The Download: Feature Articles
NYU Sydney Hosts Simulcast Screening of NYU Stonewall@50
By Mark Eels | May 20, 2019
Coordination and Conferencing Bring People Together Across the Globe
“Here we are all together and yet so far apart. But I guess the reason we are all here is because we’re not so far apart.” — Ken Kidd, director of special projects and events at NYU’s College of Arts and Science.
Alongside learning to contextualise and think critically, perhaps one of the most significant privileges of having access to higher education is learning about ourselves and others. Studying at and working for New York University, offers access to a global education where we develop our identities as responsible and thoughtful global citizens. The development and adoption of innovative technologies also continue to bring us together as a community, minimizing distances and allowing more discourse surrounding salient issues not only important on an academic level but also at a base societal level.
With this in mind, NYU Sydney embarked on a project which combines people and technology with the intention of bringing more voices into the conversations surrounding the University’s commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising, which took place only blocks from NYU’s Washington Square campus and launched the modern LGBTQ+ movement. To commemorate this important milestone, NYU is hosting NYU Stonewall at 50.
The goal was to showcase how NYU’s global locations can overcome geographical distances, share the floor respectfully in dialogue concerning issues important to the University, and commemorate the anniversary at the local level. What does this look like? Behind the scenes, it meant planning across sites, assistance from multiple IT professionals, dedication of time and expertise from a special panel, and engagement from students, staff, and faculty.
Joined by Technology
“The project started from a conversation I had with Deborah Broderick, vice president for Marketing Communications at NYU,” said Mark Eels, communications coordinator at NYU Sydney “Deborah put me in touch with Gregory Albanis, who is part of the Stonewall steering committee. Gregory opened up the conversation to the producer/director, Elisa Guarino, who then shared the [NYU Stonewall@50] documentary with me. I was so impressed I just thought, we have to showcase this.”
The result was a simulcast screening of the NYU Stonewall@50 documentary, hosted by NYU Sydney with live audiences from NYU Washington, DC and NYU Shanghai. The event was also broadcast live via NYU Sydney’s Facebook and Instagram. Sydney capitalised on collaborative audio-video conferencing software, which enabled conferencing for up to 100 participants per session, as well as live text, annotations, and the ability to make the event available on demand. With four locations and six active users, the collaborative nature of Internet-based conferencing brought participants from around the world into a single “virtual” location.
The panel was lead by Elisa Guarino, senior director for NYU Media Production and the Photo Bureau, founder and executive producer of NYU’s Department of Media Production, and producer and director of NYU Stonewall@50. Elisa was joined by Ken Kidd and Karla Jay. Kidd is director of special projects and events at NYU’s College of Arts and Science and has been been active in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities over thirty years, helping to organize and participate in the many major protest actions of ACT UP, Queer Nation, the NYC Anti-Violence Project, and Gays Against Guns (GAG). Jay is Distinguished Professor Emerita of English, women’s & gender studies, and queer studies at Pace University in New York City. Her first anthology, Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation (co-edited by Allen Young in 1972) is still in print and was listed by Publishers Triangle as one of the one hundred most important gay and lesbian books ever published. She was also a member of Redstockings and the Lavender Menace/Radicalesbians.
An Intercontinental Dialogue
After the simulcast screening, NYU Sydney’s assistant director of student life, Marcus Neeld, launched the Q&A with a brief introduction to the panel. All sites then had a chance to reflect and ask questions. Guarino described how the commemoration planning process led to the creation of the documentary noting that brainstorming led to a series of lectures, panels, exhibitions and of course the documentary.
“Our focus was NYU people over a fifty year period that were impacted by Stonewall”, explained Guarino. This is no easy task, she said, fitting 50 years into less than 30 minutes.
Kidd shared his pathway to the project, pointing out that he was called by Gilbert Baker, famous for the creation of the rainbow flag for Harvey Milk, who said he had to be involved, a request he said was easy to accept due to the gravity of the project.
“The first trans group in the world came out of this,” responded Jay. She described her role in the four day sit-in at NYU’s Weinstein Hall, “They were revolutionaries… We wanted students like you to have autonomy… for all students to be able to have a voice in what kinds of activities they could have without the administration judging if they were mentally fit to have such activities.”
Local Sydney student, Alicia Jamison, asked if there was anything that was not included in the documentary that audiences should know more about. Elisa responded that part of the project was to create an oral history archive that would live in New York forever, noting that these interviews were sometimes up to two hours long, and naturally flowing to ensure an organic mode of storytelling.
Kidd added that due to the uprising occurring at the height of the AIDS pandemic, there were “some stories that you just didn’t get to hear about in the documentary. What’s not really explored is that there were a lot of NYU students, NYU faculty members, NYU staff, people who just got sick and died. I’m talking about kids that were the same age as you guys. We were young and we were on the edge of maturity and a new life.”
“The AIDS crisis is not over yet,” Kidd stated. “ I want to pay tribute to those community members that didn’t get to tell their stories or be part of this.”
Students from NYU Shanghai continued the conversation by asking if there was a way to promote more diversity on campus around these issues, and how the documentary might play a part in opening discussions.
“The right and important thing to do is to really be intentional. Having a voice for trans people of color and really trying to let people know that this is a home and place of safety for certain students that belong to a sort of Venn diagram of constituency,” replied Kidd.
Students from NYU Washington, DC requested that the panel discuss any anecdotes regarding the global impact of Stonewall to which Jay discussed the approaching World Pride celebration to be hosted by New York City this coming June where people from 80 countries will come together to march in solidarity.
Stonewall’s message is still spreading,” added Elisa. “What it is keeps changing over time as more people embrace it.”
Kidd spoke on the importance of symbols and code, “You say Stonewall in places where you can’t say queer, it’s a codified word, like Gilbert’s rainbow banner. All around the world, it’s a welcome mat. The word Stonewall is similar.”
Sydney’s Global Equity fellow, Dimitri Pun closed out the Q&A by asking about the evolution of the LGBTQ community, especially with people of color, looking for insights on how the creators tried to highlight what he called ‘ hidden people’, most notably enquiring what steps were taken to give queer people of color a voice.
“We needed to have current students or else it would be worthless, or it wouldn’t be connected to who we are now,” replied Guarino.
“The thing you see in the documentary is how the story starts out to be very white… It might be considered to be male-centric. And then it changes. As you get to where we are right now, suddenly it’s not so white and we’re really talking about trans issues because that’s the representation.It starts to look a lot more diverse,” Kidd added. “We didn’t have to look for intentionality.”
The event showcased not only the hard work and success of the Stonewall at 50 committee and documentary producers but also the opportunities for collaboration at NYU. As students and representatives of the University, capitalising on any event to connect sites when programming have significance beyond borders enables us to broaden discourse and share experiences in innovative and meaningful ways.