Save our history, before it’s too late

HISTORIC MOMENT | Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller poses with gay former Councilmen Ed Oakley, left, and John Loza, during previous gay Pride festivities in Lee Park. Miller was the first Dallas mayoral candidate to acknowledge the LGBT community in a speech to a mainstream audience, but bits of our history like that will be lost unless we do something now to preserve them

Dallas has one of the most vibrant LGBT communities in the U.S., but unless we do something soon, the history of this community will be lost

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Despite its stellar, well-known rise to prominence over the past four decades, Dallas’ LGBT community might find itself hard-pressed to document its glory days in coming years.

We apparently are forgetting our history as fast as we live each new day. So many people have either died, moved away or both that the number of people who remember what happened in Dallas after the birth of the gay rights movement in June 1969 are dwindling daily.

That was illustrated recently when former city Councilman Ed Oakley, Dallas’ best-known gay politician, called the current mayoral election and the candidates’ solicitation of the LGBT vote a “watershed” moment. Actually, we had already passed that milestone in the 2002 mayoral election when all of the candidates aggressively vied for the LGBT vote.

It was in that campaign cycle that former Mayor Laura Miller took the microphone during a campaign speech before a general audience and acknowledged Dallas’ LGBT community. It was the first time for a Dallas mayoral candidate to publicly acknowledge our community’s existence before TV cameras, reporters and a mixed audience.

But now — less than a mere decade later — those enormous gains were almost lost to the collective memory of Dallas’ LGBT community.

My point is not to criticize Oakley for failing to remember what happened, but to stress the need for better documentation of our social and political history. No definitive record of the history of LGBT Dallas exists, and that makes it really difficult to know for sure what did or didn’t happen in Dallas since New York City’s Stonewall Riots kicked off the gay rights movement.

If we don’t remember where we’ve been and what we’ve done, are we prepared for where we need to go in the future?

Dallas’ LGBT community is fortunate to have a publication like the Dallas Voice that has chronicled the events of almost three decades, and the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library in the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center that contains Johnson’s personal collection of gay magazines, newspapers and other literature dating back to World War II — before most people in the community were born.

Johnson, who is in his 80s now, has written a short history of Dallas that focuses more on events that preceded the Stonewall Riots. He also has given talks about Dallas’ LGBT history that provide a fascinating glimpse into what life was like for LGBT people struggling to live their lives in an oppressive time that most of us have never experienced.

My own research of The Dallas Morning News’ archives reveals that in the 1950s the district attorney’s office aggressively pursued gay people in their homes during private parties. People were literally arrested for same-sex dancing in those days.

We can’t afford to forget that our lives today are literally blessed in comparison to what the people before us experienced. We can’t ever let politicians forget that our lives matter, and that we will never go back to the old days of subjugation.

And don’t ever forget that there are still many people around who would like to see our community dissolved and powerless. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, is one of the biggest proponents of just such a movement to discredit and render us politically powerless.

That’s why it is important to document our history, to show young people in our community what we accomplished and to show our detractors that we’ve fought many battles in the past and that we will do it again if necessary.

Perhaps, it could be a collaborative effort, with many writers who lived through the times reflecting on what happened.

We’ve certainly got the talent and the resources in Dallas to document our history. The idea has been tossed around before, but apparently nothing has ever came of it. Isn’t it time that we did it?

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Thanks for an amazing year at RCD

LGBT, HIV communities should be prepared for new challenges in 2011

What a year! Who could have predicted all the twists and turns it has taken, or the events that galvanized our country and united our communities?

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HELL FREEZES OVER  | A member of the Phelps clan from Westboro Baptist Church protests outside Resource Center Dallas in July. A counterprotest fundraiser organized by RCD netted more than $11,000 to buy a new ice maker for the agency’s hot lunch program. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

So much happened in 2010 involving Resource Center Dallas, and none of it could have occurred without the strong support of the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities in North Texas.

Looking back, I am filled with gratitude and wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you. Here’s what you helped us accomplish:

• Dallas Area Rapid Transit expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity, in the wake of news stories about the discrimination experienced by a transgender bus driver;

• RCD joined forces with the Kaiser Family Foundation, Dallas County Health and Human Services, and AIDS ARMS to bring the “Greater than AIDS” campaign to Dallas, highlighting services available to people living with HIV/AIDS and promoting HIV prevention;

• DFW International Airport expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, following a request from RCD and Fairness Fort Worth;

• A fundraising counterprotest against a “church” from Kansas brought out hundreds of community members in a rainstorm and netted more than $11,000 to buy a new ice maker for our HIV/AIDS clients’ hot lunch program;

• Following advocacy by RCD, Lambda Legal, LULAC and a coalition of other community groups, the Dallas Independent School District adopted a first-of-its-kind-in-Texas comprehensive, enumerative antibullying policy that covers not only LGBT students, but all students;

• We partnered with 138 community groups, including the Tarrant County Health Department and the Urban League of Greater Dallas, in the “Stomp Out Syphilis” campaign; administered over 3,100 HIV tests; and delivered HIV prevention messages to more than 8,600 people;

• We completed diversity training for all 700-plus employees of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage commission statewide — the first time a state agency conducted this training for all its employees;

• And, we served more than 21,500 weekday lunches and provided about 29,000 visits to our food pantry for our HIV/AIDS clients in 2010 — distributing more than 350 tons of groceries.

These accomplishments, funded while the economy remained sluggish and both the need and demand for our services continued to increase, show the generous nature and support of our communities and allies. Each and every one of you who got involved deserves recognition and a deep, sincere thank you — especially the more than 1,100 people who volunteered at RCD in 2010.

As we stand on the cusp of another year, we do not know what opportunities for change will be presented. Clearly, the political landscape has shifted, and the new realities in Washington and Austin will provide opportunities and challenges for the LGBT and HIV communities.

One key area — funding for ADAP (AIDS drug assistance programs), medical care and social services for people living with HIV — will be an issue for Texas lawmakers already grappling with a large budget deficit.

The movement toward marriage equality will continue in the federal courts, as well as state legislatures. Even though “don’t ask, don’t tell” is coming to an end, work needs to be done so that gay and lesbian members of the military can serve openly — and, there remains a prohibition on openly transgender members of the armed services.

Over the past year, the LGBT and HIV communities responded to issues as they developed. We made phone calls, wrote letters, spoke truth to power, and rallied. We donated our time to organizations quietly and without thought of recognition. We sent our dollars in to provide economic support to organizations that share our values, focus and interests.

What 2010 teaches us is that we must be ready to meet whatever challenges we encounter. Resource Center Dallas will be there, engaged on behalf of not only our communities but all North Texans. We’ll continue to develop partnerships across the region, because the issues of HIV, discrimination and equality don’t respect city limits or county lines. And, we’ll be turning to the communities again for your help and support.

Playwright and author Thornton Wilder reminds us, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

Throughout this year, you and our work with and for you kept us fully alive and conscious of our shared treasure. For that, and the opportunity you offer us to serve you and our communities, Resource Center and I say thank you. And Happy New Year!

Rafael McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at Resource Center Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Local Briefs • 09.10.10

Young Democrats group holding barbecue to honor first responders

Dallas County Young Democrats and Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats are holding a cookout Saturday, Sept. 10, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Kidd Spring Park, 711 W. Canty St. in Dallas, in honor of the country’s first responders.

The second annual event is called “Serving Those Who Serve Us,” and all firefighters, police officers, military personnel and reservists and their

families get free admission. Others are asked to give a $5 donation. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Dallas Fire-Rescue.

For more information, contact Joseph Amyson at communityservice@dallasyoungdemocrats.org.

RCD marking LGBT Center Awareness Day with exhibit

Resource Center Dallas is joining with CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, to mark the second annual LGBT Center Awareness Day on Wednesday, Sept. 15, with a special display of items from the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library from noon to 6 p.m.

The items on special display will include a sign from the 1993 March on Washington signed by Dallas participants; a yard sign from the Proposition 2 election in 2005; a kissing booth from Queer Liberaction; a megaphone from Cheer Dallas; photographs from pioneering Dallas activist William Waybourn and photographs from Phil Johnson of Dallas’ Pride parade in 1984.

The theme of this year’s LGBT Center Awareness Day is “Building Our Community from the Center,” showcasing the integral role that community centers play in the development, unification, and empowerment of all LGBT communities. Events are also taking place at other local centers in celebration of the day.

Terry Stone, CenterLink’s executive director, said that each week, more than 40,000 people visit community centers in 46 states and the District of Columbia, accessing “programs and services that literally build community from the center.”

Cece Cox, executive director of Resosurce Center Dallas, said this community awareness day “is the perfect opportunity for people who are familiar with the center to learn about  what we are doing here, and for people new to the North Texas area this can be their first opportunity to learn about us.”

Last year, the Resource Center Dallas provided services to more than 50,000 people through activities such as GayBingo Dallas, diversity education, the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research library, an information hotline, community health programs, STD testing and other LGBT and HIV/AIDS programs, Cox said.

For more information about LGBT Center Awareness Day, go online to MyCenterLink.org. For more information about Resource Center Dallas, go online to RCDallas.org.

GAIN group for LGBT seniors holds potluck with drawings for prizes

Resource Center Dallas’ GAIN (GLBT+Aging Interest Network) will hold a potluck supper on Thursday, Sept. 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St.

GAIN committee members will furnish the meat dishes, including smoked brisket. They will also supply plates, utensils, wine and other beverages. Others who attend are asked to bring their favorite side dishes.

There will be several prize drawings during the event, including a drawing for a $50 gift card to Dish Restaurant.
Although the group is primarily for those 50 and older, everyone is welcome to attend the potluck.

Rainbow Garden Club offers garden tour in North Dallas

The Rainbow Garden Club North Texas will hold its third annual tour of members’ and friends’ gardens on Sunday Oct. 3, from noon to 6 p.m.
Gardens on this year’s tour are in Richardson and Northeast Dallas, and include a working farm, a secret garden, a tropical paradise, a garden for entertaining, a garden that is a tropical retreat and a garden with an Austin vibe.

Ticket are $10 and are available at Brumley Gardens, 10540 Church Road, North Haven Gardens, 7700 Northhaven Road, Redenta’s Garden, 2001 Skillman St., Shambala Body Gallery, 415 N. Bishop Ave. and Under the Sun Garden Center, 7124 Campbell Road.

Resource Center Dallas hires Neal as new director of development

Officials with Resource Center Dallas announced this week that the center has hired Sharon Neal as its new capital campaign director, effective Sept. 13. She will be responsible for planning, implementing, conceptualizing and evaluating the center’s capital campaign for a new building, and her job will include resource development, grant seeking and individual fundraising.

Cece Cox, RCD’s executive director, said Neal “brings a wealth of personal experience and a considerable background in capital campaign projects. The  center is committed to meeting the increasing demand for services and programs in a new home on Cedar Springs Road, just north of Inwood, and Sharon will help us make that dream come true.”

Neal most recently worked at KIPP TRUTH Academy in Dallas, where she served as the school’s director of development and led a $1.5 million dollar capital campaign. She previously served as managing director for the PaCRS group, where her non-profit and corporate clients included the Center for Nonprofit Management, the Verizon Foundation, Education is Freedom, Texans Care for Children, Cornerstone Assistance Network, Capital One and the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.

Neal is also the former director of development for the Women’s Museum at Fair Park and held community outreach positions at both 7-Eleven Inc. and TXU Corporation.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University and a certificate of corporate citizenship from Boston University’s Carroll School of Management. She is an alumna of Leadership Texas.

Artists Against AIDS auction set for October at Community Arts Center

AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County’s annual Artists Against AIDS Silent Art Auction is set for Oct. 23, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

Artwork will be on display from Oct. 1 to Oct. 23.

The event will feature food, entertainment, an open bar with wine and beer and a silent auction including a selection of high-quality fine art from local and regional artists. Tickets for the auction and party are $75.

This year’s honorary co-chairs are state Sen. Wendy Davis, and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. Event co-chairs are Cynthia Hodgkins and Sarah Garrett.

Featured artists for the evening are Henrietta Milan and Eric Stevens.

ACLU executive director to speakat Oak Cliff Unitarian

Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, will will speak Sept. 15 on recent decisions by the Texas State Board of Education that some people believe were an abuse of authority by board members who forced their own personal ideologies into Texas public schools’ curricula.

The meeting will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff, 3839 W. Kiest Blvd. in Dallas. The event is co-sponsored by the ACLU of Texas and the Unitarian Church of Oak Cliff. Admission is free and open to the public.

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

—  Kevin Thomas