Reverend Goddess Magora Kennedy (Source: Karsten Thormaehlen)
For LGBTQ seniors, coming out was infinitely more difficult than it is today. As a result, many have lost years of not being their authentic selves fully and not being able to love who they choose openly. A new cultural awareness campaign, Not Another Second, acknowledges and celebrates the sacrifice, bravery and contribution of LGBTQ elders while sharing wisdom with future generations not to lose another second.
A collaboration between the nonprofit SAGE, Watermark Retirement Communities and one of its newest properties,The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights, Not Another Second offers audiences a candid glimpse into the private and public lives of 12 LGBTQ elders who represent a wide range of diverse backgrounds, professions and ethnicities. These include a former politician, military veterans, a Stonewall survivor and Black Panther.
These stories are told through a series of compelling portraits that intersect personal experiences of living when being an LGBTQ individual was a crime. The exhibition, shot by noted German photographer Karsten Thormaehlen, known for his award-winning series 'Happy at 100' focusing on centenarians from around the world, also celebrates their personal journeys on deciding to live openly, as well as finding love and companionship. Each portrait is accompanied by the number of years lost living in the closet and not as their true, authentic self.
"In the 80s and 90s, everybody was scared to death to come out. They didn't know who to trust," said Richard Prescott, who is featured in the Not Another Second exhibition alongside his husband. "I think I lost a lot of years not being myself. That's why this campaign is so important. Not only do we get to share our stories but give courage to younger generations who are still scared of being their authentic self."
Mark Gustafson, one of the participants of Not Another Second. (Source:Karsten Thormaehlen)
Curated and installed by nAscent Art, the exhibition features state-of-the-art Augmented Reality (AR) technology through Kaleida Studio. "AR allows patrons to experience the emotionally-driven stories of each LGBTQ senior in a new, interactive way, adding a whole new dimension to the already moving photography," said Jennifer Wallace, co-founder of nAscent Art.
Not Another Second will make its national exhibition debut in the art gallery of Watermark's newest Élan Collection community, The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights at 21 Clark Street in Brooklyn, in January 2021.
Through the AR technology, visitors will be able to experience candid, one-on-one interviews with the 12 LGBTQ elders as they tell their stories of integrity, resilience and humanity while paving a better way for future generations. These stories come from the individuals who were a part of the generation that led the Stonewall uprising, founded political group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and helped end the US military policy commonly referred to as "don't ask, don't tell."
The portraits will also be displayed on notanothersecond.com and in a printed, hard-cover book, which includes more than 100 photos of the featured LGBTQ seniors and expands on their individual stories. The interactive website will also feature a short documentary and invite young people to submit questions and receive advice from LGBTQ elders through an "Ask A Senior" program. All funds raised by the Not Another Second campaign and book will be donated to help support LGBTQ young people.
The exhibition by SAGE and Watermark Retirement Communities was designed to acknowledge the hardships, contributions and ongoing challenges of three million LGBTQ elders currently living in the United States and advocate for a more accepting future. It was inspired by Watermark's commitment to be the first nationwide senior living management company to obtain the SAGECare platinum accreditation (the highest SAGE training accreditation standard) for their 60+ retirement communities coast to coast. The accreditation signals the comprehensive LGBTQ competency training Watermark has undertaken to recognize and meet the needs of this segment of the aging population and provide living and working environments that are knowledgeable, inclusive and free of discrimination.
"Through national SAGECare platinum accreditation, we illustrate our commitment to diversity and inclusion of all individuals and groups, including the LGBTQ community," said David Barnes, president and CEO of Watermark Retirement Communities. "To this day, this group of individuals continues to face challenges that need to be acknowledged. The Not Another Second exhibition reminds us that we can't take our rights for granted and must continue working toward a more accepting future for everyone."
"Not Another Second is a beautiful example of Watermark's commitment to honor the lives and histories of LGBT elders who refuse to be invisible. For decades, LGBTQ elders have proven what it means to be resilient and live vibrant and full lives, even in the face of discrimination," said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE. "Too often, the achievements of LGBTQ pioneers are pushed aside or hidden back in the closet as they get older. SAGE is proud to work with Watermark to make sure LGBT elder voices are brought out of the shadows and widely celebrated by showcasing passionate activists who have been fighting since Stonewall, the significant impact they have had in our movement, and the spirit that inspires us to continue striving toward progress for all LGBT people."
Free public and socially distanced viewings of the Not Another Second exhibit at The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights will take place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from January 19th through March 2021. Viewings of the Brooklyn exhibition of Not Another Second are by appointment only. A virtual presentation of the exhibit will also be live soon via the same link. Following its Brooklyn debut, the Not Another Second exhibit will tour the country throughout 2021, with stops in Élan Collection art galleries in Los Angeles; Napa, California; and Tucson, Arizona. To make an appointment, visit notanothersecond.com.
Not Another Second is the inaugural campaign in the physical and digital Watermark Cultural Series, a new program of public art gallery exhibits and cultural events that will be hosted at Watermark communities nationwide.