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Insider Article [February 2013] [02/05/13] (Now We Can Dance: The Story of the Hayward Gay Prom)
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Now We Can Dance: The Story of the Hayward Gay Prom

Film Crew at Gay Prom 2011. From left to right: Solana Brown-Chever, teen film crew & editor; Keith Wilson, technical advisor & editor; James Jermaine, teen film crew; Rori Burns, film subject & program attendee 2011.
Postcard advertising the film screening.

On December 7, 2012, the Hayward Public Library premiered a new film called Now We Can Dance: The Story of the Hayward Gay Prom, capping an almost two-year library project to document this unique long-standing community event for queer youth.

The documentary film highlights the controversy surrounding the creation of the Lambda Gay Prom in 1995, and how the gay prom’s existence and ongoing relevance reflects the democratic process. Yearly, hundreds of youth from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond come to the prom because it is a safe place for them to be themselves and have fun.

The idea for the film grew from a California of the Past digital story that the Hayward Library produced in collaboration with Dana Johnson, former leader of the Lambda Youth Project, the LGBTQ support group which hosts the prom. After securing a grant from Cal Humanities, library staff—including CLA members Laurie Willis, Sally Thomas and Shawna Sherman—trained teens to be filmmakers with the help of professional advisers, including Academy Award-winning documentary film director Debra Chasnoff. The teens then captured live footage from the 2011 prom, researched the history of the prom, and later hosted on-camera interviews with key stakeholders. Additional funding was provided by the Friends of the Hayward Public Library.

The 30-minute film premiered at Hayward City Hall in front of a crowd of more than 200, including prom organizers, current and former city officials, students, and well-wishers. “Working on the film I learned a lot about the history of Hayward and the perspectives of the adult community and youth on LGBTQ issues. I learned how important the gay prom is to exist,” said Natalina Campopiano, a teen filmmaker and senior at Hayward High School. “It makes me appreciate what I have now.”

The film is a shining example of how a library can go beyond its traditional role of curator and create information that documents significant aspects of the community and that brings young and old together in a conversation about the right of queer youth to have fun in a safe environment.

“Now We Can Dance is unquestionably a landmark achievement in the history of HPL. One of which we all can and should be very proud,” said Sean Reinhart, director of the Hayward Public Library.

Organizers hope to show the film at local film festivals and make it available for other screenings. The eventual goal is to build a curriculum around the film and distribute it to schools. For more information about the program please contact Laurie Willis, supervising librarian, at 510-881-7936 or

Shawna Sherman, Young Adult Librarian
Hayward Youth Commission Advisor
Hayward Main Library