Introduction: An Idea is Bornassimo "Max" Consoli has held a memorial service every year at Karl Heinrich Ulrichs' grave since 1988. Paul and Mike wanted to help spread the word about the event. The Memory Book is the result of CELEBRATION 2000, the website-invitation to join Max on the occasion of Ulrichs' 175th jubilee birthday anniversary.
Here is how it all got started...
After living with someone for 28 years, finding a suitable present for that person on a special occasion can often be difficult. Paul's dilemma in 1999 was double.
It was Mike's birthday, and the book, The Homosexuality of Men and Women by Magnus Hirschfeld, which Mike had taken six years to translate, was to hit the bookstores during his birthday week. Since he had been using the same computer for 15 years and had begun to express an interest in the internet, the answer to the predicament became obvious -- a new computer.
The decision to buy a new computer also brought about the series of events leading to this Memory Book 2000: A Festschrift Commemorating the 175th Jubilee Birthday Anniversary of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs.
As anyone who receives a new computer knows, the machine is amazing, and the head becomes dizzy with the power and potential of this new wonder.
As he began to explore the web, Mike off- handedly commented on how many people could be reached with just the push of a few buttons. Unconsciously, that single remark gave birth to an idea that consumed them for the next year.
Since 1978, Paul and Mike had sent out to Gay newspapers and organizations a notice reminding people of Ulrichs' birthday, which, like Michael's, is in August. The mailing was done through U.S. mail and was limited by how much cash they had to spend on the project. They made two flyers to include in the mailing. One was a general flyer and the other a flyer announcing the offerings from Urania Manuscripts. The flyers, printed and distributed in 1977, may have been the first time that Ulrichs' image had been reproduced in 78 years. The most reminders ever sent in any given year was 150 pieces of mail. The budget of course restricted the number of people to be reached.
Before Paul had decided to present Michael with a new computer, the announcement for Ulrichs' 174th birthday in 1999 had been mailed. They had already decided to go to L'Aquila for Ulrichs' 175th jubilee celebration.
More than a decade ago, through one of those annual letters, Paul and Mike struck up a correspondence with Massimo "Max" Consoli from Rome. They informed him of Ulrichs' place of death. It was in 1987 when Max first went to L'Aquila, but he could not find Ulrichs' grave. A second try the next year, and with the help of Nello Grego, the custodian, Max discovered its location. Since then Max has held a celebration every August 28 at the gravesite.
At first he was the only one to attend, but as the years passed and Ulrichs' fame and importance began to grow, the number of people who accompanied Max increased.
Max, who now enjoyed a lively, instantaneous e-mail correspondence with Mike, reported he expected more people than ever to attend in 1999 and that several Italian newspapers were to publish articles concerning the event. And indeed on August 29, 1999, Max wrote Mike in a happy e-mail that 15 people attended making this the largest gathering of people to pay tribute at Ulrichs' grave since his burial. Several newspapers did report the event.
With this news from Max and discovering the wonders of the new computer, Paul was suddenly inspired by Venus Urania (as he likes to say) with a splendid idea.
He had come across an awesome web site about Matthew Hensen, the Afro-American explorer who, along with Admiral Perry, was one of the first persons to reach the North Pole. The story of Perry was well known to Paul but the pictures and story of Hensen and his accomplishments as an Afro-American man were astonishing and completely new.
Celebration 2000: 175 Years of Pride was born the moment Paul looked at the picture of the beautiful face of Hensen in his parka. Mike received a book about making a webpage in a weekend as a belated birthday gift, and they were on their way to learning HTML, the computer language used to make web sites. Creating a web page to honor Ulrichs became a reality.
Because Paul and Mike believe anti-Gay people hate Gay people and work so hard to take their fun away, they decided in turn to take a bite out of homophobia by creating the Ulrichs' web page in the form of an invitation. Paul and Mike would ask everyone to celebrate this great pioneer's life. If people could not go to L'Aquila to join Max, then birthday suggestions could be given so Gay people might celebrate in some other way.
The next task was getting the word out. Mike and Paul each spent at least three hours a day searching the web for people who might be interested in the web page. A form letter was found to be most expedient, and it was personalized whenever possible. Extreme caution was taken about giving the impression of "spamming". Also, for the sake of privacy no email address lists were maintained, unless someone specifically asked to be informed. The invitation was made as personal as possible.
In 1995, on the hundredth year of Ulrichs' death, Paul and Mike wanted to try to get people to write homages for a festschrift in his honor. They did not have the proper resources at that time, so those plans never came to fruition. But it soon occurred to them that they could do it for the 175th celebration and publish an "electronic" memory book/festschrift. This is the result of that idea.
Paul and Mike have included reports on all the events they heard about or took part in. They received "tons of mail", all but about a dozen positive. For fun, they have provided some statistics about that mail and comments that touched their hearts and made this past year a wonderful experience.
Many persons and organizations linked the CELEBRATION 2000 page to theirs, so a links page has been included to serve as a sort of bibliography to the book. Mike and Paul thank all of you for writing, calling and celebrating. If you forgot to tell them about your celebration please send an e-mail at any time; Paul and Mike are always looking to add new things to keep people returning to L'Aquila.
Lastly, Mike and Paul hope they have added to your appreciation of, or perhaps introduced you to, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the man who first stood up publicly to say same-sex love is natural. Thought on the subject has never been the same. Think about that as you remember him each year on August 28.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the gravesite, the old Odeon Theater, Karl-Heinrich-Ulrichs-Platz or any of the sites mentioned in this book that honor him, you will find it a most rewarding and inspiring experience.
--Paul J. Nash & Michael
Jacksonville, Florida, 2000
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs
181 Years of Pride
Come One, Come All!
* Unless otherwise specified, the term Gay is inclusive of everyone interested in equal rights.
**Because many of the photos were taken in the shade, they had to be lightened. The download time is slow; if you're patient and let the images download completely, you'll probably be glad you did. Select the images to enlarge them. Unless otherwise specified, all photo credits: Lombardi-Nash Library/Ulrichs Archives
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September 11, 2001: Gay Victims & Heroes