Safer at Home: Exploring the ONE Archives Collection

Week 14 (July 27, 2020)

Each time I look at this photograph, I wish Pat Rocco had framed the shot differently. While it does capture the “Studio One” awning, it shows very few people, and the picketer’s sign on the far left is almost entirely cut off. There are just enough letters to make out that the last line says “racism.” We know from other sources that this was one of several pickets of Studio One, a very popular gay disco in West Hollywood. The protest was organized by the Gay Community Mobilization Committee in 1975 to demand changes in the exclusionary entry policies of the club—both people of color and women were refused admission or asked for so many forms of ID that it made access almost impossible. These policies were supported by club owner Scott Forbes who defended his exclusionary practices, claiming that they provided “safety” for his patrons by keeping out “the bad element.” The picketers met with Forbes, but it was clear that he had no intention of changing his ways, and so they picketed again. 

At first, I wished that this photograph showed the picket sign more fully, to “better” tell the story. But I have come to appreciate this framing and now think that it tells a particular story. It speaks to the necessity of recognizing what is pushed aside and made invisible by those in positions of power. If something is outside one’s frame (or experience), it does not mean that it does not exist, it just means that you have enough privilege to ignore it without consequence. It is easier for those who feel safe to ignore the precarious position of others or the harm caused to others. For those constantly injured by micro and macro aggressions of racism, there is no “stepping out of the frame.” The injustice is everywhere and always felt.

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