Top 10: Suicides led to anti-bullying law

Anti-bullying-Press-conference-at-Texas-Capitol-March-7,-2011-0-02-25-07

PARENTAL RESPONSE | David and Amy Truong, the parents of 13-year-old gay suicide victim Asher Brown, became tireless advocates for anti-bullying legislation this year. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

No. 4

In the fall of 2010, a number of high-profile suicides brought attention to the problem of bullying in schools. This year, the LGBT community worked to change laws and save lives.

After helping to push through policies in the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts, as well as a few others around the state, the LGBT community focused on passing statewide anti-bullying legislation in the 2011 session of the Legislature.

Equality Texas made the legislation a priority and a number of bills were introduced.

In February, Equality Texas hosted a Lobby Day. Several hundred people from around the state participated.

Among them were Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, suicide victim Asher Brown’s parents — Amy and David Truong — and a group of 10 students from Youth First Texas.

Burns and the Truongs met with key legislators including members of the committees that would  hear the bills.

The students from YFT spoke to their senators and representatives telling their own stories of being bullied.

Legislators not usually considered allies were visibly moved by stories of violence in schools in their hometowns.

Equality Texas board chair Anne Wynn, Executive Director Dennis Coleman and Deputy Director Chuck Smith spent the spring lobbying on behalf of the bills.

The organization arranged for the Truongs as well as the parents of Montana Lance and Jon Carmichael, two other Texas suicide victims, to testify at committee hearings.

As originally crafted, the bills specified categories that would be covered. National studies have shown that the more specific the law, the more effective it is in protecting LGBT students. When sexual orientation and gender identity are not specified, school staff often ignore anti-gay bullying. But to increase the chances that anti-bullying legislation would pass, several bills were combined and all references to specific groups, including sexual orientation and gender identity, were deleted.

The new anti-bullying “super bill” passed unanimously in the Senate and by a wide margin in the House — and was eventually signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Under the new law, for the first time, the bully rather than the victim can be transferred to another classroom or school. Parental notification rules were strengthened and protections added for the person reporting the bullying. The definition of bullying now includes electronic means, or cyberbullying. And every school district must adopt an anti-bullying policy, including any necessary procedures to address the prevention, investigation and reporting of incidents.

A second bill also passed that provides money for counseling services, which includes services for both the bully and the victim. School staff already receive training to recognize potential suicide risks. That training will be expanded to include victims of bullying.

Meanwhile, although the Dallas Independent School District approved an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy last year, Resource Center Dallas and Lambda Legal accused some DISD officials of blocking its implementation.

RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox along with Lambda Legal community educator Omar Narvaez addressed the DISD board about the problem in December.

Cox said she had gotten word from frustrated school district employees that principals were being instructed not to use the electronic reporting system that the board mandated. She said she would continue to track the district’s compliance with the policy in 2012.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Resounding Harmony performance benefits Make-A-Wish Foundation

Rene Syler to narrate stories of children whose wishes have been granted in ‘Wishes from the Heart’

Syler.Rene

Rene Syler

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resounding Harmony presents its first concert of the season on Nov. 22, called Wishes from the Heart, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation works to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, and through its chapters around the country has granted some 250,000 such wishes since it was founded in Phoenix in 1980.

Resounding Harmony Artistic Director Russ Reiger said the benefit show was birthed out of the chorus’ admiration for the foundation.

“We held our retreat at the Make-A-Wish facility and it’s a magical place,” he said.

Resounding Harmony Board Chair Mark Knight said that children’s wishes are divided into categories: “I want to go…,” “I want to be…,” “I want to do…” and “I want to have… .”

So Resounding Harmony used that as a structure for the concert, basing the program on the idea of children being taken into the wishing tower.

Narrator Rene Syler will introduce some children whose wishes have been granted and tell a number of their stories. Syler is the author of the book Good Enough Mother.

Before moving to New York to host The Early Show on CBS, Syler was known to North Texas audiences as anchor of the Channel 11 news in Dallas. While in Dallas, she was active in fundraising activities for Resource Center Dallas.

Syler has worked with Resounding Harmony before. She narrated the 10th anniversary production of Sing for the Cure in Dallas and at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“I love Resounding Harmony,” Syler said. “Any time I can pair with them and a great group like Make-A-Wish, I’m glad to come to Dallas.”

She said she’d be doing some things on her website, GoodEnoughMother.com, before and after the concert to promote Make-A-Wish and hopefully raise additional funds for the organization.

“Rene is an old friend and we were thrilled she said she’d come,” Rieger said.

Rieger said that many of the songs during the concert will revolve around the wishes that have been granted.

“‘New York, New York’ is associated with one wish-kid’s story,” he said.

Resounding Harmony will also perform ‘Joyful, Joyful’ from Sister Act, ‘You’ve Got a Friend Indeed’ from Toy Story and ‘Out of My Dreams’ from Oklahoma.

“The first act will end with a gospel roof raiser,” he said.

Sheran Keyton, a popular Fort Worth singer, will be the guest soloist. Keyton appeared in Casa Manana’s production of Hairspray this summer.

Artwork from some of the Make-A-Wish kids will be for sale in the Meyerson lobby.

“One special piece created just for the concert will be auctioned during the show,” Knight said.

This is Rieger’s first full season with Resounding Harmony. He joined the chorus last year for the June concert after founding Artistic Director Tim Seelig moved to California to head the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Rieger said money raised at the concert would be distributed in December at an end-of-year celebration.

Each Resounding Harmony concert benefits a community organization. Proceeds from the spring concert Songs for the Heart will support the Dallas-based American Heart Association. Next season’s beneficiaries will be announced at the upcoming November concert.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, Resounding Harmony will also perform for the second time at Cancer Support Community, formerly known as Gilda’s Club, for its annual service of remembrance.

Resounding Harmony at Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $25–40. ResoundingHarmony.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Oliver Blumer named vice chair of TENT board

Oliver Blumer, left, and his partner Mary Kay Cody

Oliver Blumer, who was profiled by Dallas Voice a while back, has been named vice chairman of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, the statewide organization dedicated to furthering the cause of gender diverse people.

According to the press release we’ve posted after the jump, Lisa Scheps is stepping down as executive director of TENT, and board chairwoman Katy Stewart will take over day-to-day operations.

—  John Wright

National CoC honors North Texas business, leaders

NT gay chamber, Burns, American Airlines bring home awards

DAVID TAFFET  |  taffet@dallasvoice.com

VeddaCarranchoBurns
WINNING SMILES | North Texas Gay and Lesbian Chamber President Tony Vedda, from left,, American Airlines’ George Carancho, Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Burns’ husband J.D. Angle attended the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s awards dinner, where the North Texas chamber, American and Burns were all honored.

The North Texas Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and Fort Worth-based American Airlines all brought home awards.

The NTGLCoC was named Chamber of the Year. Growth, member services and leadership development were cited as reasons for the award. NTGLCoC Board Chair Derrick Brown and President and CEO Tony Vedda were cited for their leadership.

The award had been announced earlier in the year but the award was presented at the group’s national dinner, with more than 800 people in attendance, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

“It was a very good night for North Texas,” said Vedda.

Burns won the NGLCC/American Airlines ExtrAA Mile Award. Past winners include NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and tennis legend Martina Navratalova.  The North Texas Chamber gives its own ExtrAA Mile Award and presented it to Burns earlier this year for his work following the Rainbow Lounge raid.

The national chamber presented the award to him “for courageously sharing his own struggles and desperation as a gay teen during a recent city council meeting in response to the recent epidemic of LGBT youth suicides and bullying.”

American Airlines was named Corporation of the Year by the national chamber. That award honors companies that are committed to expanding economic opportunities for LGBT-owned businesses.

“It’s well deserved,” said Vedda. “But it’s no surprise to us that they would be recognized. They received our first Corporate Ally award in 2006. We’re thrilled to have them as a major supporter of our organization since we started in 2005.”

The airline has also recently received similar awards from three other groups committed to diversity.

“American actively focuses on identifying minority, women-owned, LGBT and other diverse small businesses as potential suppliers,” said John MacLean, American Airlines vice president for purchasing and transportation. “These awards increase awareness of the importance we place on supplier diversity and our efforts to ensure that our supplier base reflects our customer base.”

Manager of Supplier Diversity and Business Strategies at American Airlines, Sherri Macko, was named Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year from Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council and Advocate of the Year by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Texas for the second time.

Macko, who is also from the Dallas area, serves on the board of the NGLCC Procurement Council.

The local chamber is accepting nominations for the 2010 Business Excellence Awards. Those honors will be given at the North Texas Chamber’s sixth anniversary dinner in March. Rebecca Covell, who won the 2009 Business Person of the Year award, and Burns are the honorary co-chairs of the event.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Parade proceeds donation

FOR THE YOUTH  | Officials with Dallas Tavern Guild presents Youth First Texas Development Director Sam Wilkes and Board Chair T.J. Wilson a check for $7,500 representing proceeds from the 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade during a recent DTG meeting. Pictured are, front from left, Culley Johnson, Dallas Eagle; Howard Okun, The Brick; Allen Pierce, The Round-Up Saloon; G. Maywald, BJ’s; Wilkes and Wilson, Youth First Texas; Andy Krumm, BJ’s; Jack Adams, Club Wet; Jesse Avalos, BJ’s and Keith Lackie, Klub Wet; back, from left, Matt Louzau, Barbara’s Pavillion; Dan Faust, Kaliente; Mark Frazier, Dallas Eagle; Greg Kilhoffer, Caven Enterprises; Frank Holland, Pekrs; Gary Miller, Round-Up Saloon; Chris Weinfurter, Woody’s.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Minehart announces departure from Lone Star Ride

Dave Minehart

Dave Minehart announced he will leave the Lone Star Ride. He has participated in the ride for all 10 years of its existence, the first seven as a volunteer and the last three as event manager.

He has accepted a new position as development director for a nonprofit organization in his hometown, Iowa City, Iowa. He has been in Texas for the past 28 years but over the past seven, his goal has been to move closer to family.

“I’m leaving you in very, very capable hands,” Minehart said.

Laura Kerr is the incoming board chair. Co-chairs of the ride are John Tripp and Danny Simpson. Tripp co-chaired the ride this year and Simpson has been responsible for fundraising events outside the ride and participated in it for a number of years.

Minehart said he hopes to be at Lone Star Ride next year, depending on his schedule with his new job.

“Lone Star Ride is on a role and it’s going to keep going,” he said. “I hold extreme affection for the event, the people involved and the beneficiaries.”

His last day at Lone Star Ride is Dec. 27 and he begins his new job on Jan. 5.

—  David Taffet

GLFD marking 10th anniversary of giving

Organization that channels LGBT donations to mainstream charities returns to Latino Cultural Center to celebrate milestone year

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Keith Nix and Dick Peeples
PHILANTHROPY OF TIME AND MONEY | Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas President Keith Nix, left, and Board Co-Chair Dick Peeples say their organization earns visibility and respect for the LGBT community by turning charitable donations “pink.” (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

It was 10 years ago that a new group called the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas donated enough money to the fund to build the city’s Latino Cultural City that the group earned naming rights to the center’s outdoor sculpture garden.

Next Wednesday, Nov. 10, 10 years and more than $1 million later, the GLFD returns to the Latino Cultural Center to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Founded by partners Enrique McGregor and Mark Niermann, GLFD’s purpose is to collect charitable donations from the LGBT community and then give those donations en masse to specific projects and organizations — all to increase the impact and visibility of the LGBT community.

“We are all about visibility and bridge building,” said Dick Peeples, GLFD’s board chair, of the organization’s mission. “The LGBT community is part of the community as a whole. We want the whole body to be healthy, and we believe it will be healthier when all its parts are recognized and given respect.”

Peeples said GLFD has three requirements that an organization or project must meet to be eligible for GLFD funds: It must be a nonprofit in Dallas; it must publicly recognize GLFD as the donor of the funds, and it must have a hiring nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT people.

It was that last requirement that almost derailed GLFD’s plans to donate to the Parkland Foundation to help fund the Ambulatory Care Clinic at Parkland hospital. And Peeples said he is proud that it was GLFD’s insistence that requirement be met before funding the project that provided impetus for getting the hiring policy at Parkland changed.

“A new policy that would include LGBT people had been sitting on [Parkland CEO Ron Anderson’s] desk for awhile, and they just hadn’t gotten around to putting it in place. Our donation was the impetus for them to go ahead and get it done,” he said.

GLFD President Keith Nix stressed that the fund is about “philanthropy of money and time,” adding that over the course of the past 10 years, “We have been very careful to touch all areas of the nonprofit community — medical, the high arts, art, women, children, education. We really have run the gamut of all areas of need.”

GLFD raises and donates money in different ways. Often the organization mounts a campaign for a specific project — like Parkland’s Ambulatory Care Clinic or the Dallas Women’s Museum or the Latino Cultural Center. And about every other year, the organization holds large-scale special events to raise money for a specific organization or project.

But the fund also has ongoing bundling programs for the Dallas Museum of Art and KERA 90.1 FM, the local public radio station.

Peeples explained that those who participate in the bundling programs would likely have contributed anyway to the museum or the public radio station, “but those dollars wouldn’t have been colored pink. The power of bundling is that the museum or the radio station still get the money, but now they know that money came from LGBT people. And that kind of visibility helps break down stereotypes.”

Nix described it as a win-win-win situation: The institution gets the donations it needs; the individual donor gets the benefit of donating, i.e. membership in the museum or KERA, at the level of their specific donation, and the LGBT community, through GLFD, gets positive visibility.

“Every few months, when the KERA pledge drives roll around, KERA is very upfront about announcing the donations we give and using the name Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas,” Nix said. “And every time we have a meeting with KERA, I ask them if they have gotten any negative comments about our donations. And they always say no. I think the fact that they have never gotten one negative comment speaks volumes about the progress we are making.”

Peeples said he believes that progress is due in part to Dallas’ reputation as a business-oriented city.

“This city is business-focused. People have a business-like attitude, and this [GLFD’s donation model] is very businesslike. We want acknowledgement and respect for what we do for the city, and this helps us get that,” Peeples said.

GLFD’s current campaign is to raise money to fund the Dean’s Reception Room in Southern Methodist University’s new Simmons School of Education and Human Development. David Chard, an openly gay man, is dean of the new school.

Partners Enrique McGregor and Mark Niermann
FOUNDING PARTNERS | Partners Enrique McGregor, right, and Mark Niermann founded Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas 10 years ago.

Although GLFD initially sent out letters to the nonprofits in Dallas that qualified for GLFD donations, Nix said the group no longer has to go out looking for places to give.

“We haven’t had to contact an organization in four or five years now,” Nix said. “Now, they contact us.”

Peeples acknowledged that the economic recession of the past two years has made itself felt, saying that “we’re soliciting people to give, and the economy has made giving more difficult for a lot of people.”

But, Nix said, GLFD has continued to be successful in its efforts.

“We haven’t really seen any decline in our bundled giving programs with the Dallas Museum of Art and KERA. When KERA had shortfalls, they called us. And we came up with some matching funds programs that wound up being incredibly successful.

“And when we held our event at the Wyly Theater, we filled the house,” Nix continued. “We may not have filled the glass as well as we might have before. But we did fill the glass.”

One difficulty the fund has had, both men said, has been in finding the LGBT community and identifying the segments of the community that would be likely to give to specific programs and projects.

“The Dean’s Reception Room at SMU is a good example,” Nix said. “We want to find LGBT people who graduated from SMU or have some real connection to the school because they are the ones more likely to give to that project. But there’s no LGBT alumni group at SMU.”

Peeples added, “It used to be that our community was concentrated in the Crossroads area in Oak Lawn. But now, we are scattered out all over the Metroplex. And there is no database of gay people we can use to find them.”

But the two men hope that GLFD’s new membership initiative might help solve that problem.

“We don’t have a real membership, per se,” Nix said. “But with our anniversary event at the Latino Cultural Center, we will be launching a membership organization within the fund. You don’t have to be a member to give or to participate in our events. But just like with the museum and KERA, you can join, and you get benefits for being a member.”

There will be, he added, different levels of membership offering different levels of benefits.

“Just like with KERA, no matter how much you give, you’re a member. But if you can give more, you get more benefits. Still, whatever level you give at, you benefit. Everyone benefits,” Nix said.

GLFD’s 10th anniversary party begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the Latino Cultural Center. State Rep. Rafael Anchia will be the keynote speaker, and the event will include the premier of a short video on the history — and the future — of GLFD.

Tickets are $50, and are available online at GLFD.org.

Organizations and projects that have benefited from donations by GLFD include AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas CASA, Dallas Latino Cultural Center, Dallas Public Library, Dallas Women’s Museum, KERA 90.1 Public Radio, Parkland Health and Hospital System, Twelve Hills Nature Center, Bark Park Central, Dallas Children’s Theater, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Theater Center, Friends of the Katy Trail, Oak Lawn Triangle, The Stewpot, The Wilkinson Center and the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Donations

RIDE TO THE BANK  |  Officials with Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS on Sunday Oct. 24, distributed proceeds from the 10th annual ride, held in September, to AIDS Outreach Center, AIDS Services Dallas and Resource Center Dallas during a party at Salum. The $150,000 check was 50 percent higher than last year’s check. Pictured from left are LSR Event Manager David Minehart, AOC Executive Director Allan Gould, LSR Event Chair Laura Kerr, ASD President and CEO Don Maison, and RCD Executive Director Cece Cox. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
RIDE TO THE BANK | Officials with Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS on Sunday Oct. 24, distributed proceeds from the 10th annual ride, held in September, to AIDS Outreach Center, AIDS Services Dallas and Resource Center Dallas during a party at Salum. The $150,000 check was 50 percent higher than last year’s check. Pictured from left are LSR Event Manager David Minehart, AOC Executive Director Allan Gould, LSR Event Chair Laura Kerr, ASD President and CEO Don Maison, and RCD Executive Director Cece Cox. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
SEEING RED (AND GREEN)  |  Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats presented a check for $7,525 to Legacy Counseling Center and Founders Cottage at Dish on Wednesday, Oct. 27. They raised the money at the second annual Red Party. Pictured, from left, are Legacy board chair Steve Weir, Legacy Executive Director Melissa Grove, DSYD Secretary Jared Pearce and DSYD Treasurer J.T. Williams.
SEEING RED (AND GREEN) | Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats presented a check for $7,525 to Legacy Counseling Center and Founders Cottage at Dish on Wednesday, Oct. 27. They raised the money at the second annual Red Party. Pictured, from left, are Legacy board chair Steve Weir, Legacy Executive Director Melissa Grove, DSYD Secretary Jared Pearce and DSYD Treasurer J.T. Williams.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Lambda Legal’s Coleman named ED of Equality Texas

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Dennis Coleman

Dennis Coleman

Dennis Coleman will become executive director of Equality Texas and the Equality Texas Foundation on July 17.

Coleman will replace Paul Scott, who stepped down earlier this year to become executive director of AIDS Services of Austin.

For almost seven years, Coleman has served as regional director of Lambda Legal’s South Central office in Dallas. Much of his work built on the success the office had in June 2003 with the Lawrence v. Texas case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state’s sodomy ban.

Coleman said he’ll get an apartment in Austin, but he and his partner Gregory Pynes will maintain their home in Dallas.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, is based in Austin. He said the job of executive director entails travel throughout the state and can be done from Dallas as well as Austin.

Coleman said in his position with Lambda Legal, he covered eight states. He said his office manager kept day-to-day operations going while he was on the road. He foresees a similar relationship with Smith.

Although during the upcoming legislative session, Coleman said, “I’m fully committed to being in Austin.”

Equality Texas board chair Rob Scamardo said the search committee was looking for someone familiar with Texas, Texas politics and knew the challenges of advancing LGBT equality in the state.

Scamardo said he believes they found the perfect candidate in Coleman.

“He’s so well known and well respected throughout North Texas,” Scamardo said. “He can build that network in Houston. We would like to see our membership grow. He will be able to most immediately have an effect in North Texas.”
Coleman agreed that membership is a priority in his new position. “That runs parallel to what I was trying to do with Lambda Legal,” he said.

He also wants to raise the profile of Equality Texas, and change the perception of the group. He said many see it as an Austin organization. A third goal is to get activists motivated on statewide issues.

Coleman began his work in the LGBT community as a member of the Resource Center Dallas Speaker’s Bureau in the early 1990s. He joined the Black Tie Dinner committee. When hired by Lambda Legal, he was national chair of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors.

Scamardo said State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston has talked to the organization about the importance of forging alliances with other minority groups. Scamardo said he looks forward to Coleman doing just that.

Toni Broaddus, executive director of the Equality Federation, made up of state equality organizations from around the country, agreed. Broaddus said she thinks that in addition to his experience, hiring an African-American executive director is a smart move for Equality Texas.

“The LGBT civil rights movement can’t succeed alone,” she said, “And part of the work we need to do is representing our entire community, and exploring the intersection between discrimination against LGBT people and discriminating against people of color.”

Coleman will not be the first person of color to lead the organization. Through the 1990s, Dianne Hardy Garcia, who is Hispanic, headed the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby, which later changed its name to Equality Texas.

“Diversity is one of the things we struggle with in the leadership of our state equality organizations,” Broaddus said. “It’s a struggle to bring people of color and transgender people into leadership positions. It’s great news that we’re adding another person of color.”

But those who’ve worked with Coleman said he is simply the best choice for the job.

“I think that he brings a wealth of experience as a Texan,” Lambda Legal senior staff attorney Ken Upton said. “What makes him right for the job is he knows what works and what doesn’t work in Texas.”

Upton said he thinks Coleman’s Lambda Legal experience will give his advocacy a different tone. He said he expects Coleman will call when the legislative approach isn’t working and a legal approach might fare better.

Scamardo said two of the biggest challenges facing the new Legislature next year will be budget shortfalls and redistricting. The perennial challenge for the community is preventing anti-LGBT legislation from getting out of committee to a floor vote. But there’s also the hope of passing a pro-equality bill for the first time since 2001.

“Our hope is that we can push our key agenda item — the safe schools initiative — early in the session,” Scamardo said. He thinks the anti-bullying law has a good chance to pass before things get too contentious later in the session.

In the last session, the bill had enough votes to pass in the House and had Republican sponsorship. Working on this will be a natural fit.

“We’ve always had a collaborative relationship with Equality Texas, especially with the safe schools issue,” Coleman said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Cece Cox named new ED at Resource Center Dallas

Equality Texas extends offer to ED candidate while YFT puts search on hold for the summer

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

NEW DIRECTOR | Cece Cox assumes her new duties as executive director of Resource Center Dallas on Saturday, July 3.

Resource Center Dallas on Thursday, July 1 announced that Cece Cox has been named as the new executive director of the organization, replacing Mike McKay, who resigned in April to take the position of chief of operations in the Volunteer Recruitment and Selection Division for the Peace Corps.

RCD board chair Reid Ainsworth sent an e-mail to staff on Thursday, announcing Cox would become the new executive director of the organization.

Cox already works at the center as associate executive director of GLBT Community Services. She assumes her new position on July 3.

“I cut my teeth as a baby activist in this building,” Cox said.

She has been active in the LGBT community since the early 1990s when she started a local chapter of GLAAD. She was later president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

Cox has also worked as director of development and marketing for the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Cox was instrumental in coordinating support on the Dallas city council to include non-discrimination based on sexual orientation for city employees and the inclusion of sexual orientation in 1995 in DART’s employment policy.

Cox received her law degree in 2004 and after a short period of working for a private law firm, took the position at the community center.

“I missed my community terribly,” Cox said of why she returned to community activism.

She said she always thinks about the history of the community center.

“Before John [Thomas] died, he told me, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t stop.’”

Thomas was a founder and original executive director of the center.

Cox sees her immediate goals as serving the increasing number of people with HIV and working locally to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community.

“And I’m going to get us into that new community center so we can serve more people,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities for us to engage and get our community the rights we deserve.”

Resource Center Dallas was one of three high-profile LGBT organizations searching for new executive directors over the past few months, along with Equality Texas and Youth First Texas.

Equality Texas may be at the end of its search process for a new executive director after the board met Thursday and decided to extend an offer to a candidate.

Paul Scott stepped down as executive director of Equality Texas in January to become executive director of AIDS Services of Austin. Scott preceded McKay as executive director of Resource Center Dallas.

Judith Dumont left Youth First Texas in June to assume a position at Eastfield College but it is unlikely the organization will begin looking for a replacement for her until fall, officials said.

On Thursday, July 1, the boards of Equality Texas and the Equality Texas Foundation met jointly by phone to approve and extend an offer to a candidate to become the organization’s new executive director.

Interim executive director Chuck Smith said an announcement should be made next week when the candidate accepts the offer.

Equality Texas began its nationwide search for a new executive director on Jan. 8. At the time of the announcement, the goal was to have a new director in place by May 15, but the interview process took longer.

Smith said he’s looking forward to going back to his position as deputy director and getting a day off.

“It certainly has been a rigorous and thorough process,” he said. “We’ve seen many strong candidates.”

Smith said he expects the new director to be in place during the summer, long before the start of the new legislative session in January 2011.

When fully staffed, Equality Texas has six full-time positions. In addition to the executive director vacancy, the position of director of development is also open.

Smith said it made sense to wait until the new director was hired and for that person to select the new development team.

He said the work of the organization has continued on schedule. The political action committee will be making endorsements in legislative races through the summer.

Political director Randall Terrell, who was recently in Dallas for the DART vote on nondiscrimination, said he is already planning for the January legislative session.

YFT board chair Cathy Gonzalez said that the organization would staff activities and programs with volunteers through the summer. She said some volunteers would be given job titles and responsibility for supervising other volunteers.

“It will get us through the summer,” Gonzalez said.

The board met this week for the first time since Dumont resigned.

“In the fall we’ll convene a search committee,” Gonzalez said. “We need someone with a counseling or social service background.”

But she said they weren’t ready to start accepting resumes.

“That wouldn’t be fair to applicants,” she said, since they wouldn’t be looking at them through the summer.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas