1980s

A white rectangular poster depicts a message handwritten by a Gallaudet student during the “Deaf President Now” protests. “To Board of Trustees” is written at the top of the poster followed by an image of a coiled red snake. Below the snake is a statement in capital letters that reads “Don’t tread on Gallaudet we want a deaf presidents now and demand four things. Deaf never give up.”

Bet on Gallaudet

Against the backdrop of the city, Gallaudet University students, faculty, and alumni transformed their campus protest into a national fight for civil rights, refusing to accept anything less than a “Deaf President Now.” 

A Christmas Benefit at the Height of an Epidemic

The Whitman-Walker Clinic's Original Location. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In December of 1986, parents were rushing to the stores to snatch a Cabbage Patch Kid, G.I. Joe or Teddy Ruxpin off the shelf before they were all gone. That same month, the generosity of a local benefactor was a touching reminder of what the holiday season is really about. On Dec. 21, 1986, Robert Alfandre welcomed 30 people infected with AIDS into his home in northwest Washington for a Christmas party.

Remembering Kit Kamien

Kit Kamien at the recording studio (Source: Kit Kamien and the Backroom Players)

“I personally want to try and change the stereotype of what somebody in a wheelchair is like… I want to be judged not on my disabilities but on my abilities. I think people get frightened by the wheelchair… It’s a powerful visual symbol, but it’s not a symbol of defeat. It’s a tool I use to help me accomplish my goals. Just by climbing into the wheelchair, I don’t have to surrender my sexuality, my sensuality, my good sense of humor, or anything," said Kit Kamien, a Bethesda musician who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 26, to The Washington Post in 1987.

The Birchmere Gets Its Start

Exterior of the original Birchmere location

Gary Oelze purchased a Shirlington restaurant called the Birchmere in the mid 1960s. At the time, he wasn't planning to get into the music business. But soon, the Birchmere became a hub for bluegrass music in the nation's capital. Today, it is an internationally renowned music hall that draws fans of every musical genre. 

End of an Era: The Evening Star Fades in Washington

“There is a great silence today in Washington. A fine newspaper is gone and a noble tradition ended.”

Ronald Reagan’s words appeared on the front page of the August 7, 1981, issue of the Washington Evening Star. The biggest piece of news that day was the end of a 128-year-old Washington institution—the story of the newspaper’s own demise.

Fighting for D.C.'s Homeless: Mitch Snyder and CCNV

Homeless Advocate Mitch Snyder, Actor Martin Sheen, Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, January 1987 (Source: Boston Mayor's Office, via Wikipedia)

“Anyone who thinks anyone is on the streets by choice is saying that out of a bed; a warm, comfortable home with a roof over their heads, money in their pocket and food in their stomachs.” - Mitch Snyder

Faced with a growing homeless crisis, the Reagan administration made a surprising policy decision in 1983.  Vacant federal buildings became available to “local governments and charitable organizations” for use as emergency shelters at a “cost basis.”  The properties included thousands of HUD and Department of Defense owned structures across the country, and one particularly notable building in the shadow of the United States Capitol. But while the new policy seemed to be a step forward, Mitch Snyder's fight for D.C.'s homeless was just beginning.

Washington Confronts the AIDS Crisis

March participants view the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall on October 11, 1987. (Photograph courtesy of The NAMES Project.)

On October 11, 1987, Washingtonians woke up to an elaborate quilt blanketing the National Mall, with 1,920 panels stitching together the memory of thousands of individuals who had succumbed to the AIDS epidemic in America. The AIDS Memorial Quilt helped push the disease into mainstream America's consciousness. But for Washington's gay community, the battle against AIDS had been raging for almost a decade.

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