The city of Dallas made history this month as the first Texas city to get state recognition for its LGBTQ neighborhood. An official historical marker was installed in front of JR’s Bar & Grill in Oak Lawn.
Evilu Pridgeon is the president of The Dallas Way, a nonprofit that works to preserve LGBTQ history in Dallas and requested the recognition. Pridgeon joined KERA to talk about the signficance of the marker.
Why Oak Lawn was chosen
Oak Lawn has traditionally been the area of Dallas where gays and lesbians and LGBTQ communities have gathered. And Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street, that's The Crossroads, where social activities and political, medical and health issues all started there.
On the hope for this historical marker
I want generations in the future to look at it and know that a community existed, that we came together, we loved each other, we fought hard. And we asked for things, we got things we needed, we healed, and we fought amongst ourselves. And the men and women joined together rather than apart and we made a difference in the world.
How Oak Lawn become the LGBTQ center of Dallas
Well, it started with a bar. And people wonder why many people in the LGBTQ community go to bars. Well, that's the one place where you can go and be gay and not be judged for that, and so that was sort of the reason for the bars. They began to crop up, particularly along Cedar Springs, but elsewhere in Oak Lawn.
Then a shop opened and then a record store opened and then a restaurant opened. And suddenly this whole community came together and it was all gay-related. I mean, certainly straight people could go there and buy things, but it was more targeted toward the gay and lesbian community.
On living in Dallas during the AIDS crisis
We would see a client one week and the next week he was gone. And I was going to funerals, sometimes two in a day, at least three or four a week. It was horrible; I don't have a word for it. I don't wish for people today to have to go through that again. I would not wish that on anyone.
But at the same time, I think people need to understand that there were police raids, there were beatings, and then because of AIDS, people were dying. People in our community now, younger people, they didn't see that. They weren't part of that. They didn't feel it like people in my generation do, and so I guess my fear is that they'll take it too lightly and they won't protect themselves.
Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.