An Interview with Dalena Sanderson-Hunter, SOHA Secretary

Dalena Sanderson-Hunter

Dalena Sanderson-Hunter is a Librarian/Archivist for Los Angeles Communities and Cultures in the UCLA Library Special Collections. She began serving as SOHA Secretary in January 2020.

  1. How did you become involved in SOHA?

I first became involved in SOHA in 2009 when I was invited to join the conference planning committee. It was a pleasurable and eye-opening experience to work with so many dedicated oral historians. At that conference I planned a tour of Leimert Park and a screening of the documentary about Leimert Park. After being a member for several years and presenting at a couple of conferences I was invited to run for secretary. I was excited to work with the other officers and plan an event for graduate students and new oral historians. While COVID-19 has forced us to postpone our in person meeting, I hope we can find new ways to interact and share our work with each other.

  1. Why did you become involved in SOHA?

I became involved in SOHA because its mission to “promote oral history as a method for exploring history, culture and current experiences” in the region aligns with my work amplifying the histories of marginalized and underdocumented communities of color in the Los Angeles area and in the region more broadly. I appreciate the learning opportunities that exist between oral historians in settings that range from professors to independent researchers, to librarians. I also became involved to get out of my comfort zone in libraries and archives that focus on paper records and documentation. I think it is important to hear people’s voices when they share their stories.

  1. What have you enjoyed about SOHA? What are some of your favorite experiences with SOHA?

I’ve enjoyed warmth and willingness to learn and grow I experienced at SOHA in past years. There is important work being done in the organization, but its officers make room for individuals to contribute in many ways. My favorite experience was the Native American story teller at the Fullerton conference. His engagement with the audience, passion, and skill conveying creation myths and other stories still comes to mind years later. It was wonderful to have such a talented storyteller challenge western ways of seeing and understanding the world around us and our relationships to each other.

  1. What oral history projects have you been working on lately or plan to do in the near future? Did you plan to attend the SOHA 2020 annual conference? If so, are you planning to present and what about? If you plan to attend only, what do you look forward to with the conference?

I’ve been working on an oral history project to document African American LGBT community groups in the Los Angeles area. The project was conceived to fill a gap in stories told about LGBT movements that are overwhelmingly white and male and public. Black people experience social spaces and civil rights very differently from white people and this was especially so for Black LGBT people “in the life” for most of the twentieth century. We often think of the west coast as a place free from Jim Crow racism and social restraints of more conservative parts of the US. Black lived experience tells us this is not the case. The project was conceived to give voice to those Black LGBT persons who formed communities where Blackness and gayness was welcome, respected, and celebrated. COVID -19 will affect how oral history is conducted and I look forward to finding new ways to document those oral histories in multiple marginalized communities.

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