Oral history interview with Barbara Chinn

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Oral history interview with Barbara Chinn

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<p id="E70"><span id="E71">Chinn </span><span id="E72">grew up in</span><span id="E73"> Northwest</span><span id="E74"> </span><span id="E75">Washington, DC </span><span id="E76">and </span><span id="E77">became </span><span id="E78">cognizant of her differing sexuality during her childhood, however she did not connect with the LGBT community until </span><span id="E79">young adulthood. When she was </span><span id="E80">aroun</span><span id="E81">d nineteen </span><span id="E82">or</span><span id="E83"> twenty years old</span><span id="E84">,</span><span id="E85"> a</span><span id="E86"> significant other</span><span id="E87"> introduced her to the </span><span id="E88">club scene</span><span id="E89"> </span><span id="E90">on Irving Street</span><span id="E91">. </span><span id="E92">She and her friends frequented placed like </span><span id="E93">Steve’s, </span><span id="E94">Kenyan</span><span id="E95">’s</span><span id="E96"> Bar and Grill, </span><span id="E97">Bob</span><span id="E98">’s </span><span id="E99">Inn, </span><span id="E100">Louis and the Rogue, and the </span><span id="E102">Otherside</span><span id="E104">. </span><span id="E105">She was involved in social clubs called the Best of Washington </span><span id="E106">(</span><span id="E107">a </span><span id="E108">historically African American LGBT social club) </span><span id="E109">and the 5 Point 5</span><span id="E110">(</span><span id="E111">around 5:30</span><span id="E112">min</span><span id="E113">?)</span><span id="E114">. </span><span id="E115">Some of these organizations</span><span id="E116"> threw house parties </span><span id="E117">as a means of </span><span id="E118">safe </span><span id="E119">socialization. </span></p>
<p id="E121"><span id="E122">During her house party days, </span><span id="E123">Chinn lived in Congress Heights with her partner. </span><span id="E124">In 1991, she used her experience of living east of the river to convince the board of </span><span id="E125">the Max Robinson Center</span><span id="E126"> </span><span id="E127">that there was</span><span id="E128"> need for LGBT-centered healthcare </span><span id="E129">in that area</span><span id="E130">. </span><span id="E132">The Max Robinson Center opened soon after in</span><span id="E133"> Southeast DC</span><span id="E134"> 1992.</span></p>
<p id="E136"><span id="E137">Chinn became involved with DC’s response to the AIDS crisis </span><span id="E138">when</span><span id="E139"> her friends were diagnosed </span><span id="E140">with the disease </span><span id="E141">in 1981 and 1982. </span><span id="E142">At the </span><span id="E143">time, Chinn was working in the field of property management</span><span id="E144"> where her main interaction with the LGBT community was </span><span id="E145">the </span><span id="E146">protect</span><span id="E147">ion of</span><span id="E148"> the anonymity of gay tenants. After the loss</span><span id="E149">es</span><span id="E150"> of her friends to AIDS, </span><span id="E151">Chinn</span><span id="E152"> was driven to redirect her skillsets into helping the community. </span><span id="E153">She applied</span><span id="E154"> to be </span><span id="E155">the housing director at Whitman-</span><span id="E156">Walker</span><span id="E157"> </span><span id="E158">clinic </span><span id="E159">in 198</span><span id="E160">7</span><span id="E161">. </span></p>
<p id="E163"><span id="E164">As housing director for the Whitman-Walker clinics, </span><span id="E165">Chinn managed five properties</span><span id="E166"> in northw</span><span id="E167">estern DC</span><span id="E168">—</span><span id="E169">including </span><span id="E170">Robert N. </span><span id="E171">Swartz</span><span id="E172">, M.D.</span><span id="E173"> House, </span><span id="E174">and a number of other locations sponsored by the Swartz </span><span id="E175">Housing Services</span><span id="E176">. </span><span id="E177">These properties house</span><span id="E178">d</span><span id="E179"> the clinic’</span><span id="E180">s patients.</span><span id="E181"> Chinn became educated about AIDS through personal experiences </span><span id="E182">with friends </span><span id="E183">and </span><span id="E184">in the field as an employee of Whitman-Walker. She </span><span id="E185">began giving educational talks </span><span id="E186">about HIV </span><span id="E187">with ICC</span><span id="E188">AN </span><span id="E189">and Impact DC. Ev</span><span id="E190">entually</span><span id="E191">, she</span><span id="E192"> was promoted</span><span id="E193"> by Whitman-Walker</span><span id="E194"> to </span><span id="E195">deputy </span><span id="E196">exe</span><span id="E197">cutive director and director of prevention, education, and support services. </span></p>
<p id="E199"><span id="E200">In </span><span id="E201">the </span><span id="E202">199</span><span id="E203">0s</span><span id="E204">, Chinn was </span><span id="E205">on</span><span id="E206"> the planning committee </span><span id="E207">to </span><span id="E208">negotiat</span><span id="E209">e</span><span id="E210"> the location of the next </span><span id="E211">clinic,</span><span id="E212"> to be named the Max Robinson Center. She cites </span><span id="E213">the choice of</span><span id="E214"> location as a</span><span id="E215"> paradoxical issue</span><span id="E216">, much debated </span><span id="E217">within the gay African American community where the clinic was to be situated.</span><span id="E218"> </span><span id="E219">T</span><span id="E220">he clinic needed to be visible to the community stricken with AIDS, but not so visible that the patients would be under scrutiny. </span><span id="E221">When</span><span id="E222"> the</span><span id="E223"> new clinic was opened, they were met with hostility from local residents, churches, and groups worried </span><span id="E224">that</span><span id="E225"> Whitman-Walker</span><span id="E226"> would</span><span id="E227"> “brin</span><span id="E228">g</span><span id="E229"> </span><span id="E230">HIV to [their] community.” Part of the job was convincing the outlying communit</span><span id="E231">y that Whitman-Walker was</span><span id="E232"> there </span><span id="E233">to treat those already infected.</span></p>
<p id="E235"><span id="E236">Additionally, as an African American woman on the staff of Whitman-Walker, Chinn </span><span id="E237">confronted </span><span id="E238">the organization’s board about </span><span id="E239">catering to their predomin</span><span id="E240">antly African </span><span id="E241">American clients and employees.</span><span id="E242"> </span><span id="E243">She report</span><span id="E244">ed</span><span id="E245"> that most of the client base dr</span><span id="E246">ew</span><span id="E247"> from the </span><span>surrounding African American community, although white clients </span><span id="E248">would </span><span id="E249">come for more specific services. She estimate</span><span id="E250">d</span><span id="E251"> that 40% of their clients identif</span><span id="E252">ied</span><span id="E253"> as LGBTQ, however patients don’t often disclose the information.</span></p>
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<p id="E255"><span id="E256">In 1995, Chinn became the director of the Max Robinson Center</span><span id="E257"> after personnel and leadership conflicts. </span><span id="E258">As of this recording</span><span id="E259"> (2007)</span><span id="E260">, she has </span><span id="E261">worked</span><span id="E262"> there for 12 years and hopes to </span><span id="E263">open </span><span id="E264">a new facility</span><span id="E265"> for their increasing</span><span id="E266"> clientele before she retires.</span></p>
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<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=40&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=2007">2007</a>

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For more about Barbara Chinn:<br /><ul><li><a href="https://www.facebook.com/notes/448860322234/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">POZ Magazine: Barbara Chinn says AHF is a "kick-ass, no-nonsense advocacy, care &amp; treatment" organization</a></li>
<li><a href="https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xx6HeNaepcEw6xb9ZT6sCsVBFs7dW36b" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">or as a PDF</a></li>
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80s-00s
Native Washingtonian, African-American lesbian experience, Whitman-Walker clinic, Max Robinson Center

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Interviewer

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=2&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Mark+Meinke">Mark Meinke</a>

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<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=3&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Barbara+Chinn">Barbara Chinn</a>

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No, not yet transcribed.

Summary available, courtesy Haley Steinhilber, 2018.

Original Format

<span>Yes, recording available. <br /><br /></span><span>Must have </span><a href="http://www.driveplayer.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Music Player for Google Drive</a><span> enabled.</span><br /><br /><a href="https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_rmd0YNI039dENyZnVsd0ZMRTQ" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Click here to listen to recording.</a>

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Citation

“Oral history interview with Barbara Chinn,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed April 23, 2019, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1161.

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