Stonewall Democrats of Dallas reacts to Gov. Abbott signing SB4 into law

Lee-Daughtrey

Stonewall President Lee Daugherty

On Sunday, May 7, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 4 (SB4), better known as the “show me your papers law,” and that is similar has been ruled unconstitutional in Arizona because it permits racial profiling in law enforcement.

The language encourages discrimination and allows law enforcement to question a person’s immigration status simply upon detainment, not while under arrest. Supporters claim this bill only targets criminals, but opponents insist the bill will target children, victims of crimes and even veterans. Opponents also say the law incites fear and distrust in minority communities, specifically communities of color.

If SB4 goes into effect in September, Stonewall Democrats wrote in a press release, it will have a profound impact on the safety of all Texans by driving undocumented immigrants back into the shadows in fear of law enforcement retaliation. Immigrants will fear any interaction with law enforcement, whether they are victims or witnesses to crime. This will increase the amount of unreported crime and criminals will prey on these communities. “This unconstitutional, discriminatory terrorism sanctioned by our state government attempts to assist in Trump’s plan for mass deportations which will lead to a massive economic impact to Texas and a blow to the workforce we all depend on to maintain our states growth,” Stonewall Democrats said.

Stonewall President Lee Daugherty noted, “The safety and security of the LGBTQ community is paramount in the ongoing struggle for equal rights and protections under the law. The continued struggle for racial, economic, social, and environmental justice for all encompasses many issues that are inter-sectional and will not be ignored in our fight for equality. A conversation rarely had among advocacy groups is our own immigrant and undocumented LGBTQ community. It’s a community that lives among us, they are our friends, our partners, and our neighbors. The community already feels the hateful oppressive speech from Republicans in Austin and DC and continues to fight forward, even as we see elected officials making it a priority to strip away rights and push to legalize discrimination. Regardless of what Austin deems as important, we will fight back against SB4 and any other law that threatens the safety of our diverse community. Immigrants help make this country great, and at no time will we allow Governor Abbott or his radical colleagues place out ‘republicaning’ each other to secure future primaries become more important than the safety of our community. We will hold them accountable when they attempt to terrorize any part of our community.”

—  David Taffet

San Francisco may get its first gay mayor

California state Sen. Mark Leno

In more progressive cities like Houston, having a lesbian mayor is old hat. The issue hardly arose in Annise Parker’s nine elections — three for city council, three for city comptroller and three for mayor — except among the city’s extremists.

Other progressive cities in Texas have had gay mayors as well, like Kemp, just south of Kaufman along Cedar Creek Lake. And liberal Collin County has two recently out trans officials.

But in conservative San Francisco, electing a gay mayor would be a big step. LGBT candidates have run for the office before, but now state Sen. Mark Leno has thrown his hat in the ring. Leno was also the first openly gay man in the California Assembly and California Senate.

Although San Francisco has had gay supervisors — that city’s equivalent of council members — more progressive cities like Dallas have had more.

San Francisco, however, can take credit for electing Harvey Milk to its Board of Supervisors, becoming one of the first out elected officials in the U.S. Milk, however, only moved to San Francisco after living in Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood.

Leno is the first candidate to announce he’d run for mayor of San Francisco. The election takes place in 2019.

 

—  David Taffet

Nevada outlaws so-called conversion therapy

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed SB201 into law today (May 17), putting an end to the fraudulent, harmful and unscientific practice of so-called “conversion therapy” in the state for LGBTQ youth. National Center for Lesbian Rights has been standing up on behalf of survivors of conversion therapy for the past 20 years, and in 2014, launched its Born Perfect campaign — marking a commitment to a state-by-state advocacy campaign to end this practice in each state across the country.

Since New Jersey first outlawed conversion therapy in 2013, California, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Mexico and Connecticut have also banned the practice.

National Center for Lesbian Rights Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Director Carolyn Reyes issued the following statement in response:

“Today, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and elected officials have prioritized the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ Nevadans by putting an end to the discredited practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide—risks that are particularly acute for youth. Nevada knows that all of our children are born perfect.”

—  David Taffet

DGLA-PAC makes runoff endorsements

The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee announced its candidates for Dallas City Council run-off elections in three races where no candidate reached 50 percent of the total voters in their districts during the May 6 general election.

No candidate received 50 percent of the vote in Dallas City Council Districts 6, 7 and 8.

District 6: DGLA-PAC endorsed Omar Narvaez over three-term incumbent and Mayor pro tem Monica Alonzo.

District 7: DGLA-PAC endorsed Kevin Felder over first-term incumbent Tiffinni Young.

District 8: No endorsement.

“In District 8, neither of the candidates in the run-off completed our process,” DGLA-PAC said in a press release. “Therefore, the DGLA PAC makes no endorsement for District 8.”

In that race, incumbent Erik Wilson faces former Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins.

Early voting runs May 30 through June 6. Election Day is June 10.

—  David Taffet

On the Gray Pride Prom red carpet

The Gray Pride Prom took place at Resource Center on Saturday, May 13.

People 50 and older celebrated — some, like organizer Portia Cantrell, by going to a prom for the first time. Others, who were not allowed to bring a same-sex date in high school, did on this night. Trans people attended as their correct gender, something they couldn’t have done when they were in high school.

Cantrell’s wife said she wasn’t going to attend unless she got a proper promposal. So Cantrell tricked her wife into coming down to Resource Center the week before the prom with a story that Dallas Voice was doing a follow up to the original story and needed her there. When she entered Resource Center, a line of 11 men were waiting for her with roses, each asking her to the prom. When she got to end of the line, Cantrell asked her to the prom and gave her a dozen roses.

Her wife said yes.

—  David Taffet

Another Oak Lawn block demolished

 

Good news. Another block of affordable housing in Oak Lawn has been demolished.

In its place will be denser housing with smaller apartments that open out into a multi-story parking garage. One of the nice things about these identical Soviet-style apartment blocks is the car fumes that blow directly into the units from the interior garages. The per unit price of these imaginatively uniform apartments is expected to be three to four times the cost of the apartments they replace.

Traffic? No problem. During construction, streets are being randomly blocked. Maple Avenue is down to one lane in each direction today (May 16). Throckmorton Street is covered in dirt and Brown Street is torn up. Sidewalks are closed surrounding the construction site. Once the apartments open and fill, no provision for the additional cars has been made on surrounding streets — Throckmorton, Brown, Fairmount and Reagan.

—  David Taffet

Lifetime show filming at Zephyr

The Lifetime show Little Women: Dallas is filming at Zephyr on Cedar Springs Road today (May 16). According to owner Danny Sikora, he signed a release allowing them to return for more filming through the end of July. So watch for cameras at the Crossroads into summer. In the photo above, the crew was setting up and making sure nothing copyrighted would appear on camera. Sikora said all the photos in Zephyr are hundred-year-old photos of his family.

Little Women: Dallas is a reality show that debuted on Nov. 2, 2016 and is a spin-off of the original — Little Women: LA. More info on the show’s website.

—  David Taffet

ZimSculpt at Dallas Arboretum

More than 100 hand-carved Zimbabwean sculptures will remain on display in the Dallas Arboretum through July 31. Some of the sculptors are on hand each day creating new works and talk about while showcasing their techniques. The exhibit is called ZimSculpt.

The Dallas Arboretum is on Garland Road overlooking White Rock Lake and is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $15 per person and parking is $15. Parking and admission is free with membership.

—  David Taffet

Medrano, Youth First team up for ‘I Am Jazz’ reading

Councilman Adam Medrano

Youth First and Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano are partnering to host an I Am Jazz book reading and panel discussion at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 18 in the lobby of Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St.

This event is in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Education Association second annual National I Am Jazz School and Community Readings, in support of transgender youth. Medrano will read the book, followed by a panel discussion with representatives of the transgender community and youth service providers.

I Am Jazz is a children’s book written by transgender teen Jazz Jennings. She is one of the first transgender children to talk publicly about her identity. At the age of 7, Jennings spoke with Barbara Walters on 20/20. Following a year of unprecedented attacks on the rights and dignity of transgender young people – both at the state and federal levels – the day of readings is intended to foster safe and welcoming schools and communities for young people.

Youth First, a Resource Center program, serves middle and high school aged youth, 12-18 years old.

Councilman Medrano was recently elected to his third term in office.

—  David Taffet

AIDS Services Dallas turns 30

After a rough start, ASD has provided housing for thousands

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Don Maison, CEO of AIDS Services of Dallas, speaks during a Founders Day event at Revlon Apartments in 2015, as the agency’s founders — Daryl Moore and Michael Merdian — look on from a photo behind him. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer
AIDS Services of Dallas marks its 30th anniversary with its Founders Day commemoration in the garden of Revlon Apartments today (Friday, May 12). CEO Don Maison sat down recently to talk about the agency’s rocky beginnings as ASD prepared to mark this milestone.

ASD started as an employment project. After Phil Gray was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, he opened Oak Lawn Mail and Message Center — in a space now part of S4 on Cedar Springs Road — where he employed people who had lost their jobs because of health issues related to AIDS or because of discrimination. The project collapsed when Gray committed suicide as his own struggle with the disease became too great for him. But his work to create the PWA Coalition survived.

Under the lead of Mike Merdian, who was already involved in the PWA Coalition, and Daryl Moore, PWA Coalition then became a program of Oak Lawn Counseling Center. They knew housing was an issue for people living with AIDS, so they rented two houses on Nash Street, now known as the Inwood Road entrance to Cathedral of Hope. The houses were approximately where the new Resource Center stands. But after they rented the homes and fixed them up, the landlord evicted them.

Evelyn Petty, who had a real estate investment company in Oak Cliff, heard about what happened and approached Merdian and Moore, arranging to sell them a 22-unit rooming house and hold a lien on the property, Maison said. That property, now known as Ewing House, was the first of four properties now owned by the agency.

Merdian and Moore knew they needed to incorporate the organization, but then things went from bad to worse. The purchase of the property was mostly funded by an anonymous donation of $175,000; then Dallas Voice discovered that the money had been embezzled from First Texas Savings Association by a former branch manager, Patrick Debenport.

Fortunately, as the coalition’s resource director, Mark Rogers, explained to the Voice a few months later, they had reached an agreement and the embezzled money “is now considered a loan. We have a formal note and we’re paying the money back with interest.”

Reports at the time made it sound like the two sides just came together and agreed on amicable terms. In reality though, it took intervention from then-state Sen. Eddie Bernice Johnson to get it done. A nurse before entering politics, Johnson fully understood the need for the facility, and her staff found three attorneys, including Maison, to represent the agency.

PWA Coalition received a grant in 1988 to hire and executive director, and Merdian prompted Maison to apply and the coalition’s board, after considering about 100 applications, offered him the job. The original building, then called A Place for Us and now known as Ewing House, opened as protesters with signs declaring “Keep Oak Cliff Clean and Healthy” and “No gays/AIDS colonies” picketed outside.

One of the protester’s fears, they claimed, was that the coalition’s housing program for people with AIDS would damage their property values. The irony of their protests wasn’t fully apparent to Maison until years later when he was putting together property to build additional housing units: The first lot he acquired for $2,000, the second for $3,000. But getting the third piece of property was tougher.

When his offer was refused, Maison spoke to the property owner, who didn’t know who Maison was, and who pointed to Spencer Gardens, a facility built by ASD for families affected by HIV, to show how much the neighborhood has increased in value. ASD did acquire that last lot, but it cost four times as much as the second lot, and Maison realized he was penalized for his own success in upgrading the area.

ASD acquired the dilapidated Revlon Apartments in 1988, out of foreclosure. But three arson fires at Ewing within five months, causing $220,000 in damage, closed Ewing for 11 months until repairs were completed, delaying the remodeling work at Revlon.

During the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, 25 percent of the money used to operate AIDS agencies came one dollar at a time, often raised by drag shows and other events in the bars. At ASD, supper clubs fed the residents dinner some nights. Mark Shekter’s Meals on the Move, or MOM, delivered lunch. And Petty, the real estate investor who helped them acquire the Ewing property, was there daily, feeding the residents. Residents’ meals, Maison told the Voice at the time, were available at no charge, “as best we can provide them.”

During those dark days, Petty told Maison, “Stick it out. It’ll get better.” When he asked Petty why she was so dedicated to the ASD residents, she explained that her son had committed suicide, and she believed it was because he was gay. When she developed cancer in the early 1990s having no one to care for her, Maison and his staff moved Petty into Revlon for the last few months of her life.

In 1992, ASD applied for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to develop Hillcrest House and moved forward with plans to build Spencer. Hillcrest House opened in 1996 and Spencer in 1998. About five years ago, ASD fully paid off its properties.

Residents pay a portion of their income in rent. They’re expected to work if they’re able and to share in community chores, decision-making and responsibilities.

When Ewing opened, residents who had resources paid between $150 and $275 per month. Those who had no other way to pay — which included most residents whose savings were quickly drained by medical bills — relied on what Dallas Voice at the time called “County Welfare,” which provided $200 a month.

When Maison was hired in 1989, ASD had a staff of five, including Mike Anderson, a straight man with nonprofit experience that Merdian hired to be Maison’s assistant director. Maison was annoyed he wasn’t given the opportunity to select his own assistant ,but Merdian convinced Maison to at least meet Anderson.

Maison said he and Anderson met on Cedar Springs Road, and Anderson asked Maison to introduce him to all of the merchants along the strip. That’s when Maison knew he couldn’t have chosen better himself. Anderson retired in 2012 after 23 years at ASD.

“In all that time, we never had a disagreement,” Maison said.

Neither Moore nor Merdian lived to see what became of their early efforts. Both died of complications from AIDS — Moore in 1988 at age 27 and Merdian in 1993 at age 36.

Maison is now CEO of ASD and is the longest-serving executive director of an AIDS agency in the U.S.

One challenge facing the agency today is something the founders never planned for — parking. Holding back tears while thinking of the thousands of residents who have lived at one of the four properties over the years, Maison said now people are living, going back to work — and they need cars. He compared that to his first few years when he struggled to feed everyone and pay the utility bills and lost residents every week to AIDS.

“Some weeks we would lose four or five people,” he said.

This week ASD marks its 30th anniversary with its Founders Day commemoration from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on May 12 in the Revlon Apartments Courtyard at 720 N. Lancaster Ave.

……………………

Founders Day Awards

• Phil Morrow Memorial Award: Matejek Family Foundation

• Daryl Moore Memorial Award: Jim Apken

• Special Recognition for Outstanding Support: Wayne Thomas, Douglas Cheatham & Mark Hendon, Kansas State University, Rich Perry, Lee Daugherty, Helen Goldenberg, Lori Davidson, Grupo de Oracion, Liz Maverick.

Reporting by Dennis Vercher from 1988-1993 in Dallas Voice contributed to this article

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 12, 2017.

—  David Taffet