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The Living Room
At-Home with Lepa Mladjenovic

The At-Homes with the Archives started as a way to give lesbian cultural workers a safe and yet intimate space for the presentation of their work. Marked by lively discussion and sometimes huge crowds, these events spanned 15 years. No topic was too controversial, no art form too untried. These free events transformed the Archives’ living room into a café, a speaker’s hall, a movie theater, an underground site of cultural and political resistance. At-Homes still go on in the new home of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, but my home has been very much quieter since the Archives left; this is why I am so pleased that my friend and WebMs., Shebar, who is responsible for this site, suggested early on to me that we could reconstitute the At-Home in this new way.

I am honored to have Lepa Mladjenovic as the first speaker in this new gathering. I first met Lepa in a letter she wrote to me after finding my e-mail address on a Peace Now mailing. She spoke of the organizing for peace and solidarity that women such as herself were waging in her war-torn area, describing herself as an antifascist feminist. She also expressed her lesbian joy in woman’s touch with an enthusiasm that reminded me of another time. As I spoke to other friends who have contacts in Kosovo, Poland, Croatia and Belgrade, I kept hearing about this indomitable woman, Lepa. Now I know better her steadfastness in the face of struggle, her yelps of joy, her belief that women comrades can create freed territories. This June, we did get to see each other’s faces, to embrace, when Lepa came to the New York at the time of the Beijing+5 conference, to attend a working meeting of the Network of East-West Women and to speak at Bluestockings about the activities of Women in Black in the strife-ridden areas of the former Yugoslavia.

Lepa Mladjenovic describes herself as a “radical feminist lesbian identified in Serbia as an anti-fascist feminist.” She was a co-founder of the lesbian rights group Labris and of Belgrade Women in Black, which is part of the movement that was started by Israeli women in 1988 to oppose the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip. The Women in Black network has spread through Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, Serbia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States to stand in silent vigil against war and military aggression. Lepa has written and spoken widely about women’s rights and violence, and was a participant in the Mother Courage II Peace Tour in North America sponsored by MADRE in 1993. For her work in Serbia on behalf of gay and lesbian rights and in the women’s and peace movements, Lepa received the Felipe de Souza award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in 1994. Also in 1994 she became the first open gay or lesbian to discuss queer issues on Serbian television. Lepa works with women survivors of male violence and war in the Autonomous Women’s Center Against Sexual Violence in Belgrade, Serbia.

So here is my new friend,

Lepa sitting on a bench in New York's East Village, June 2000 - photo by Joan Nestle

Lepa Mladjenovic

Lepa’s presentation begins on the next page.

Introduction and photo © 2000 Joan Nestle.

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