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Exhibits honoring Kansas City’s black queer history are popping up in local stores this week

Beginning Monday, Kansas Citians will be able to see unique art exhibits scattered across three local stores that honor the history and legacy of black LGBTQIA communities in Kansas City.

“Black/Queer Kansas City,” put together by Nasir Montalvo and the Kansas City defenseman, has been in the works since May 2022. After Montalvo wrote a series of articles chronicling key figures in Kansas City’s black queer history, they wanted share the stories in other formats.

The exhibits are memorials inspired by Santeria. Each exhibit pays homage to one of three stories and the lives lost during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s.

The first story is about Edye and Ray: the first documented black drag queens in Kansas City. The second story features “Men of All Colors Together”, a group of men in Kansas City who battled the racism they suffered from other men within the local queer community and started a social club. The latest story in the series is about “Out There,” Kansas City’s first gay and lesbian variety show in the 1990s.

Edye Gregory, lower right, pictured on the cover of the March 1976 issue of the Kansas City Town Squire.

Montalvo said that much history has been lost and can never be recovered due to the AIDS epidemic, including some of the leading figures in the featured stories. They said it is their way of properly greeting the deceased, since many families have not had burials due to the stigma.

A heritage to celebrate

Montalvo’s inspiration to highlight these stories began when they moved to Kansas City from New Jersey over a year ago. They were trying to find out how to get involved in black and queer spaces in the community and couldn’t find anything.

This sparked their curiosity about Kansas City’s LGBTQIA history, and with the help of the UMKC’s Gay and Lesbian Archives of Mid-America, they found some answers.

Montalvo wanted to make sure more people in town knew that queer black Kansas Citians have lived and shaped the community here for a long time. They wanted to celebrate some of the amazing things these groups have done here.

“The Kansas City landscape wouldn’t be what it is today without these people,” Montalvo said.

Where to find the exhibits

The exhibitions will open on February 27 and continue until March 4. Montalvo said this was intentional, to commemorate the close of Black History Month and the start of Women’s History Month.

Each exhibit recognizes the impact of one of these Kansas City stories. They can be found in these shops on Mondays:

  • Café Corazón at the intersection: 110 Southwest Blvd.

  • PH Cafe in Historic Northeast: 2200 Lexington Ave.

  • BLK + BRWN in Westport: 104 1/2 W. 39th St. This exhibit is open March 1-4.

We don’t know what history will be celebrated at each point. Montalvo said they are encouraging visitors to explore each location.

Custom bags and prints created by Oddities Prints and Paul Santiago will also be available at each location. The designs are available for pre-order now.

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