Howell presents award to Rainbow History Project

Distinguished Service Award to the Rainbow History Project

Presented by former GLAA President Craig Howell

GLAA 31st Anniversary Reception
Hotel Washington
Thursday, April 18, 2002

Two days ago, the District of Columbia revived the long-dormant tradition of a parade celebrating Emancipation Day, the anniversary of the day on which President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the abolition of slavery in our Nation's Capital in April 1862. D.C. Emancipation marked the first formal step towards the end of slavery throughout the United States, a goal finally realized in less than three years by enactment of the 13th Amendment to our Constitution.

April 16 was thus a date vital not only to our city's history, not only to Black History, but also to our entire nation's history. Yet its significance was allowed to fade and eventually disappear altogether, taking with it the inspiration that each new generation needs to continue the never-ending struggle for civil rights and human dignity.

We owe the revival of the memory of Emancipation Day to one woman above all others, a heroine for our time and for our whole community, Loretta Carter Hanes, who researched the story of this once and future glorious day in exhausting detail and kept pushing and pushing our city's movers and shakers to remember with pride the sufferings and triumphs of our not-so-distant past. And what moved her to continue on, even as her own health was deteriorating? As she herself told the Washington Post so simply and succinctly: "If we don't talk about it, our history will die."

I believe the same flame that drives Loretta Carter Hanes also burns brightly in the souls of Mark Meinke and his collaborators in the Rainbow History Project. In a remarkably short period of time, the Rainbow History Project has accomplished wonders in preserving, celebrating, and yes, sometimes mourning, the history of Washington's gay and lesbian community. The Project's vision of our community's history is both wide and deep, collecting and sharing not just the stories and the memories of the famous and the well-connected and the fondly-remembered but also recalling the stories and the memories of the not-so-famous or the long-forgotten. The Project has sought out our history across the entire spectrum of our community and our multi-faceted interests -- not just in politics but in business and in labor and in sports and in entertainment and you name it.

Speaking of his own youth spent as a soldier in America's Civil War, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked many decades later that his generation was uniquely fortunate because, in his words, "In our youth our hearts were touched with fire." Thanks to the magnificent contributions of the Rainbow History Project, even us old fogies may be assured that the fires that burned in our own youth will live on to light the way for the future.

It is with deep gratitude and affection that I present GLAA's 2002 Distinguished Service Award to the Rainbow History Project.

Acceptance remarks by Mark Meinke