A panel discussion at Virginia Commonwealth University on Tuesday, Oct. 25 shows how far Richmond’s LGBT community has come.
The panel discussion “Signs of Progress” highlights the LGBT movement of the 1960s through today with a spotlight on Guy Kinman’s Billboard Project in 1987. The event begins at 6 p.m. in the Commons Theater, 907 Floyd Avenue, and is sponsored by History Now! and supported by Queer Action at VCU.
Kinman is the guest of honor with other speakers including Jay Squires of the Gay Community Center of Richmond, activist and historian Beth Marschak, and Judd Proctor of the Rainbow Minute.
In the 1980’s, LGBT organizations founded in the 60’s and 70’s, in the wake of Stonewall, moved out of the public spotlight. This shift was, in part, the result of a more conservative national political climate, but it also stemmed from the rise of the AIDS epidemic, which began to absorb much of the LGBT community’s personal and political energy. It was in this climate of despair that the Billboard Project was conceived. Many continued to believe that if more people became aware that they knew gay people personally, they would find it harder to hate and discriminate against them. In 1987 a small group of Richmond activists came together to spread a message of understanding and compassion. They commissioned billboards bearing the message “Someone You Know Is Gay… Maybe Someone You Love.” The city noticed, and this simple message led to both introspection and public discussion. The Billboard Project set the tone for tremendous growth in LGBT activism and community development. Now on the 25th anniversary of the Billboard Project, a panel of historians and activists will come together to discuss the history of the event and its relevance on the current political climate.