Legacy Wall travels to UIS

Legacy Wall travels to UIS

Aerial Storey, Staff Writer

To kickstart LGBT History Month on campus, the Legacy Wall – which first debuted in Springfield one year ago – returned to the capital city at UIS on Oct. 5 in its tour throughout Illinois.

Victor Salvo, founder and executive director of The Legacy Project, was joined by guest speakers Dr. Holly Kent, assistant professor in the History department at UIS, and Dr. Jason Pierceson, professor of Political Science at UIS.

The Legacy Wall is a digitally interactive travelling history exhibit that features biographies of over 120 LGBT people who have contributed to society in numerous and monumental ways, despite the obstacles they faced as members of the LGBT community.

Included in the exhibit are famous individuals such as Alexander the Great, George Washington Carver, Michelangelo, Jane Addams, and more, alongside lesser-known individuals in the community.

The exhibit highlights many historic moments that the LGBT community has seen over the years, including military presence, same-sex marriage, The Stonewall Riot, and The Pink Triangle.

This project proved to be a difficult task to complete since, historically, many individuals from the LGBT community are overlooked and not credited for their, having been left out of history books and required curriculum since their sexuality is considered a difficult topic to talk about in schools.

Salvo noted, “Every era has had a noteworthy LGBT individual that has contributed to society, but is not covered in history books.” He explained, “Being LGBT has become somewhat of a ‘contemporary phenomenon,’ but the community has always existed.”

He went on to explain that many individuals in the past never came out as LGBT due to the severe backlash and oppression they would receive from society because of its taboo nature. As a result, much information on individuals was missing, reported incorrectly, or “selectively edited.”

Salvo wants to use the display as a way to credit the achievements of the individuals in whole with their identity and share the struggles they faced as LGBT people.

Guest speakers Kent and Pierceson elaborated on the obstacles that the LGBT community has faced throughout history.

Kent shared her experiences that led her to engage in LGBT history and motivated her to educate others about their contributions to society.

“I was in college and I had taken all these history classes – I could be called a historian at this point,” she said, “but when my professor asked us to name ten famous LGBT individuals that have impacted history, we embarrassed ourselves.”

Kent further explained that, although people have become more aware of the community, schools and other departments have yet to implement lessons about the LGBT community. She then urged for change.

Pierceson also educated the audience about the oppression that the LGBT community has faced throughout the years due to unfair and unjust laws and regulations put in place to hinder community members.

He shared a timeline of events and laws that granted LGBT individuals more rights and promises for equality, noting that many of these changes are very recent and that the LGBT population hardly arises in situations regarding politics, making them an underrepresented group in America.

The Legacy Wall works to spread awareness about the LGBT community and to “[combat] anti-gay bullying by celebrating LGBT contribution to history and culture.”

Salvo hopes to educate and inspire the youth and other individuals through sharing and highlighting the stories from individuals of the LGBT community, explaining the importance of youth learning how the LGBT community has contributed to the country’s framework.