Tag Archives: Ruth Coker Burks

Local gay history is sprawling!

Happy Pride Calgary!

Today, Global Television airs Brave Beginnings of Calgary Pride and the Gay Rights Movement, as part of their Pride 2019 programming. A part of Club Carousel still exists! Thank you, Jill Croteau, for embracing yycgayhistory (and maybe saving that wall)…

Lois at CC

Club Carousel Founder Lois Szabo back at 1207 1 St. SW!

Last week we wrote incorrect dates for this weekend. The upcoming Calgary Gay History Project events are:

Saturday, August 31st:

12:00-4:00 PM  – Join author Kevin Allen for a book signing of Our Past Matters Stories of Gay Calgary at Chapters-Indigo Dalhousie or just stop by to say, “hi.”

Sunday, September 1st:

11:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Pride in the Park. After the parade, stop by the Calgary Gay History Project’s History Booth. Share your own stories and learn more about Calgary’s LGBTQ2 Past.

Jeremy Klaszus, editor and founder of The Sprawl, invited us to write an essay about gay history. We used the opportunity to mark the 50th anniversary of Bill C-150, the decriminalization of homosexuality coming into force, and the Calgarian who precipitated it, Everett Klippert. You can read it: here. After reading the essay, CBC Radio requested a live radio interview about the anniversary too.

Consider being a Sprawl supporter yourself – pop-up journalism may be a unique model for news, but the Sprawl has an impressive track record of insightful and meaningful local reportage. We love it.

Another highlight of the week was RISE. The audience at the Plaza Theatre was honoured and moved by the passionate recollections of two heroes from the gay rights movement, 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 MCed the event, which was manifested by Twisted Element’s Keon Brawn. Thank you, Keon, for showing the community such inspired leadership.

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#YYCGayHistory @CalgaryPride 2019

Calgary Pride launches tomorrow, and the Calgary Gay History Project has a full slate of activities during the next ten days. Here are the offerings:

Friday, August 23rd: The Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary e-book release!

Sunday, August 25th: as part of Memorial Park Pride

1:30-2:30 PM – Calgary Gay History Lecture at the Memorial Park Library

3:00 PM – Calgary Queer Arts Society’s Outliers Screening

5:00-6:30 PM – Beltline Gay History Walk

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Beltline Gay History Walk during Pride 2017. Gary Evans, photo.

Monday, August 26th: Bill C-150, the bill “decriminalizing” homosexuality came into force on this day, 50 years ago. Keep your eyes peeled for a particular essay to commemorate this important date.

Wednesday, August 28th:

7:00-10:00 PM RISE: a social commentary with two legendary voices of the LGBTQ+ movement: Cleve Jones and Ruth Coker Burks, Kevin Allen, MC.

Saturday, August 31st:

12:00-4:00 PM  – Join author Kevin Allen for a book signing of Our Past Matters Stories of Gay Calgary at Chapters-Indigo Dalhousie or just stop by to say, “hi.”

Sunday, September 1st:

11:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Pride in the Park. After the parade, stop by the Calgary Gay History Project’s History Booth. Share your own stories and learn more about Calgary’s LGBTQ2 Past.

Phew. It’s going to be a busy Pride!

On a final and sadder note, the Calgary Gay History Project would like to acknowledge the sudden and unexpected passing of Lisa Fahey last month. The 47-year old Calgarian was an indefatigable ally to our community and a driving force behind the Pride Employee Network for Imperial. She was a massive fan of the Calgary Gay History Project: one of our biggest cheerleaders in fact. Lisa regularly marched in the Calgary Pride Parade with her rainbow-festooned wiener dog, Pebbles – who proved to be a media darling, year after year. Lisa’s big heart, enthusiasm, and deep regard for social justice will be sorely missed.

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Greg Cashin and Lisa Fahey of Imperial’s Pride Employee Network with Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen (centre) in November 2016.

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RISE: An Evening of AIDS History in YYC

Two legendary figures associated with AIDS History, Cleve Jones and Ruth Coker Burks, are speaking in Calgary during Calgary Pride; we are agog!

Join us on Wednesday, August 28th, from 7-10 PM at the Plaza Theatre for an evening of social commentary and essential history.

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 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.

When We Rise

Jones will be available for a book signing at Pages on Kensington after the event.

There will be a free after-party for everyone who wants to carry on the conversation over beverages immediately afterward at Twisted Element.

RISE: a social commentary with two legendary voices of the LGBTQ+ movement is presented by Twisted Element and HIV Community Link. Tickets are available: here.

Names Project

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest piece of community folk art in the world.

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