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    In Memoriam

    Lenn Keller, Founder of the Bay Area Lesbian Archives
    1951–2020

    Len Keller

    Curator, photographer, and filmmaker Lenn Keller, who founded the Bay Area Lesbian Archives (BALA) in 2014, has died of cancer. In creating BALA, she “recognized the critical need for Bay Area lesbian history to be preserved,” according to her team at the nonprofit: Rebecca Silverstein, Sharon Davenport, and Nancy Rupprecht.

    “Lenn’s vision was a physical and online archives dedicated to the preservation of the richly diverse lesbian history of the Bay Area—an archives where anyone could access materials about a community that contributed so much to the Bay Area,” they added.

    Sharing this vision, the core group of women with Keller helped to make the Oakland-based archives a reality.

    Keller, who was born and raised in Illinois, moved to San Francisco in 1975. She later attended Mills College in Oakland in the 1980s and began filmmaking. Her films include the award-winning short LFE and the groundbreaking documentary Persistent Desire about lesbian identity and culture.

    The grassroots, community-run BALA, with its remarkable archive, is a fitting legacy to Keller’s life and work. The nonprofit is committed to building community, fostering intergenerational dialogue, and keeping a culture of activism vibrant in the lesbian community. BALA’s many offerings over the years have included an author series, a variety of cultural events, archiving workshops, presentations to community organizations, mobile exhibits, oral history interviews, and community meetings.

    Keller’s photography recently was shown in exhibits at the Oakland Museum and the Richmond Art Center. “As a photographer she chronicled vital lesbian and activist communities, especially those that included Black, Indigenous and people of color lesbians in the Bay Area in the 1980s and ’90s,” said curator Christina Linden. “Beyond this important work, she was a passionate member of these communities, an activist, and an archivist.”

    Keller, who received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal award from SF Pride, was also honored by LGBTQ and civil rights activist Alex U. Inn during Kwanzaa. U. Inn at that time wrote, in part: “It’s gratifying that Lenn is being recognized for the work she’s done—over forty years of volunteering in LGBTQ organizations on speakers’ bureaus, facilitating support groups, doing HIV prevention and harm reduction work, documenting the Pride parades and LGBTQ life in her films and thousands of photos, producing lesbian and lesbian of color events, and founding BALA in 2014.”

    Keller is survived by her daughter, Nakiya. An online memorial will be held on January 31. Details will be announced soon at the BALA Facebook page, https://tinyurl.com/y29skdj9

    BALA is planning a slide show containing photographs of Keller. If you would like to share a favorite photograph of Keller for the slide show, please send it as a jpeg to balezarchives@gmail.com

    To make a donation to BALA in Keller’s honor: https://www.bayarealesbianarchives.org/

    Jorge Sánchez, Ethnographer, AGUILAS Volunteer, Cause Collective Co-Founder
    1970–2020

    Jorge Sanchez

    Ethnographer Jorge Sánchez, who dedicated much of his life and work to the LGBTQ Latinx community, died in December. Dr. Eduardo Morales, Director of AGUILAS: El Ambiente, at that time wrote: “It is with the greatest sadness, shock, and surprise when we receive the information that our dear friend, colleague, and AGUILAS team [member] Jorge Sánchez, M.A., has passed away. The cause of death is currently unknown.”

    Sánchez, who was born in Bogotá, Colombia, attended the American School in London before moving to California. Since his father, Jorge Fernando Sánchez Mallarino, was a diplomat, the family was widely traveled, spending time in places such as Amsterdam and Africa.

    Sánchez ventured to New York to attend Hunter College, but finished his degree in anthropology at UC Berkeley. The Bay Area as of the 1990s then became his home.

    According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Sánchez “investigated LGBTQ wellbeing with the Cesar Chavez Institute and the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University, and created an HIV prevention organization in Cartagena, Colombia, later adopted by the local health department. As part of his lead role in the Family Acceptance Project, he worked with ethnically, racially and religiously diverse families to help them learn to support their LGBTQ children.”

    Sánchez also co-founded the public art group Cause Collective, the Chronicle reported, and helped to create the Truth Booth, “a giant traveling inflatable video recording booth asking people in cities across the world to finish the sentence, ‘The truth is … .'”

    Sánchez is survived by his partner José “Miguel” Vázquez, his mother who lives in Colombia, and siblings. As Morales concluded, “We at AGUILAS offer our greatest and deepest condolences to his family and friends, and to his longtime companion. As everyone knows, Jorge has contributed a lot to our community over decades of service. He was a highly valued worker at AGUILAS. His most recent written contribution was the Latinx 2020 Report to End the HIV/HCV/SDI Epidemic for the San Francisco Office of AIDS to incorporate the findings into its overall HIV 2020 Plan. He will be sorely missed.”

    Published on January 14, 2021