As the new board chair for the ONE Archives Foundation, Chiedu Egbuniwe is dedicated to making sure the LGBTQ+ history repository — the largest in the world — represents the full diversity of the community.
Egbuniwe, a Black gay man, is the first person of color to chair the board for the foundation; the archive is housed at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. A technology professional, he has long been interested in LGBTQ+ history, but he hasn’t always seen himself represented in it.
“I did not see myself reflected…I knew that there were stories of women, there were stories of BIPOC folks in there,” he says. ONE is committed to telling those stories, and Egbuniwe is out to make sure it tells even more of them.
“We’re not removing the voices of white cis gay men; we want to make sure we’re representing all voices,” he says. That includes history that goes back before the mid-20th century too. “It didn’t start with Stonewall,” he points out.
Egbuniwe, who became board chair in May, has other goals for ONE as well. The organization had to slow down its growth during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and had a lot of virtual events, including a reading of Larry Kramer’s AIDS drama The Normal Heart, starring Sterling K. Brown and directed by Paris Barclay; Egbuniwe executive-produced it. He’d like to continue presenting some virtual events, but he also wants to have in-person exhibitions and other events to draw people to the archive’s home.
In addition, he wants to continue the ongoing process of digitizing the archive’s millions of documents, a collection that encompasses magazines, newspapers, advertisements, posters and other artworks, and much more. “I’m very passionate about digitizing archives…it does level the playing field,” making the materials available to anyone who has internet access.
Egbuniwe brings varied experience to his post. While his day job is in technology at a major international law firm, he has also written, produced, and directed award-winning LGBTQ+ short films that have screened around the world and served on the boards of Outfest and the Industry LA as well as ONE. He has worked in arts publicity and has written for The Advocate about queerness and opera.
He was born in Massachusetts and raised in West Virginia and Georgia, and he has lived in the Los Angeles area for about 20 years — he’s currently in West Hollywood. Along with his other goals, he wants to assure that L.A.’s rich history of LGBTQ+ activism is preserved, he notes.
And preserving all LGBTQ+ history is crucial at a time when a backlash against visibility and equality is going on in state legislatures across the nation, he adds. “Particularly now, it’s very clear that it’s easy to erase our history, lose sight of our accomplishments as well as our struggles,” he says. He and the team at ONE are out to make sure that doesn’t happen.