Photos/Video: Inside the Ceremonial Groundbreaking Ceremony of the American LGBTQ+ Museum with André De Shields, Billie Jean King, Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and More at New-York Historical Society
On September 14, New-York Historical Society held a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony for the American LGBTQ+ Museum, New York’s first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history and culture which is set to open in 2024.
The New-York Historical Society’s major expansion of its building on Central Park West will add more than 70,000 square feet to its footprint and also host the permanent home of the American LGBTQ+ Museum. The design by Robert A.M. Stern Architects will provide New-York Historical with additional classrooms, galleries, collections study areas, and a state-of-the-art compact storage facility for the institution’s renowned Patricia D. Klingenstein Library.
Social justice pioneer and sports icon Billie Jean King hosted the event. Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning Hadestown star André De Shields, Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Councilmember Daniel Dromm, New-York Historical Society President & CEO Louise Mirrer, the American LGBTQ+ Museum Chair Richard Burns, and creator of TransLash Media Imara Jones were among the guest speakers on the program.
De Shields, who recently performed excerpts of his solo show, Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory at Flushing Town Hall, drew parallels between the Black struggle for civil rights and the queer struggle for human rights.
“I am delighted to be here this afternoon,” said De Shields. “I’m going to take this energy to my 7:00 pm performance at the Walter Kerr Theatre and as we say, ‘Slay them’.
I’ve often visited the New-York Historical Society. And it is my wont to enter it from 77th St. because there I am greeted by the spirit of whom I consider to be the greatest orator in American History, Frederick Douglass.
It may seem odd to you, but I believe Frederick Douglass is exactly the lynch pin for today’s event because we are groundbreaking in the name of freedom and that was Fredrick Douglass’ struggle during his entire life – freedom. I can hear him now say, ‘without struggle, there is no progress’. And for him, progress meant freedom. I believe if Frederick Douglass were here today, he’s here in me. But if he were literally here today, he would not object to conflating the two struggles, the human rights for African Americans and the human rights for LGBTQ+ community members. Why? It may seem like they are different struggles for obvious reasons. I want to suggest to you that the struggles are symbiotic, seemingly disparate but mutually beneficial. Why? Because if one of us is chained, none of us are free. We can remove the shackles from a man’s wrists. We can take the fetters off a woman’s ankles, but until we remove the chains off of each of our minds, none of us can claim freedom.
So, as a Black American in what I affectionately call these ‘United Plantations’ and as a queer Black man, and as a performing activist, perhaps I’m not the first, but I want to say for everyone who has gathered here today, the Black struggle for civil rights and the Queer struggle for human rights are conflated. We struggle together. A house divided cannot stand.
We say ‘diversity, equity and inclusion.’ Frederick Douglass says ‘freedom.’ They all mean the same thing – that we can look at those grand words written by Thomas Jefferson and take them literally – that each of us is endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. And with the establishment of this museum, there will now be evidence that we are achieving those unalienable rights, our lives, our liberty, our pursuit of happiness.”
Other elected officials in attendance included Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, and Manhattan Councilmember Mark Levine.
Watch the archived livestream of all of the speeches at the groundbreaking ceremony for the American LGBTQ+ Museum at the New-York Historical Society.
About the New-York Historical Society
New York City’s oldest museum, the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library was founded in 1804. The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library—one of the most distinguished in the nation—fosters research through its outstanding collections, which include more than 10 million items. The Museum presents groundbreaking history and art exhibitions as well as public programs that convey the stories of New York and the nation’s diverse populations to the broadest possible public. The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024. Information: (212) 873-3400. Website: nyhistory.org. Follow the museum on social media at @nyhistory on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr.
About The American LGBTQ+ Museum
The American LGBTQ+ Museum preserves, investigates, and celebrates the dynamic histories and cultures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, as well as those of the emergent and adjacent identities among our communities. Using exhibitions and programs, we seek to advance LGBTQ+ equality through the lens of social justice movements, including, but not limited to, race, gender, class, immigration, and disability. We envision a world in which all people work toward and experience the joy of liberation. We believe the time has come to tell the story of LGBTQ+ people, commemorate and celebrate our journey, and inspire pride. Our mission is to preserve, investigate, and celebrate the dynamic histories and cultures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, and to advance LGBTQ+ equality through our exhibitions and programming. To learn more, visit thelgbtqplusmuseum.org.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and an award-winning filmmaker. She is the co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short indie films Hide and Seek (Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also a portrait and performing arts photographer and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia writes about arts and entertainment on her Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog. The Lia Chang theater portfolio collection, 1989-2011, is housed in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) collection located in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room and the Lia Chang Photography Collection is currently being archived in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library.