I’m From Driftwood fundraiser marks milestone and plans for tour


When Nathan Manske and Marquise Lee undertook their cross-country adventure in autumn 2010, it was a labor of love, patience and improvisation. The goal was to tell the stories of young and old, black and white, rural and urban, male, female, bisexual, transgender, queer and all the rest, and turn it into an online collection for all to see that they were not alone.

What emerged is the LGBT story archive I’m From Driftwood, with some of the more memorable oral histories heading to the Smithsonian.

“We recently did a recorded oral recollection of the tour,” Lee told PGN. “Our recorded experience with Sam [Brinton] and others will be archived at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.”

On April 14, I’m From Driftwood will hold its fifth annual fundraising brunch at the John C. Anderson Apartments in CenterCity.

Manske launched I’m From Driftwood in 2009 with a website dedicated to individual stories from friends, and friends of friends. Eventually, people all across the country joined in. A book followed to help fund the road trip, and then came the first I’m From Driftwood BBQ in New York City.

The idea, according to executive director Manske, who is originally from Driftwood, Texas, was inspired by the movie “Milk.” In one scene, Milk, portrayed by Sean Penn, is riding on the hood of a car in San Francisco with a sign that reads: “I’m From Woodmere, N.Y.” In reality, Milk used the sign as a way to convey how far gays and lesbians had come.

Lee is originally from Garland, Texas but has lived in Philadelphia since 2004. If you ask him about some of the highlights of the trip, he’ll happily regale you with stories. They include tales of friendly people who helped with lodging poignant personal stories like the one told by Brinton, who shared his conversion-therapy experience.

“It was early on in the trip,” said Lee, “and it was the first story that shook me to the core. I’ve followed them from a distance since, and they’ve become such an inspiration. They’ve even helped pass anti-conversion-therapy legislation.”

The organization’s YouTube collection crossed the daunting threshold of 10-million views. From the humble beginnings of a few written stories to the vast storehouse of LGBT people’s intimate interviews, I’m From Driftwood continues to grow.

The organization’s website is replete with reactions and affirmations that span generations and almost comprise a community unto themselves. Comments regularly thank IFD for “being there” when a reader was at his or her breaking point. The top videos alone have tens of thousands of views.

The upcoming brunch at Anderson also highlights the group’s most recent efforts to include more personal tales from elders. Called “What Was It Like?” the videos focus on community members who can enrich LGBT history with stories of their youth and coming out, as well as those social and political changes they have witnessed along the journey. VIP and sponsorship tickets to this year’s brunch allow IFD to welcome the residents to participate free of charge. 

The unlimited food and alcohol brunch runs from 1-4 p.m. April 14 at Anderson, 251 S. 13th St. Entertainment will be provided by Justin Sekelewski Trio and refreshments include Tito’s Vodka for the unlimited Bloody Marys, Yard’s Brewing Company and Barefoot Wine and Bubbly for the unlimited mimosas. Silent-auction items include Phillies Pride Night tickets, Philadelphia Folk Fest passes, and two United Airlines tickets good for travel anywhere in North America.

Tickets can be purchased through a link either on the website or the Facebook event listing. Buy tickets early and get nearly 50-percent off.