CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte LGBTQ Archive officially has a name. On Sept. 17 at The University of North Carolina – Charlotte, archivist and professor Joshua Burford honored three local activists during a naming ceremony for The Donaldson King, Sue Henry, and Blake Brockington Collection.
Burford, who launched the archive of historical documents, publications and ephemera in 2013, led the event. He was joined by Dr. Anne Cooper Moore, dean of the J. Murray Atkins Library, which houses the archive in its Special Collections.
Henry attended the event and accepted her plaque, saying that when she found out about the honor it was one of the few times in her life where she found herself speechless.
Henry has spent her life as an outspoken advocate and activist. She ran as the first openly gay candidate for mayor of Charlotte in 1995, receiving four percent of the vote as a write-in candidate. She was also the proprietor of the Rising Moon Books & Beyond bookstore, which was a meeting place for gays and lesbians during the 1990s. It was often used as something of a de-facto LGBT community center in a time when an official one did not exist. She was also integral in bringing the annual NC Pride event to Charlotte in 1994, which was the first time the statewide Pride celebration had been to the city.
King was one of Charlotte’s earliest and most ardent activists for gay and lesbian civil rights, beginning when he moved to the city, from Wilmington, in the 1970s. He was a longtime employee at The Charlotte Observer, and was the first editor of QNotes. With Billie Rose, he founded Queen City Quordinators in 1981 which was a joint fundraising umbrella group for pro-LGBT organizations. He also led an effort to end the practices of police entrapment and harassment of gay men. His work played a major role in leading to better community relations between law enforcement and the gay community.
King passed away last year after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Gene Sloan accepted on his behalf.
Brockington was a 2014 graduate of East Mecklenburg High School, who gained both local and national attention when he was crowned homecoming king as an openly transgender student. He was an accomplished student, active in his school’s band where he served as drum major for two years and played on a student club rugby team. One of his former teachers described him as “one of the brightest students at East Meck.”
Brockington was involved in transgender rights activism, speaking at the 2014 Transgender Day of Remembrance event, as well as grassroots campaigns against police brutality and violence. Unfortunately, the added visibility came with a cost.
“That was single-handedly the hardest part of my trans journey,” Brockington told the Observer in January of this year. “Really hateful things were said on the Internet. It was hard. I saw how narrow-minded the world really is.”
Brockington died as a result of suicide in March. His friend Blair Burdette accepted on his behalf.
“Today is really one of the milestone events of what we believe and hope will become an historic project. Not just for Charlotte, but for all the LGBTQ community around the United States,” Dr. Moore told the assembled crowd of local activists, reporters, students and community members.
An exhibit featuring a portion of the archive had its opening after the naming ceremony, in the art gallery at the UNCC Student Union, along with a timeline of LGBT events in Charlotte’s history, “Publicly Identified: Coming Out Activist in the Queen City,” which debuted last year at Levine Museum of the New South. It will remain on display through the end of September.
Moore said the college hopes to continue to raise funds in order to digitize QNotes, whose nearly 30-year print run is a part of the archive, as well as to start a general web archiving initiative, beginning with a focus on the history of the Charlotte transgender community. : :