Story and Video by Lawson Martin. Photos provided by Badge of Pride.
Dallas Doing Good has had the privilege of partnering with the Communities Foundation of Texas for North Texas Giving Day over the past few years, but this year, we are doing it Texas BIG. It is the 15th anniversary of the largest community giving event in the nation, so we have selected 15 organizations to highlight leading up to Giving Day on September 21. Early giving kicked off on September 1.
A new Dallas nonprofit is collecting and activating artifacts from LGBTQ+ history to inform, enrich, and engage the power of the contemporary Queer experience.
Badge of Pride recently became a 501(c)(3) organization in April 2023. Founder Adrian Cardwell loves history and began collecting LGBTQ+ artifacts independently before starting the nonprofit. He says with the recent anti-transgender bills happening across the South and listening to rhetoric many people were using in school board meetings across Texas and Florida, he was inspired to educate the public about Queer history and push for activism.
Badge of Pride has more than 10,000 LGBTQ+ artifacts spanning throughout Queer history in its collection, including the pre-Stonewall era, the Gay Liberation movement spanning the late 60s through the mid-80s, the AIDS crisis of the 80s and 90s, and the legal recognition of Marriage Equality in the United States in 2015.
Badge of Bridge collects LGBTQ+ artifacts from activists and collectors from all around the globe. Adrian is part of a group called the American Political Items Collectors, which has been a key source. There’s a wide variety of artifacts in this group ranging from major historical artifacts in private collections to artifacts found in people’s junk drawers that they may have yet to learn about.
“I put the word out that I’m on the hunt for these items and share what we want to do with them,” Adrian says. “So that has been a perfect catalyst. It feels like there’s a never-ending stream of material showing up, because people want these stories to be told.”
Once Adrian collects the artifacts he’s looking for, he works to build programming around it. Badge of Pride is currently working with a major museum in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for an exhibit that will start during Pride Month in 2025. The exhibit is planned to run through LGBTQ History Month in October.
Badge of Pride is also planning to host a series of Queer history popup events throughout the DFW Metroplex. Adrian says it’s essential for the nonprofit to test its message for various audiences.
“When you consider the fragmentation of Queer history, we want to make sure more people see themselves represented in these exhibits,” Adrian says. “Badge of Pride wants to tell a more inclusive story. So the popups events we’ll do throughout DFW will let us test that and ensure folks feel seen.”
Once Badge of Pride receives funding to allow their exhibition to become a traveling exhibit, Adrian wants to take the exhibition to smaller communities where they may not have access to LGBTQ+ history. He noted places like Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco already have major Queer archives. Instead, he’d like to see these popups in places like Amarillo, Lubbock, and Wichita, Kansas.
“We’ll work with local organizations to pull in their piece of the story as well so that locally they’re seeing themselves in the arc of Queer history, not just stories coming from the coasts,” Adrian says.
Additionally, Badge of Pride wants to encourage others to become activists. Adrian has many artifacts from around 1977 and 1978, the height of Anita Bryant’s anti-LGBT crusade against local protective ordinances. He says this was a critical time when the Gay community recognized they were being explicitly targeted and wanted to find ways to stand up to the discrimination, so they created buttons and badges to wear as punctuation marks to their protests.
“The community came up with a series of sassy slogans and good branding, which kickstarted our collective advocacy as a community in a big way,” Adrian says.
Badge of Pride is currently working to secure funding to have a cohort of young, diverse people learn the fundamentals of activism and then translate that into works of art as protest. For example, Badge of Pride could inspire people to create a protest poster about whatever they’re passionate about and help them develop their own slogan for their activism, just as individuals did back in the 70s.
“We want all of our programs to have a social impact so that we’re not just teaching history. We’re helping become a catalyst for social progress and change,” Adrian says. “We don’t just want to tell stories of Queer history. We want to, more importantly, inspire action today given the environment we’re facing, not just in Texas, but around the country.”
Badge of Pride has given Adrian a platform to make a difference in communities and reach people who may not have previously had the opportunity to learn about LGBTQ+ history and activism.
“What I’m so excited about, and I’m probably going to break down and start sobbing once it happens, is when a young person comes to an exhibit and sees themself represented and is then inspired to build connection within their community and take the collective boldness of the historical Queer movement with them,” Adrian says.
Adrian hopes that person realizes they’re not alone and that they’re part of a much larger community.
“I hope they say, ‘I’m proud of my community, and now I want to go out and stand up for myself and my siblings in the Queer community,” Adrian says.
Adrian says he’s incredibly grateful to work with other Queer organizations in the DFW community as Badge of Pride continues to grow.
Badge of Pride will be participating in its first North Texas Giving Day this year, so anyone interested in helping to fund their movement should look up Badge of Pride under participating nonprofits on North Texas Giving Day’s website.