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Upcoming KC Rainbow Tour aims to preserve rich KC LGBTQ history

KC Rainbow Tour to highlight LGBTQ history
Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-07 10:28:21-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This summer, a new self-guided tour will be launched in honor of Kansas City’s rich LGBTQ history.

Joel Barrett has been working on the KC Rainbow Tour over the past year, which will highlight the city's rich LGBTQ history he's uncovered dating back to before Stonewall.

Barrett hopes the project will launch by June 3.

"I often tell people that essentially what was then known as the gay rights movement, back in the early 60s, was conceived here in Kansas City," he said.

Barrett moved to Kansas City in 2016 and met Stuart Hinds, curator of special collections and archives at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Hinds helps oversee the University's Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America and introduced Barrett to documents, photos and clippings used in the KC Rainbow Tour.

"A lot of the activism that happened before Stonewall would not have been as successful without the efforts of Kansas City," Hinds said.

Barrett will narrate the tour, and it will also incorporate important KC LGBTQ voices like Melinda Ryder, a legendary drag queen who has been entertaining for nearly 50 years.

"When I got into town, which was like '76, I had to beg to do a show at the cabaret, which was downtown at the time at 10th and Oak," Ryder said. "I mean, it's just important to know that we're not lost in the mix here and we really have done a lot for gay history, even across the country."

KC Rainbow Tour is funded through the Charlotte Street Foundation. Barrett estimates it takes about an hour to complete with no stops.

"We need to keep those stories alive for the coming generations because even people in my generation that are from here [are] oftentimes unaware of the history," Barrett said.