The first ever US-wide Black Lesbian Archives Grassroots Tour kicks off this month in Atlanta and will end July 2020 in Chicago.
Krü Maekdo created the archives in 2017 for the purpose of preserving black lesbian culture and educating people on important cultural stories that would otherwise be lost or forgotten.
“I really couldn’t find too much information online so I started going to libraries and institutions and I thought damn we really got to get it together,” says Maekdo. “We’re not really visible and not only that but when you’re looking to relate or understand yourself and you can’t really find it, it makes you wonder and question so why are we not as vocal in these places that we go to damn near every day?”
Driven by curiosity and a sense of responsibility, Maekdo moved to Chicago and started connecting to the black queer community. In June of 2017, the Black Lesbian Archives began as a month-long exhibit. The exhibit promoted Yvonne Welbon’s newly released book Sisters in the Life: A History of Out African American Lesbian Media-Making and consisted of film screenings, mixers, and archival workshops. After it ended, Maekdo decided to expand the vision.
Maekdo believes that “something essential is missing if everything remains virtual.” In order to bring awareness to these archives and preserve important cultural histories, outreach must be person-to-person. For Maekdo, it goes beyond collecting and maintaining archives for preservation, it’s about building a community through collaboration, education, and discussion.
Through the mobile history van, mixers, archiving workshops, panel discussions, and other collaborations that vary from city to city, the tour brings people together to spark a genuine passion about the history of black lesbians.
“I feel like with this tour not only are we spreading awareness but it just feels really inspiring,” says Maekdo.
Maekdo sees the Black Lesbian Archives as a seed that will grow into something larger than a historical preservation project. Eventually, they want to open a house where people can view the archives, hangout, stay the night, and learn from each other.
Tour dates and locations are set, although more stops may be added. The first event takes place this Friday, February 14 at Buenos Dias Café in Atlanta. This month, tour-goers can also look forward to a grassroots zine making workshop on February 23 at Charis Books and More. For more information about the Black Lesbian 2020 tour, how to contribute, or volunteer, visit https://blacklesbianarchives.wixsite.com/.