Legacy Project Honors GLBT Community

By Joe Daddario – Staff Writer
Emily Haddad – Editor-In-Chief

Photo by Joseph Daddario
Legacy Project creator Victor Salvo.

Photo by Joseph Daddario

The area of Boystown along Halsted Street in Chicago now plays host to a brand new outdoor museum entitled the ‘Legacy Walk,’ honoring the GLBT community. Utilizing the iconic rainbow pylons located between Addison and Belmont Ave, this five-block walking tour spotlights some of the most notable deceased leaders and pioneers of recent history, who were members of the GLBT community.

The Legacy Project was conceived in 1987 after the initial display of the now-famous Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt highlighted the fears of dying prematurely from AIDS and being forgotten after death in the GLBT community. The mastermind behind the Legacy Project, Victor Salvo, said it was the culmination of a decade-long scholarly project meant to educate people and commemorate the roles the GLBT community has played in history. “We were worried AIDS would kill off the GLBT community before history recorded our existence. Who would remember those who came before them if we didn’t know ourselves?”

The 1998 installation of the rainbow pylons celebrating the GLBT community in the Boystown area acted as a catalyst for the Legacy Project, providing an ideal place for commemorative plaques to be erected, and the general climate of acceptance in Chicago provided an affable political audience to hear the proposal. Salvo said Chicago was “the biggest small town in the world.” He described Chicago as a unique mix of working-class ethics and a multinational mindset that has fostered a populace that values history, the individual, and the cultural differences found on every corner. Philanthropic organizations such as the Jane Adams Hull House flourished in Chicago, offering resources, education and safe haven. Today, Chicago has openly gay individuals in all levels of city management and is one of the only cities in the world to openly celebrate their GLBT community.

18 plaques are now attached to the rainbow pylons on Halsted.  The plaques recognize the following people: Jane Adams, Alvin Ailey, Reinaldo Arenas, James Baldwin, Dr. Margaret Chung, Barbara Gittings, Keith Haring, Barbara Jordan, Christine Jorgensen, Frida Kahlo, Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Leonard Matlovich, Harvey Milk, Dr. Antonia Pantoja, Bayard Rustin, Alan Turing, the ‘Two Spirit’ GLBT people of the U.S. and Canada, and Oscar Wilde.
Salvo spoke at the unveiling ceremony Thursday afternoon. He stressed the importance of the project and how it gave the younger GLBT generation role models to look up to. Salvo went on to say that the project gave the younger generation “a belief that we always have and will matter,” something the older GLBT generation did not have. Other speakers included Ralph Kennedy, the board chairperson of the Legacy Project, Alderman Tom Tunney and a representative for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.