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‘In Our Voices’ Video Project Highlights Stories Of LGBTQ Community

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Steve Brawley
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St. Louis LGBT History Project
The first episode of "In Our Voices" features the legacy of the Zebra Lounge and other African American LGBTQIA+ spaces in midtown St. Louis from the 1970s and '80s.

In the first episode of the St. Louis LGBT History Project’s new documentary video series, a group of friends reminisce about partying it up in Midtown St. Louis.

'In Our Voices’ Video Project Highlights Stories Of LGBTQ Community
Hear more about the "In Our Voices" video series from Craig Greene and Steven Louis Brawley.

Among the spots they mention is the Zebra Lounge, a nightclub where many Black LGBTQ residents gathered. Craig Greene performed his first drag show on its dance floor and later worked there.

“It gave us that sense of community. Everyone knew each other,” Greene recalled on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Across the street was the Hitching Post, a predominantly lesbian bar. “It gave us a place where we can go back and forth across the street,” Greene explained, “and [if] you got tired of being with the boys, you can go be with the girls. And if you got tired of being with the girls, you can be with the boys. And at some point, the boys and girls got together.”

Greene shared his experiences in the video alongside high school friend Candace Forrest, known better by her drag persona Candy Principle. Along with other regulars, they broke out the same “Hustle” line dance they did at the clubs in the 1970s and ‘80s.

The passing decades proved no barrier to remembering the steps, Greene said on St. Louis on the Air. “That is instilled in me like the color of my skin.”

He added that the LGBTQ African Americans who patronized the bars became known for coming up with line dances: “Each week, different groups would come up with a different dance. So it was like, if you didn't know this one, then you were behind.”

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Evie Hemphill
Steven Louis Brawley (at left) and Craig Greene joined Friday's talk show to discuss the "In Our Voices" documentary video series.

Breaking out of traditional interview norms

The new video series is called “In Our Voices.” It’s the brainchild of Steven Louis Brawley, who has spent years gathering oral histories from St. Louis’ LGBTQ community as the founder of the St. Louis LGBT History Project. He said he wanted to go beyond his traditional interview method for the new project.

“It's kind of like a flash mob idea,” he said. “What if we gathered people in a common space with common experiences and just filmed them?”

When interviews are too formal, Brawley said, the essence of interaction is lost. So he sought to facilitate community-based interviews in which the subjects get together to tell stories and build off each other. The impromptu “Hustle” line dance perfectly showcased his goals for “In Our Voices.”

“It was like a dream … more than I could have envisioned. And it just hit the mark,” Brawley said.
Greene said he appreciated Brawley’s approach.

“This [is] a man that wanted stories to be told authentically by the people and through the people — not some words given to a white person and interpreted in his words,” Greene said.

The video is posted on Brawley’s St. Louis LGBT History Project website and Vimeo and is free to watch. A second episode is now in the editing stages.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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