“Archiving Joy and Grief with Steven G Fullwood,” an interactive workshop
Updated: Jun 12
On April 29, 2021, I was invited to speak with BLACKOUT, a group of Black LGBTQ students at Yale University, for their program series on Grief and Joy. My presentation, “Archiving Joy and Grief with Steven G Fullwood,” was an interactive workshop that focused on the necessity of building and sustaining Black queer archives and why our stories matter.
We discussed different ways in which Black queer joy is archived (for ex., diaries and journals, analog and digital photographs, films and videos, email, social media) and why it is necessary for Black queer people to do it. I suggested that archiving our experiences as Black queer individuals is our responsibility as descendants and future ancestors. We have to tell the world what happened here and why and who we are.
No one can authorize the storyteller. The storyteller empowers herself. The students who attended the event were concerned about how to archive their joys as well as their grief and what it means to be responsible for your own story. This led to a discussion about current Black queer archival collections, some of which are housed at the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Schomburg Center, Spelman, and other repositories.
Many Black queer archival collections produced by artists and archivists active in the 1980s and 1990s are filled with stories about the impact of HIV/AIDS, illness, incarceration, racism, and homophobia has had on their lives and their community’s well-being. By virtue of their existence, these rare, historical collections illuminate not only Black queer pasts, but their charge to us is clear. They instruct us to record our own lives. Again, we too must be responsible for our Black queer pasts and futures by telling history who we are, what happened here, and why. Most importantly, we talked about the value in archiving our own stories in and outside of traditional archival institutions. Again, this has a lot to do with agency and authorization. Again, no one authorizes the storyteller: only she can authorize herself. How she does it is a matter of choice.
As part of the program, I provided a resource list of links to Black queer archival collections and other resources highlighted in the workshop. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this resource list, email me at email@example.com.