StoryCorps, the groundbreaking effort to document the American story, which has given 500,000 Americans across all 50 states the chance to record conversations about their lives and preserve them for future generations, is preparing to launch Stonewall OutLoud, a participatory initiative to gather the stories of LGBTQ elders before they are lost to history.
In June 1969, a series of protests and clashes with law enforcement broke out in and around New York City’s Stonewall Inn, after a violent police-raid on the gay club sparked retaliation among the bar’s patrons and neighborhood residents. The events served as a catalyst to the national LGBTQ rights movement.
This June, in honor of the 50th anniversary of what became known as the Stonewall Riots, StoryCorps will ask people across the country to use the free StoryCorps mobile App to record the stories of people within the LGBTQ community who were born before the events of Stonewall. Each of these interviews will become a permanent part of American history at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Stonewall OutLoud will reach deep into LGBTQ communities across the country to ensure that as wide a collection of voices as possible are recorded and preserved. With special emphasis given to rural communities, communities of color, and transgender elders, the initiative seeks to connect older and younger generations through the powerful StoryCorps interview experience, preserve these stories for the future, and share the voices of the LGBTQ community with a broad general audience through educational and broadcast partnerships.
Individuals and organizations can pledge to take part at storycorps.org/outloud
StoryCorps joins a coalition of partners on this project, including SAGE, the National LGBTQ Task Force, Griot Circle, and GLSEN, with other partners. SAGE, the organization dedicated to advocacy and services for LGBT elders, reports that there are currently around 3 million LGBTQ adults over age 50, a figure that is expected to rise to nearly 7 million by 2030. Of them, nearly 60 percent report feeling a lack of companionship, half feel a sense of isolation from others, and two in five feel disconnected or even unwelcome by the younger LGBTQ community.
The anniversary of Stonewall provides a singular opportunity for young people to honor the lives of elders in this community, and to document and preserve the experiences and insights of this generation.
“We’re thrilled to be working with our partners over the month of June to ask the country to honor an LGBTQ elder with an interview and preserve this part of our history about which so little information exists. In the spirit of the Shoah project, which documented the stories of every living Holocaust survivor, and Maya Angelou’s stirring words, ‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again,’ we hope that Stonewall OutLoud will be a beautiful, loving celebration of LGBTQ elders on this historic anniversary,” said Dave Isay, President and Founder of StoryCorps.
Stonewall OutLoud builds upon StoryCorps’ long-standing commitment to record the powerful, varied experiences of LGBTQ people. Isay’s first documentary for public radio, 15 years before he founded StoryCorps, was Remembering Stonewall. Broadcast on NPR in 1989, the project was the first-ever documentary on the seminal 1969 events. Remembering Stonewall wove together in audio first-person accounts of those who fought during the uprising—and seeded the foundational ideas behind StoryCorps: the beauty, courage, and poetry we can find in the voices of everyday people when we take the time to listen, and the importance of honoring the stories of those who may feel least heard.
This audio documentary forms the basis for a new YouTube Original, also called Stonewall OutLoud. In collaboration with World of Wonder, YouTube Originals is bringing the original audio recording to life with contemporary voices in the LGBTQ community that will feature YouTube creators and LGBTQ celebrities. Guests will be announced at a later date. The Stonewall OutLoud documentary will premiere this June exclusively on YouTube.
The StoryCorps App enables anyone, anywhere to record conversations with another person for archiving at the Library of Congress. The app guides users through the interview experience, from recording to archiving to sharing their stories with the world. It provides easy-to-use tools to help people prepare interview questions; record high-quality conversations on their mobile devices; and upload the audio to the archive.storycorps.org website which serves as a home for these recordings and also provides interview and editing resources.