my wall, and let me mention one other, K.C. Potter. Who was a long-time dean at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, the conservative “Harvard of the South” as some people call it, not a friendly place to be LGBT in the 1970s or 1980s. KC was gay, he could not come out as Dean of Students at Vanderbilt, he literally could not come out and keep his job, but he provided the first safe places for LGBT students to be able to meet. And especially when homophobic articles or letters started to appear in the student newspaper, he would provide a place where students could respond, especially as the AIDS epidemic broke in the 80s and 90s, and homophobia hit record highs, he was able to support queer students at this conservative, deeply religious university. Only after he retired in the early 2000s could KC come out as a gay man, meet his partner Richard, and today, the LGBTQ center at Vanderbilt is named the “KC Potter Center.”
When I was reading the audio introduction for the Book of Pride, and I got to the story behind the KC Potter Center, I started crying. Something about that story just makes me so happy. And out of the blue, I just became a blubbering mess.
When I’d set out to create OUTWORDS, I’d done many documentary features. I knew two things: I loved interviewing people, and I knew that finishing a nonfiction program for television is a huge amount of work and stress. I decided I wasn’t going to make a documentary film. I decided I was going to gather the raw material for countless documentary films, make sure the stories were recorded for all time. And so that’s why when people ask us about creating a documentary, we say that we’re creating an archive, and hopefully out of this will come many, many documentary films.