Cristina Peña shares her story about living with HIV now through StoryCorps.

For the next three years, StoryCorps OutLoud will be "dedicated to recording and preserving the experiences of the LGBTQ community". To do this OutLoud Manager Andrew Wallace will be working to bring OutLoud, " to cities and towns across the country and start conversations about the many stories that make up the LGBTQ community." In the interview below, Wallace talks to Visual AIDS about the role of stories, the need to have an LGBTQ platform, and how HIV/AIDS fits into all of this.

Visual AIDS: StoryCorps is rooted in the power of stories. What can stories do to impact social change?
Andrew Wallace: StoryCorps’ mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share and preserve their story. Our weekly broadcasts on National Public Radio - as well as our animations and books - seek to amplify meaningful stories of everyday people to audiences around the country. Our broadcasts invite listeners to take a moment and listen closely to someone’s story.

But we are equally committed to the power of listening as an affirmative path towards social change. Each StoryCorps interview is a sacred interaction between two people who for forty minutes speak about what matters most to them. We strive to create a space where participants’ voices matter. In the process we are creating an invaluable archive of voices to be preserved for posterity at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

VA: Why is it important for StoryCorps to have an LGBTQ platform?
AW: StoryCorps has a standing commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. Since our founding in 2003 we’ve recorded over 50,000 interviews and have partnered with LGBTQ organizations across the country. StoryCorps OutLoud is taking that work further. We will renew our commitment to outreach across the LGBTQ community and share some of the stories we collect through new content that will be seen and heard by millions of listeners.

This is a historic moment for LGBTQ communities in the US. On the 45th anniversary of Stonewall and in the wake of recent legislative victories on the state and federal level I believe there is a profound need to listen to the many voices and experiences that make up our community, honor those who have come before, and celebrate our collective gains. OutLoud is interested in making room for the rich diversity of stories and experiences that make up our community today, and in the process we will create an invaluable archive of stories from this moment.

VA: Do other communities have platforms such as OutLoud?
AW: StoryCorps OutLoud is just the latest in a long line of programs and initiatives that focus on specific communities and populations. Our Military Voices Initiative records and preserves the stories of military veterans, service members, and their families. StoryCorps Historias in an initiative to collect the stories of Latino/as in the United States and StoryCorps Legacy provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories. These are just a few examples of communities to which we do focused outreach. All of our initiatives and programs are listed on our website.

VA: HIV/AIDS is an important part of the LGBTQ experience, yet it is not something that impacts only LGBTQ people. How will OutLoud deal with issues such as HIV which defy single categorization?
AW: HIV/AIDS is an issue that touches many lives - both those who identify as LGBTQ and those who do not - and it is important that we recognize that reality. While we are committed to documenting the profound and lasting effect of the HIV/AIDS crisis on the history of LGBTQ activism and organizing, this is not the sole focus of OutLoud program. Each StoryCorps participant is encouraged to use their time in front of the microphone to speak about whatever they like. In a moving story broadcast in 2010 Stefan Lynch Strassfeld recalls how HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s transformed his family. And in another recent broadcast Cristina Peña reflects on living with HIV today. These are just two of the stories we’ve broadcast that add perspective to how HIV/AIDS affects our lives, and the archive includes many more.

VA: How can members of LGBTQ communities share their stories?
AW: We encourage anyone to book an appointment at one of our active recording locations around the country. You can learn more about how to book an appointment on our website. If you are not able to record with us in person, check out our Do-It-Yourself Guide and consider posting your story to the Wall of Listening.

Learn more about OutLoud from the StoryCorps website.
Hear more StoryCorps stories about HIV/AIDS by clicking
here.