THE LEGACY PROJECT was inspired the first time the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was shown at the National March on Washington for LGBT Civil Rights in 1987. Beyond the over-whelming, uncontrollable emotion of that experience was a sense of the vastness of our presence, the richness of our lives. So many people - both famous and obscure. So many interests. So many accomplishments. For all the talk about our "diversity" the full breadth of our existence was never more clearly represented at one time, in one place, than on that ¾ acre swatch of the fabric of our lives. Sadly, except for our own immediate circles, we were strangers to ourselves. At that time, there was no way for gay people to know about those who came before them and what they accomplished and The Quilt only seemed to magnify that. We were LIVING GAY HISTORY. But we were DYING. Who would remember those who came before us when we were gone?
At that same March we celebrated the first "National Coming-Out Day" - October 11, 1987 - a day set aside to usher the truth about our lives out of the shadows. And, every year since, that day has been recognized by LGBT people all over the world. But as each of us has come forward into the present, it seems our ancestors have retreated further into the past. Though numerous works of scholarship have uncovered the amazing contributions of the LGBT people who came before us, there is no easily accessible way for people outside our community, in general, and LGBT youth, in particular, to know and fully appreciate the degree to which we have helped shape the world we share. LGBT people have created and inspired magnificent art and sculpture; served with distinction in the military; discovered technological breakthroughs; penned renowned literature and music; started charitable foundations,won Olympic Gold Medals and helped shape world-diplomacy… yet most continue to languish in obscurity.
In 1991 the City of Chicago instituted the only Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in the world to recognize the contributions of its LGBT citizens both to the city as a whole and the LGBT community. Several years later Chicago once again chose to celebrate LGBT people by installing the first-of-its-kind "Rainbow Pylon" streetscape on North Halsted Street. The combination of Chicago's annual Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame inductions and the 1998 dedication of the "Northalsted Corridor" as the nexus of the LGBT Community helped to crystallize the concept of THE LEGACY WALK; for finally there existed a place where the contributions of LGBT people from all over the world could be put on public display in the heart of an international city that had opened its arms to its LGBT sons and daughters. Fourteen years later the City of Chicago became an administrative co-sponsor of THE LEGACY WALK - crafting the legal structures that were needed to ensure this long-anticipated dream finally became a reality. Thanks to hundreds of donors, volunteers and academics - and our plaque sponsors - the Inaugural Dedication of THE LEGACY WALK took place on October 11, 2012 - National Coming-Out Day - 25 years to the day it was first inspired.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME.