Launched on World AIDS Awareness Day, December 1, 2015, THE LAVENDER EFFECT’S Oral History Project features the dramatic and poignant story of West Hollywood’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in its early days. Through in-depth interviews an important chapter of community history is being preserved and made available online for current residents, LGBTQ youth, and the broader public. Educational materials (standards-aligned) will are being developed to support use by public and private educators at middle and high schools, student organizations, and families.
Team Lavender is producing several high quality interviews with individuals who played a key role in West Hollywood’s battle against HIV/AIDS from 1984 to the present day. During the outbreak of AIDS in the 1980s, diagnosis was a likely death sentence with the average life expectancy nine months. The general public viewed AIDS as a gay-related disease. As a result, the turmoil of loss and survival became integral to the identity of West Hollywood, a city created to be an oasis for the gay community. Those who survived this catastrophic epidemic hold a fragile cultural memory that is being properly documented.
This unique Oral History Project does not only serve to illuminate the horrors of the AIDS epidemic, it provides inspiration and strength for those in the LGBTQ community who are facing hardships today. By acknowledging this history, we hope it will not be repeated. Young City at War: Stories from West Hollywood during the AIDS Epidemic is reaching the LGBTQ community and its allies. Through TLEs online presence and its Educational Supplement for California’s FAIR Education Act, these stories encourage LGBTQ youth and allies to think critically about the relationship between the past and the present. They showcase the strength and empathy historically found in West Hollywood.