BALA was founded in 2014 by curator, photographer and filmmaker Lenn Keller, who recognized the critical need for Bay Area lesbian history to be preserved. 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 and California. A core group of women who shared Lenn Keller’s vision came together to help make the archives a reality.
BALA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We are a grassroots, community-run archives. We are committed to building community, fostering intergenerational dialogue and keeping a culture of activism vibrant in the lesbian community.
We host cultural events that highlight lesbian and women's history, including author readings, archiving workshops and community meetings. We train young volunteers to interview lesbian elders to preserve their stories. We are the fiscal sponsor for Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective.
WHY A LESBIAN ARCHIVE?
Lesbians are and have long been society’s most renegade women. For this reason, regardless of the culture, lesbian history has often been buried and erased. Though it’s likely that lesbians have always existed, because of this erasure, it’s difficult to prove. These omissions distort our collective understanding of the past.
The Bay Area has long been home to one of the largest and most diverse lesbian communities in the world, rich in visionary activism, art and culture. Our current focus is on collecting the memorabilia and oral histories of lesbians who were visible and active during the 1970s
and 1980s. Lesbians were leaders in the fight for women’s liberation. They broke barriers to make it possible for women to see themselves as more than society’s limited ideas of what they could be.
Today there is little trace of the culture and communities that Bay Area lesbians created during those decades. Those trailblazers are now aging, dying, downsizing and leaving the Bay Area. We are now at a critical moment, as two decades of this history are at risk of being lost forever if that history is not soon captured.
BALA is uniquely positioned, geographically and through community ties, to capture this rich history. We think that to lose this legacy would be a tragedy -- that Bay Area lesbian history should be an integral part of the historic record and is essential to the accurate documentation of Bay Area, women’s, LGBTQ+ and American history.