In the late 1970s, Bootsie Abelson, Kay Crutcher, Ron Joullian, and Rick Adams met at Bootsie’s Bohemian Store & Deli on Highland Avenue in Birmingham, AL. They talked about the issues they faced as gays and lesbians and how they might go about providing resources and community for the gay and lesbian people in the Birmingham area. From this, Lambda, Inc began on June 17, 1977 as a community organization aiming to promote a sense of community, promote the general welfare of the gay and lesbian community, and create a dialogue with the heterosexual community about gay stereotypes.
By 1980, Lambda had a physical space wherein educational and social events regularly occurred. The center was home to the earliest gay hotline wherein callers could call to learn about local resources, upcoming events, or just ask questions about LGBTQ issues. In 1979, Lambda organized the first gay pride parade in Alabama in Birmingham.
The Lambda Newsletter was a monthly newsletter released by the center. This newsletter would eventually become the Alabama Forum, the state’s longest running LGBTQ newspaper.
Lambda also hosted the 9th Annual Southeastern Conference for Lesbians and Gay Men in Birmingham in 1984.
Several organizers of Lambda would eventually become the founders of Birmingham AIDS Outreach in May 1985 when Lambda, INC chose to focus its energies more on political organizing and BAO focused on health and AIDS services.
Lambda worked closely with the Jefferson County Health Department, especially Dr. Ginny Schecter, and Betty Moss from Cooper Green, a county general hospital, to form the AIDS Task Force of Alabama.
Juanita Eskew talks about how she got involved with Lambda, Inc. Juanita was the president of Lambda during this time in 1988.
Credit: Bob Huff
This video clip was taken in Rushton Park in 1988 during an HIV/AIDS demonstration led by members of Lambda, Inc. This clip contains an interview with Ronnie, a gay man from Alabama, about the AIDS crisis and political organizing.
Credit: Bob Huff
The work of the Invisible Histories Project is made possible by our amazing partners, our financial supporters, and individuals like you. Special thanks go out to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their continued support for the preservation of LGBTQ Deep South history and this project and AIDS Alabama for being the home of the IHP office in Birmingham.