History in your hands...  fabulousness at your feet

I love that you’re here to learn the story behind the stories!

The idea for this project was born out of the empty lot where the Black Nite once stood. In August 2021 Don Schwamb and Michail Takach from the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project organized an event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Black Nite Brawl. I’d interviewed Josie Carter for the Milwaukee Transgender Oral History Project and was invited to speak. Mayor Barrett was invited as well and was astonished that though he’d lived in Milwaukee all his life and went by this lot nearly every day, he had no idea of its historical significance. Few people did. And there was nothing to mark the spot but little plastic flags Don and Michail had used to outline the location.

The Black Nite’s invisibility wasn’t unique. Much of LGBTQ+ history has been erased from the physical world and left out of history books. But a committed community of historians have diligently been reclaiming and recording our history. We needed a way to share their work. Needed a way to show we’re here and always have been. Needed a way to show the spaces we claimed, the lives we led, the love we spread through this city we call home. We needed history in the palm of your hand.

The idea and the name seemed to come at the same time. “lgbt milWALKee,” a walking tour app telling the history of local LGBTQ+ people, organizations and events through physical sites mapped into virtual walking tours. I began sharing the idea and was met with immediate enthusiasm. This was just what our city needed!

Now I just needed to create a mobile app and raise the money to do so. Just. Silly me.

The reason you are reading this right now is because I was smart enough to enlist the help of some amazing people. michael munson and Loree Cook-Daniels from FORGE, Joseph Brooks from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and the members of our app dream team. Michail Takach was one of the first I shared this idea with. He immediately came on board and brought with him vast encyclopedic knowledge of Milwaukee LGBTQ+ history. Aimee Gironimi was the perfect person to give voice to our history, as I’m sure you’ve heard. I’d watched Aimee put everything she had into her dream of becoming a professional voiceover actor and cheered her well-earned success. Ashley Altadonna and I go way back as trans activists. Her reputation as a filmmaker, musician and artist preceded her. It was kismet that she wanted to launch into commercial production work as I was yearning to give this project her creative vision. Robert McCarthy was the only team member I didn’t know beforehand. I found him through his involvement with the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and he immediately felt like an old friend. Robert and his team at Accurate Digital Solutions executed brilliantly and came through in the clutch.

These highly talented members of our community not only made my idea a reality, they made it better than I ever could have imagined. Just as we as a community and a city are better than we are as individuals.

The reason you can download the app for free is thanks to the generosity of donors who value our history and treasure our community. Because of them, anyone anywhere can learn our rich LGBTQ+ history, told in our unique Milwaukee way. If you’d like to help us share more history through lgbt milWALKee, please click the donate button. And please support the businesses who are supporting us. They are true leaders in LGBTQ+ equity.

This is our gift to you: History in your hands… fabulousness at your feet.  -Brice  lgbtmilWALKee@gmail.com. (June 2022)