National-Louis University hosted the "2nd Annual Forum on LGBTQA issues in Higher Education: Building Knowledge-Practice-Action" March 2.
Victor Salvo, executive director of the Legacy Project, and Sarah Schriber, policy director of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, were the featured speakers. Dr. Gerri Spinella, assistant professor education leadership department and chair of the LGBTQ interest group at National-Louis University, moderated the event.
Salvo shared a little of his own story before giving an overview of the Legacy Project. Said overview included a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted some of the nominees, along with what visitors could expect when they come to the Legacy Walk on Halsted Street in Lake View.
Talking about his own life, Salvo said, "I first came to consciousness about my being gay at a very young age. ... The journey toward self-acceptance took a great many years. ... I found a peer group whom I could begin to relate. ... Among the first things we shared was a wealth of anecdotal 'stories' about 'who-and-who' and 'so-and-so' was gay." Salvo went on to question why everyone didn't know these stories and his answer was that nobody ever told them.
Salvo then discussed his foray into "gay activism" in the 1980s, when he organized the Chicago/Illinois contingent to the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights in 1987. When he was at the march Salvo saw the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Also, at the march Salvo received a poster from his friend, Lori, during the first celebration of National Coming Out Day; the poster had the tagline "Sometimes History Gets Set a Little Too Straight," and featured portraits of gay, lesbian or bisexual people from history. "It started me thinking why isn't this taught in school?" Salvo wondered, adding, "If all these people on this poster were gay and Lord knows how many others there should be a place you can go where you can learn about it." From the poster and the quilt the Legacy Project was born, but it would take many years to come to fruition.
Salvo also talked about being bullied in school. When no adults defended him at the school he said that maybe if the LGBT parts of notable people's lives hadn't "been so summarily redacted from shared human history" in the textbooks then things might have been different for him and other LGBTQ youth. He ended his talk by saying he looks forward to hearing feedback and ideas about the project to give LGBT youth "a sense of themselves and their heritage."
Schriber praised the Legacy Project before going into policy advocacy concerning curricula in schools. Schriber then went into what the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance does, including the issue of bullying of LGBTQ students.
She then addressed the lack of training of faculty and staff at schools surrounding the issue of bullying which leaves students at risk. Schriber said that people are working with members of the state legislature to improve the anti-bullying law that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law during last year's Pride weekend. Following the governor signing, a task force, including two students, was created to suggest recommendations regarding the law's implementation.
One remaining question involved bringing this law into the schools so it can be implemented. Schriber said that the best suggestions came from the students on the task force. The students created a toolkit that will first be taken to gay-straight alliances at Illinois schools.
After the presentations Spinella remarked that these two projects are a "perfect marriage" of policy and education around the issue of LGBTQ awareness and acceptance.
During the Q&A session, Salvo confirmed that the Center on Halsted would be involved with the Legacy Project. He added that the center is not legally connected, however, although there will be some synergy between the project and the center.
Answering a question about how people can get involved with both the project and the alliance, Schriber said that everyone is invited to volunteer and that the next meeting is March 16.
For more information on LGBTQ resources and research at the university, visit www.nl.edu/glbtq. To find out more about the Legacy Project, visit www.legacyprojectchicago.org; the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance website is www.illinoissafeschools.org .