One of Kevin Allen’s favourite aspects of the Calgary Gay History Project are public gay history walks. Started at Jane’s Walk 2013, Kevin has been conducting these tours of a little known Calgary ever since. There is something unique about locating history in the landscape. Parks, alleys, and storefronts open to reveal their hidden past. Walkers learn new stories about the neighbourhoods they live in or travel through.
Every year the walk evolves as more stories from Calgary’s LGBTQ2 past come to light. Kevin will be hosting several walks for Calgary Pride 2020: two in the Beltline, and two Downtown. All of them are fundraisers for Calgary Pride, whose operations have been sharply impacted by the pandemic.
The Beltliner Presents Pride History Walk & Brunch
Kevin has teamed up with The Beltliner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Calgary Pride with a History Walk through the Beltline, followed by brunch on both Saturday, August 29th and Sunday, August 30th at 11 AM.
The event begins at The Beltliner (243 12 Ave. SW) with coffee and pastry for the Walk, which lasts approximately one hour. We will travel to significant historical gathering spots for the LGBTQ2 community in this inner city neighbourhood, including Calgary’s first gay bar, Club Carousel. Returning to the restaurant, brunch will be served! Tickets are $50 (plus applicable taxes and fees) and are available at www.showpass.com/pridehistorywalk.
The event is an #OURPRIDE initiative which invites businesses to host their own pride festival event to show support for Calgary’s LGBTQ2 community and raise funds for Calgary Pride.
Downtown Calgary presents a Downtown Gay History Walk
The Calgary Downtown Association is hosting a tour with Kevin that will explore the city’s LGBTQ2 past through the city core on Saturday, August 29th and Saturday, September 5th at 2 PM. This one hour tour will inspire a deeper understanding of the community’s struggles and activism in Calgary and highlight significant political and social events that affected the gay community. On the way, tour guests will pass by several former watering holes where Calgary’s gay community gathered.
Note: Tickets are limited in all tours to allow for physical distancing. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather. Although we will miss the Pride Parade this year, march with Kevin on a 2020 YYC Gay History Walk!
In this far-ranging discussion, Jenny and Kevin explore how queer history resonates with the currents of today. They talk about the Pride movement and note that Calgary Pride, whose origin event was in June 1990, celebrated their 30th anniversary this month. Kevin also explains how the Glenbow Archives contributed to the making of Our Past Matters.
Check out the 36-minute conversation: here. Thank you, Glenbow! It was a delight.
A highlight of Calgary’s 2019 Pride Festival was the gay history event “RISE.” The audience at the Plaza Theatre was honoured and moved by the passionate recollections of two heroes from the AIDS pandemic, Ruth Coker Burks and Cleve Jones. Afterward, one Calgarian exclaimed: “It was one of the most inspirational evenings I have ever attended.” I was very grateful to have emceed the event, which was manifested by Twisted Element’s Keon Brawn in collaboration with HIV Community Link.
Local videographer Patrick Monaghan was there with his camera and recently edited a video of the evening, which he has now uploaded to YouTube. I encourage you to watch or rewatch RISE; it’s a history lesson that reminds us of our shared humanity in the pressure cooker of this earlier pandemic.
Ruth Coker Burks with the Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen
Ruth Coker Burks is perhaps better known as the Cemetery Angel. Ruth, a former caregiver of AIDS crisis victims, is an AIDS awareness advocate based in Arkansas. During the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, she used her salary as a real estate agent to care for AIDS patients whose families and communities had forsaken them. Due to prejudice, fear, and stigma surrounding the disease, she was often the patients’ only caregiver until their passing. She is also recognized for burying abandoned bodies in her own family cemetery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Cleve Jones (centre) sharing his recollections.
Cleve Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which grew into one of the largest and most influential People with AIDS advocacy organizations in the United States.
In 1985, Jones then started The Names Project, which resulted in tens of thousands of people making quilt panels to commemorate those they had lost to the disease. Also known as the AIDS Memorial Quilt, thousands of panels at a time toured North America. The Canadian National Tour of the quilt stopped in Calgary in July 1989. The 1000 visiting panels were hung in layered sections in the Calgary municipal building atrium. Fourteen panels created in Calgary were added to the quilt during its pause in the city.
Thank you, Patrick, for documenting RISE and sharing this video!