Series Blog

Help Tell the Ongoing Story of the Gay Rights Movement

I am thrilled to join the WGBH Lab team and to work with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE to ask you, our audience, to help tell the story about the ongoing fight for gay civil rights.

In anticipation of the April 2011 PBS premiere of the film Stonewall Uprising, a recount of the New York City riots that sparked a gay rights movement forty years ago, the Lab is inviting anyone to send in a 3-minute short film about what they see happening today in the gay rights movement.

That phrase “gay rights movement” covers a lot of stories you hear in the news right now. Congress is debating the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Couples make treks to states that allow same-sex marriage. A string of suicides this summer related to bullying prompted a public outcry. In fact, two celebrities even decided to begin public dialogs about being gay. Dan Savage’s recent It Gets Better video campaign encourages gay youth who endure bullying to resist thoughts of suicide; and Cyndi Lauper’s Give a Damn website is full of personal stories about things like being gay and homeless or concealing an identity while serving in the military.

Seeing Savage’s and Lauper’s devotion to raising awareness about the unequal treatment of gay people, and the outpouring of stories they received from around the country, helped us decide how to shape the Lab’s open call for this project. We were thinking about how to make what happened at Stonewall feel relevant to the college kids of today. Then we saw those testimonies and we recognized that same kind of fierce courage that protesters had displayed when they faced police at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. We decided to ask: Show us where Stonewall is today.

Those new online campaigns are great examples of a kind of online storytelling called “crowdsourcing.” That is, they combine individual accounts from many perspectives into a comprehensive view about what it’s like to be gay in the U.S. today. There are so many parts to the story about gay civil rights that need to be included, and new social media technology allows us to collect and share all of them.That’s why we’ve decided to ask for your videos now.


Since 2003 it has been the Lab’s mission to bring new voices into public media. They have worked with all kinds of filmmakers and media makers of every age to create compelling stories that can go on to station broadcast and even win awards. Our hope is that crowdsourcing this open call draws in more talented media makers who feel impassioned by the story we are telling, and that the prizes offered by AMERICAN EXPERIENCE inspire every hopeful entrant to give us their best work.

Check out our open call and look through the resources we offer on making good video. We look forward to seeing what you add to the story of what’s happing in the gay rights movement in the 21st century.

Annie ShrefflerAnnie Shreffler is the social media editor in the WGBH Lab and the author of "Crowdsourcing: A Field Guide from WNYC."