Distant Voices

The upcoming ABC-TV miniseries “When We Rise” will introduce a new generation to the turbulent early years of the LGBT movement. For those of us who are now charmingly referred to as “gay elders,” the series is sure to spark a flood of memories of a remarkable era, when we faced almost insurmountable obstacles to social and political equality.

I don’t know if a TV program can really convey the depth of emotion we felt when Harvey Milk was senselessly and brutally murdered. Or the rage that swept over us when his killer was released after less than five years behind bars. Or the fear that gripped the community as the body count from AIDS doubled every six months while the federal government treated it like a joke.

Voices of a generation: the gay radio collective at KPFK Los Angeles, led by executive producer Greg Gordon, middle right.

As a member of the gay radio collective at KPFK in Southern California in the early 1980s, I had a front row seat to some of the most important events in the history of the LGBT community. And I met men and women who changed my life, including Bobbi Campbell, the AIDS activist featured in episode 2 of “When We Rise.” Sadly, many of these movement heroes have passed and few are remembered with the respect they deserve today.

I hope that the series does justice to the LGBT movement and that it celebrates the extraordinary work of the many brave and visionary people who kept the movement going in dark and dangerous times.

If you want to get a sense of the issues confronting the LGBT community in those days, listen to a one-hour year-in-review newscast produced by the gay radio collective at KPFK in June 1982 for the station’s annual Lesbian/Gay Day.

This program has been preserved thanks to the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California.

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