AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

Movie Monday: Oscar nominated doc shorts at Texas Theatre

Oscar countdown

Be proud if you’ve seen all the major nominees for this year’s Oscars, but impress your watching party by throwing down some knowledge when this category comes up. The Texas Theatre helps round out those slightly obscure awards by featuring this year’s crops of documentary shorts. And the nominees are The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement, God Is the Bigger Elvis, Incident in New Baghdad,  Saving Face and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. The theater screens ‘em all save for God, but that’ll be enough to make an informed decision and give you the edge on that Oscar pool.

DEETS: The Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. 7 p.m. $9. TheTexasTheatre.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Why do I attract all the crazies?

I got the follow press release recently:

GREENVILLE, NC. – CHRISTIANITY: Soon to be illegal? …. That’s exactly what author Bill Arcand predicts in his inspiring fictional story that gives readers a look into the near future of Christianity in the United States.

Sometimes all it takes is one man’s divinely inspired written word to make the much-needed changes to society. Arcand’s fictional story, The Recurring Dream, is a cautionary tale of what could happen if America continues down the treacherous road it is on. This divinely inspired book gives readers hope and provides direction to Christians throughout the United States.

Author Bill Arcand received literary direction from God, which resulted in his book, The Recurring Dream. The book warns readers about the repercussions of taking Christianity out of American’s everyday lives through an intricately weaved story highlighting both real life and a character’s dream.

“In 2008, as I was praying and very concerned on where our country was heading, I asked God to have mercy on America and asked what I could do to help,” Arcand says. “That’s when I was inspired by God to write a book. I said ‘Okay Lord,’ and I just started writing.”

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say, if there is one religion that doesn’t need to worry about being outlawed in the U.S., it is Christianity. But the way they Far Right has usurped the discussion is frightening. The argument is: We have radical ideas (often not biblically based, but try tell them that) which preach hatred, bigotry and bias against those who feel differently, and have an absolute right to have to government condone our hatred with tax exemptions and other benefits. Then, when some of the non-partisan citizens of this country complain that we are hate-mongers and shouldn’t be entitled to discriminate, we are labeled the “bad guys.” But since our hatred is religiously centered, denying us these biases destroys who we are!

Funny thing is, these are the same folks who pass laws in Oklahoma forbidding the recognition of Sharia law in any context, and who want to use the (secular) marriage licensing function of the state to deny public benefits to gays. The irony is, no one on the (so-called) radical left wants to do away with any religion — in fact, it’s a precept of liberalism to live and let live, and to allow people their First Amendment right to practice their religion… just not to force that religion on others who disagree.

To these kinds of Christians, disagreement is subversion, equality is anti-God-communism draped in tolerance and anyone who opposes the fire-bombing of abortion clinics hates Jesus. Have we entered the Middle Ages — no, the Dark Ages — again? Would God really tell this moron to write a book condemning secularism? As I understood my catechism, God loves all His children, believers and non-believers alike. What could it possibly matter to Him if America goes down one “path?” Aren’t we saved no matter what?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

KALI at The Orange Show explores love, destruction

A depressed bride becomes her own ideal husband; the sun god is seduced by a warrior sent by his lover, the king; the world’s longest love poem is collectively composed on a dress; these, and other performance await at KALI at The Orange Show (2402 Munger Street), February 11 from 6-9 pm. The collection of performance pieces is named after Kali, the Hindu goddess of change and distruction and, in honor the upcoming Valentine’s day relationship gauntlet, explores ideas of relationships.

The venue for this project is Houston’s own outsider art masterpiece, The Orange Show. Built by postman Jeff McKissack over 24 years starting in 1956, The Orange Show covers a south-east Houston lot with found objects celebrating McKissack’s favorite fruit and his belief that hard work and good nutrition are the secrets to long life. The pieces in KALI are built to integrate with the surreal environment of The Orange Show and “take participants on a performance art adventure that will leave them with a new depth of appreciation for the dark side of love.”

According to Continuum Art Collective which is producing the event:

In “Unveiled,” a performance exploring self-acceptance and gender through self-love, Koomah embodies a depressed bride who repeatedly hurts herself in creative ways, culminating in a dramatic transition into a happy groom through an injection of testosterone.

In Joy Moore’s “All’s Fair”, a carnival-influenced game, couples (or friends) are given the opportunity to be rewarded by either protecting the one that they adore, or getting revenge for pain caused by the partner. Will the night end in disharmony or deeper love?

Julia Wallace follows the the arc of a love affair in a a self guided adventure for couples (pre-existing or two people who have just met at the event). The adventure consists of a variety of activities and actions that will have the couple exploring the venue and exploring each other. The result will be an experience like no other and a relationship that is forever changed.

Daniel-Kayne and John Pitale’s band “Cosmic Waves” present ‘The Seduction of Mithras,’ a performance that takes us through a journey of sounds representing a story of seduction, jealousy and love. Mithras the Persian Sun God is seduced by a beautiful warrior who is in the service of the King of Persia, his lover. This sound piece employs gongs, chimes, drums and audience participation.

In “The Wrath of Kali,” Continuum’s members deconstruct marriage, family life, and identity, by playing wedding videos overlayed with a soundscape made with found objects and pre-recorded tracks. Performers will then circulate through the audience, doing interactive performances, as they go. Finally, performers will score and chastise Raindawg, and then welcome him into a new identity.

Tina McPherson discusses and spreads love by attempting to compose the Longest Love Poem, inviting the audience to write romantic expressions on canvas from her lovely dress.

In “A Realistic Pledge,” Sway Youngston reinvents romantic commitments and provides couples a realistic alternative to marriage.

Y.E. Torres strips off clothing to share with us a narration of her tattoos that signify past and current loves.

In “Viscosity,” a durational performance addressing the complexity of relationship drama, Jonatan Lopez attempts to untangle piles of electrical cords with the aid of several lubricating fluids.

And as icing on the cake, Stephanie Saint Sanchez aka DJ ESTEFF will provide a heartbreaking soundtrack for the dance floor and showcase her new Valentine Musik Video: Everybody Loves Me Baby.

Tickets are $7 at the door. KALI at the Orange Show is for mature audiences only.

—  admin

BACH for the holidays …. and beyond

Volunteer Wanda Brown helps get ready for the Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope on Chirstmas Eve

I have been out of the office, on vacation, since Dec. 22, and when I got back to work today and started wading through the thousands of emails in my inbox, I found one from Hank Henley, asking if we could include some information in Dallas Voice about BACH, the weekly Breakfast At Cathedral of Hope program in which church volunteers prepare and serve breakfast to the homeless.

So I am including Hank’s write-up about BACH’s Christmas Eve event here on Instant Tea, just as he sent it to me:

Use the words “Bach” and “cathedral” in a sentence this time of year, and most people will picture the “Christmas Cantata” or “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” But at a certain church in Dallas, BACH stands for “Breakfast at the Cathedral of Hope,” a program that just celebrated its four-year anniversary in November. On Christmas Eve morning, while most of Dallas was nestled all snug in their beds, a small army of volunteers was in the kitchen at the Cathedral of Hope whipping up a hot and hearty breakfast for the homeless and needy that would be coming through their doors by 7:30 a.m. Under the direction of Rev. William Baldridge, Associate Pastor for Community Outreach, this weekly breakfast has grown from serving just 11 guests at the first meal to an average of 200 guests each Saturday morning.

And guests they are: receiving a hot meal served on china plates and with silverware and glasses. The guests may also receive a haircut after they eat, if they so chose.

This week, in addition to the usual food and drink, each guest received a bag with a blanket, hat, gloves, toiletries, water and food coupons. The gift bags were the result of the generous work of Jan Okerlund and Leslie Frye.

Leslie Frye, one of the volunteer coordinators, when asked how the volunteers feel about the work they do, said, “The real blessing is in the cooking for and serving those less fortunate, not only during this Season, but all year long.”

This Saturday’s volunteers included members of the church community of the Cathedral of Hope, members of the Turtle Creek Chorale and a group of 14 students from “I-CERV,” the “Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering.” They are here once a month, all year long. Kenneth Campbell, the Interfaith Services Director Volunteer Coordinator of the Memnosyne Foundation, brought these energetic and focused youth.

The Memnosyne Foundation is a wonderful organization whose mission is “to help a diverse people of the world consciously encourage an evolution of themselves and for future generations by providing the means to encourage positive, peaceful global collaboration.” The diverse crowd of leaders, volunteers and guests were certainly doing that on this morning.

And one guest, who guest shared his story quietly and privately with tears streaming down his face, personifies the spirit of sharing and giving. This time last year, he was on the street, living under a bridge and depending on the generosity of others to survive. He told me he could always count on a hot meal and being treated with respect when he came to BACH. This year, he is able to draw social security and is donating $25 a month to BACH. “They always fed me and helped me get through. Now I want to give back whatever I can. God blessed me and it’s what I want to do.”

Across the room, his hands deep in a bucket of soapy water, volunteer Jamie Rawson, spent the morning scraping plates and glasses, getting them ready for the dishwashers.

“There a few things a person can do which so clearly put Christmastime in perspective as doing something to help others. It is has been said so often as to become a cliché — but it is no less true for being a cliché. It is heart-warming to see so many people gathered to help provide for those in need. It is especially affirming to see so many young people from such a diversity of backgrounds. This has been the most fitting and rewarding way to truly start my Christmas.”

When the guests were finished with breakfast, finished visiting with friends and volunteers, finished with their haircut, and picked up their bag of supplies for warmth and comfort, they left the cathedral and headed back into the rain and the street.

As they left, Richard Boule greeted each of them and wished them a Merry Christmas.

“As I watched those people leaving the Cathedral after breakfast this morning, I could not help wondering where they were going and what each one of them had to look forward to this Christmas time. But I had the feeling that they were grateful for the humanity they were shown, so many left with a smile. May they be blessed.”

If you would like to help with BACH, please call Rev. Baldridge at the Cathedral of Hope at 214-351-1901.

You can see more photos from the Christmas Eve Breakfast at Cathedral of Hope after the jump.

—  admin

What’s Shakin’ – People Empowering People happy hour, Chaz Bono takes on the National Enquirer

1. People Empowering People is a collaboration between The Men’s Group, a social group for African-American gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men, and TMG One Voice, The Men’s Group’s co-ed counterpart.  PEP’s monthly happy hour tonight at F Bar (202 Tuam) provides a casual social setting open to all regardless of ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and an opportunity to mix and mingle with the fabulous men and women of both organizations.  The festivities kick off at 6 pm.

2. Joe My God has a copy of the Cease and Desist letter sent by lawyers for Chaz Bono to the National Enquirer. Seems the tabloid ran a story in this week’s issue claiming that Bono’s gender transition has shortened his life expectancy to 4 years.  The Enquirer article quotes the opinion of Dr. Patrick Wanis, identified as a medical doctor specializing in transgender health issues.  The problem?  According to Bono’s lawyers not only is Wanis not an expert on trans health issues, he’s not a medical doctor.

3. Today is the last day to early vote in the Houston Municipal election, but if you miss this opportunity you can still cast your ballot at your precinct voting location on Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

Gay Pride T-shirts finally arrive at local Old Navy stores — but they’re goin’ fast

At last!!! Old Navy stores at Park Lane and the Galleria finally got a shipment of those Pride T-shirts in on Tuesday — a little behind schedule — but they’re selling like hotcakes. In fact by this afternoon they’d run out already, but both stores said they’ll be getting more shirts in on Thursday to satisfy the prideful public of Dallas. The shirts are selling for $13.50 a pop, and one employee advised me to get in early if I wanted one. Ten percent of the proceeds benefit the It Gets Better Project.

Although Dallas seems to be a fan of getting its Pride on with these stylish Old Navy tees, one group isn’t so thrilled: the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.

“Old Navy is promoting a lifestyle that is in complete rebellion against God,” the CADC’s Dr. Gary Cass told OneNewsNow.com. “Rather than just focusing on giving good products to their customers, they want to use their products now to advocate for a very controversial topic, much less a very immoral and very deadly topic. Unfortunately we have to do the hard work of communicating our outrage, our frustration — and then following that up with some kind of practical expression such as taking your business elsewhere.”

—  admin

Anti-gay El Paso candidate says earthquake and tsunami in Japan were a curse from God

On Monday we told you how several anti-gay candidates are running for El Paso City Council in the wake of the ongoing battle over domestic partner benefits for municipal workers.

Well, one of those anti-gay candidates, Malcolm McGregor III, told ABC 7 he believes the tsunami and earthquake in Japan were a curse from God.

“Japan had built tsunami walls along their coasts but this tsunami was bigger than that. No matter what you say, they either weren’t blessed with protection or they were cursed with an earthquake,” McGregor said. “God did say, Christ did say that earthquakes would increase in the last days and that’s what we’re seeing.”

McGregor is part of the group El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values, which sponsored a successful ballot initiative to rescind DP benefits in November, after the benefits were approved by the City Council. McGregor is also a defendant in the pending federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ballot initiative.

—  John Wright

Craigslist ad of the day: Looking at CPAC

Via Joe.My.God:

—  John Wright

If ‘Easy A’ is up for best pic, that means the GLAAD Award nominees are here

I would have mentioned Burlesque, but the Golden Globes beat GLAAD to the punch. Anyhow, those are just two of the nominees GLAAD has announced for this year’s media awards. Unfortunately the Dallas Voice missed out on all the journalism nominations, but you know, the Atlanta Journal Constitution does a great job on LGBT issues?! Congrats are in order. GLAAD’s fetish of pissing on the gay press continues, but really, who are we compared to nominee People Magazine in regards to covering the gay stuff? And hey, what about Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives?

But seriously, I am pretty stoked about the music nominations. The nominees for outstanding music artist (LGBT music artists who released an original album in 2010) are:

_________________________________________________________________________________

Antony and the Johnsons
Swanlights (Secretly Canadian)
Big Freedia
Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 (Big Freedia Records)
Chely Wright
Lifted Off the Ground (Vanguard Records)
Kele Okereke
The Boxer (Glassnote Records)
Scissor Sisters
Night Work (Downtown Record

I’ll go out on a limb and predict Chely Wright as the clear winner, but wouldn’t mind a Big Freedia upset. Nothing against Wright, but Freedia’s was definitely the most exciting of this bunch and took us to places many haven’t been to much before.

GLAAD also announced its Spanish-language nominees.

—  Rich Lopez