The 2020 Public Humanities Hub Okanagan Impact Awards were given to five research teams at UBC Okanagan, with the objective of stimulating humanities research that engages the public.
Donna Langille, the Community Engagement Librarian at UBC Okanagan used the funding to create a podcast with her research partner Taysha Jarrett. The Okanagan QueerStory Podcast is about the queer history of the Okanagan and the people who have lived through it.
Donna Langille introduces the project in this blog post.
We emptied the contents of the box on Taysha’s kitchen table. Spread out on the surface were a folder of documents and a couple of black and white photographs of drag queens, names unknown. These few artifacts were all that we found while searching in the storage container for the Kelowna Pride Society. We were crushed.
Our plan was to co-create an exhibit of local, LGBTQ2SIA+ artifacts and collectibles to highlight the queer history of the Okanagan. When we didn’t find what we were looking for, we turned to the community and sent out a plea for contributors to share their books, papers, pictures, or recordings—anything that would help us uncover the rich history of the queer community throughout the Okanagan Valley. With generous funding from the Public Humanities Hub Impact Award, we were going to curate and exhibit these items during Kelowna’s Pride Month in June of 2020.
When physical distancing restrictions due to COVID-19 were put in place, we had to rethink our plan. It wasn’t safe anymore to ask people from the community to meet us and we didn’t know when we would be able to gather in large groups again to share our exhibit. Together, we decided to focus our attention on collecting individual stories through podcasting. We chose podcasting because it’s a format that can be easily accessed by the community. No paywalls, no academic jargon, just stories by and for the community.
This month, we are launching the Okanagan QueerStory podcast. Okanagan QueerStory is a community-led, limited run, 10 episode podcast series about Okanagan LGBTQ2SIA+ history, produced by Donna Langille and Taysha Jarrett. The mission of the podcast series is to gather stories from queer people who live or have lived in the Okanagan and to uncover the queer history of the Okanagan Valley. Our goal is to feature a diversity of voices, prioritizing people with identities that are historically and currently underrepresented including Indigenous, Black, and people of colour.
In our first episode, I interviewed my producing partner, Taysha Jarrett. Through this interview, we learn about one of Taysha’s most memorable moments living in the Okanagan as a queer person—the painting of the rainbow crosswalk at Lawrence Avenue and Pandosy Street downtown in Kelowna in 2015. She discusses the opposition that the community faced by some of Kelowna’s residents when the crosswalk was announced. She remembers fondly the way that the community came together to challenge homophobia in their own city (led by Wilbur Turner) and the support they received from mayor, Colin Basran.
Taysha and I hope that in the process of recording and preserving these stories for the community, we will be able to uncover and grow a shared sense of history among the queer community in the Okanagan.
To listen to our upcoming podcast episodes, please follow us on Facebook.
More reading for they UBC Community (CWL login required):
Michaels, K. (2015, Aug 06). Kelowna gets its own rainbow crosswalks. Kelowna Capital News Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/docview/1702078482?accountid=14656
Content warning: homophobia
Letter: Anti-crosswalk. (2015, Aug 13). Kelowna Capital News Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/docview/1703912189?accountid=14656