Fred Phelps passed away a week ago, as I was compiling different texts and images revolving around Gage Park. Of course, his presence in Topeka is different than it could be anywhere else, as people around the world saw him as that other. In fact, as he was in hospice, the facebook messages posted by Topekans went furious, ranging from threats to picket his funeral, to pleas to just leave it all alone--that he was a speck in the true LGBT work being done.
I have to say, he loved the attention he received, and he drew in my fascination with how people are drawn to cults, how abuse in families becomes a norm. I worked with one of the members at McDonald's back in the early 90's--when he had been picketing for about a year then. I learned a lot from her.
These things are what I want to examine in my project. Gage Park is the center of so much social change. Constance Sawyer wrote about being black in the 1950's, visiting the pool, and being arrested for being black. The police lied to her, saying Mrs. Gage requested the pool be all-white, but there wasn't a pool at the time.
Anyway, I am still researching the details, including the strange incident around Seth Kimble, a meteorologist who worked for WIBW and was caught in Gage Park with another man. He was arrested, fired, and then murdered by his wife. None of this can be found on the internet, as it did happen circa 1979-81.
My strategy will be to concentrate on LGBT things, including the Million Fag March, which I will be attending this year to complete my project.
Also, appropriation of different texts and voices. I want to use images to serve as maps--maps of the park, maps of speakers.
Topeka has always seemed like a crux of American things, where all of the social debates find a center in the center.