Standing on the brink

As we stand at a crossroads in our country, Black Panther Party cofounder’s call for unity still rings true




Huey P. Newton


Buster Spiller‘During the past few years, strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

“Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion.

“I say, ‘whatever your insecurities are’ because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

“We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the white racists use against our people because they are black and poor. Many times the poorest white person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have.”

Over one year after the Stonewall rebellion in the summer of 1969 that set the movement for gay rights to move forward, Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, delivered these prophetic words in a speech that would come to be known as “his gay speech.”

Given the seismic shift in our country’s social and political rhetoric towards communities and groups who are still marginalized in the 21st century, despite the tremendous gains we have made to change that landscape, we still have much work to do. This holds true for blacks, for women and for the LGBTQ communities.

Arguably, the more visible and contentious display of vitriol has been FELT by the black and LGBTQ communities, although the latter has made significant progress in the fight for equality in the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.” Women have also seen tremendous gains in their fight for access and equality at all levels of society. But there are still challenges and glass ceilings that remain.

In the black community, vestiges from American slavery, reconstruction and the period of legalized, racial discrimination known as “Jim Crow” still persist, bringing with it the same old stereotypes about blacks that have resulted in a number of societal ills that white America continues to ignore, despite our shared past.

Black men — and some black women — have been the contemporary targets of that hatred in the form of killings by those sworn to protect and serve every citizen of this nation.

To be fair — and on a topic that is the subject of criticism by some in and out of the black community — it is my belief a number of those unfortunate deaths were justifiable based on the circumstances, and the police were simply doing their job.

BUT a higher percentage of those deaths involved excessive force that wasn’t justifiable.

Last week after the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (Yes, I’m calling them “murders” because that’s what they WERE!), that truth came home to roost in the latter category of unjustified force. And that chicken came and set down square in my family, in an indelible and personal way, through painful dialogues

Watching the second video of the killing of Alton Sterling that was in constant loop on every news station and in the media, I found myself growing angrier and angrier, because it was my opinion that the officer acted improperly and yet another black man was dead. To be completely honest, I wasn’t just angry; I was MAD AS HELL.

Before I had the opportunity to process this atrocity, Philando Castile was shot during a traffic stop, with his fiancée calmly sharing through live feed what was occurring before and after he was shot. She did so with a steely calm and resolve that I still don’t understand how she managed.

Castile’s death hit me harder. Why? Because he could have easily been me.

Like Castile, I work for my living and keep my nose clean. I am loved by the people I serve, in particularly their children. I care for my family and extended family members, as it is evident by the strong bond he had with his soon to be step-daughter that Castile did also.

And like Castile, I have a legal license to carry a handgun.

Equally as hard for me was the death of the five courageous Dallas polices officers who lost their lives during what was supposed to be a peaceful protest coordinated between the black community and the Dallas PD. I sat stunned as I watched the television, repeating over and over again, “This is not supposed to be happening in Dallas, Texas. Dallas, Texas? This does not happen here.”

I have lived by the model of responsible adulthood and citizenship all my life, virtues passed down to me from my parents, who were both in our home while I was growing up. I work extremely hard to live right, treat people well and leave something tangible for the next generation of my family and others outside of it to build upon.

What Castile’s death spoke to me was this truth: Regardless of my BEST efforts to do the right thing by myself and others, if stopped by the police for a basic traffic infraction that whites and other racial groups also get stopped for, in the end I might become the next statistic — or in my own words, just another dead-ass nigger.

Is that painful to hear? That word? The word that all of us better NOT utter? Well, it’s harder for me to mentally process because that’s how I’m viewed by a segment of white America, including some police — as a targeted group.

However, what was more painful was my husband and I receiving a call from our family in Illinois. Our 17-year old grandson, our ONLY grandson out of six grandchildren, was apparently upset by everything that was going on. I couldn’t speak to him; I was too angry. Gregory spoke to him, and our grandsom asked him this pointed question before breaking down: “Pappadeaux, why are they trying to kill us? Why do they want to kill us?”

That question from a young man on the cusp of his adult life haunts me to this day, because if I did have the ability to answer his question, I wouldn’t know what to say.

Perhaps I might say, “Grandson, I don’t know why they do that. All you can do is do EVERYTHING we taught you to do when engaging police officers. Be respectful. Answer all of their questions honestly and calmly. Don’t make any unnecessary movement that may be considered a threat. But above all, realize that if you do all of these things, Pappadeaux and PauPau can’t protect you if that officer sees something different. We can’t protect you and you may end up dead.”

I don’t know about you white community, but that is a really fucking hard pill to swallow. I am pretty sure you don’t have similar conversations with your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other loved ones — certainly not at that type of brutally honest level, given this climate.

So how do we address this epidemic of “living while black until you are killed,” that we are all witness to during this time in history — which by the way, is the same shit as usual, because this is NOT new. Blacks have been subject to racial profiling and killings for a very LONG time in this country’s history.

The only difference now is that we have smartphones to record all of this shit. And even then, you have people who walk by virtue of the badge, reminiscent of those walking because of the prominent display of their hoods and sheets, all perceived to be upright and moral citizens.

Perhaps the late Huey P. Newton was on to something powerful that we all missed: the collaborative merging of the three primary struggles for equality facing this country. Moreso than not, our movements need each other. Blacks. Women. LGBTQ.
Deliberate actions and progress for one group is progress for us all. But we have to be willing to go down this path together, for equality’s sake.

I was a participant in the recent prayer vigil for the Orlando tragedy sponsored by Resource Center here in Dallas, and I was overwhelmed emotionally at the sea of brother/sisterhood that event represented. LGBTQ, black, white, Latino, Asian, male, female, transgender, allies, politicos  AND the police, all in solidarity for a TANGIBLY better America. I have never in my 20-plus years of advocacy in this country felt the kinship as I felt that day.

We deserve more than what we’ve been giving ourselves; my grandson and his contemporaries deserve more. We OWE them this.

And that will be our legacy to them, that they will no longer live in a society where a person is judged by their race, skin tone, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or any other ism that divides us as a nation.

Buster Spiller is a happily married, longtime activist, and award-winning playwright from Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

The Gay Agenda • 07-15-16


­­­Have an event coming up? Email your information to Managing Editor Tammye Nash at or Senior Staff Writer David Taffet at by Wednesday at 5 p.m. for that week’s issue.

Weekly: Lambda Weekly every Sunday at 1 p.m. on 89.3 KNON-FM; United Black Ellument hosts discussion on HIV/AIDS in the black community (UBE Connected) at 7 p.m. every fourth Tuesday of the month at 3116 Commerce St., Suite C; Core Group Meeting every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.; Fuse game night every Monday evening except the last of the month at 8 p.m. at the Fuse space in the Treymore Building, 4038 Lemmon Ave, Suite 101; FuseConnect every Wednesday from 7 p.m. For more information call or e-mail Jalenzski at 214-760-9718 ext 3 or

• July 15: DallasStrong BBQ
The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce is among the sponsors of a DallasStrong barbecue from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, 9800 Preston Road. $25. First responders eat free.

• July 15: Federal Club mixer
HRC Federal Club mixer from 6-8 p.m. at Tutta’s West End, 1701 N. Market St. #110.

• July 16: Quinceanera Gaybingo
Monthly fundraiser for Resource Center takes place 6-9 p.m. the third Saturday of the month at Rose Room at S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Doors open at 5 p.m. For more information, call 214-540-4458 or email

• July 16: Youth Vigil for Pulse
LGBTQ youth and allies rally including reading of the victims names, open mic, youth speakers and performers from 4-7 p.m. at Legacy of Love Monument.

• July 16: Night of Stars benefiting LifeWalk
Raven, JujuBee, Krystal Summers, Nova Starr, Vanity Storm, Sienna Silver and others guests perform to benefit Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund LifeWalk team 8:30–10 p.m. at The Brick,  2525 Wycliff Ave., #120. $20.

• July 17: Drag Star Divas for Orlando
The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce partners with The Rose Room and Drag Star Diva to present Drag Star Divas for Orlando, a benefit for the victims of the shooting in Orlando, a drag extravaganza featuring an all-star cast, 6-9:30 p.m. in The Rose Room at S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. There is a $5 suggested donation at the door, and the event is open to those 18 and over. Visit for more information.

• July 18-Aug. 11: Back to school donation drive
Real Live Connection, HRC, AIDS Walk South Dallas, and Oak Lawn UMC present a donation drive to collect clothing and school supplies for homeless LGBT youth and allies. Drop box locations are at the UPS Store, 3824 Cedar Springs Road, Alexandre’s, 4026 Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Branch Library, 4100 Cedar Springs Road. For information visit

• July 19: Log Cabin Republicans meeting
Former Dallas County GOP Party Chair Wade Emmert speaks on the challenges for the Republican Party. Social at 6:30.
Meeting at 7 p.m. at Coal Vines,
2404 Cedar Springs Road.

• July 19: Sign up for AIN Angels
Join AIDS Interfaith Network for a margarita to sign up to walk on the AIN Angels LifeWalk team. $40 registration includes: participation in the Walk, a LifeWalk T-shirt, an AIN sowing seeds of hope T- shirt and
4 LifeWalk raffle tickets from 6:30-8:30 at Ojeda’s, 4617 Maple Ave.

• July 19: Community meeting on homeless youth
The Dallas Commission on Homelessness Community Engagement Committee hosts public meetings to educate, engage and gather feedback from the community to overcome challenges involving homeless youth, Tuesday, July 19-6-8 p.m. at North Dallas High School, 3120 N. Haskell Ave. Studies indicate about 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT. For information visit

• July 20: Holocaust survivor speaks
If you have never heard survivors tell their stories, this is your chance at 12:30 p.m. at Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 N. Record St #100.

• July 21: One Night Only: Songs and Stories from the Turtle Creek Chorale
The Dallas Way fundraiser with a program of Turtle Creek Chorale stories and songs at 7 p.m. at The Round-Up Saloon,
3912 Cedar Springs Road. Tickets $10-25. Sponsorships available.

• July 21: Northeast Patrol Division breakfast
Wellness and safety breakfast for those 55+. Jill Turner, President of Cooper Healthy Living, speaks.  Doors at 9 a.m. and program at 10 a.m. at Harry Stone Rec Center, 2403 Millmar Dr. Free breakfast for first 200 who respond to or 214-202-6255.

• July 23: Summit on LGBT Aging
Second annual summit is a joint venture with GALA North Texas. From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Southern Methodist University Plano Campus, 5326 Tennyson Parkway, Plano.

• July 24: The Brick Closing Party
The Brick/Joe’s, 2525 Wycliff, will close after 25 years with a farewell party with owners Howard Okon and Greg Parrish
who are retiring.

• July 25: High Tech Happy Hour Christmas in July
Benefits The Senior Source. A $50 gift card to Target or Walmart will help a senior purchase personal items and a $100 check will purchase and install an air conditioning unit. From 5-7 p.m. at Two Corks and a Bottle, The quadrangle, 2800 Routh St. #140.

• July 28-31 Texas Queerlesque Festival
Queer burlesque takes center stage in the 4-day Texas Queerlesque Festival, where cabaret-style performing arts meets the culturally-rich queer community. The festival aims to unify, celebrate and elevate, and showcases Texas premiere performers in two mainstage shows at Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St., and Viva’s Lounge, 1350 Manufacturing St., Ste. 120. For information visit

• July 30: DFW Federal Club summer luncheon
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, the Democrat representing Texas’ 33rd Congressional District, and Joni Madison, chief operating officer and chief of staff of the Human Rights Campaign, will be featured speakers at the DFW Federal Club’s Summer Luncheon. The event is capped at 200 guests. Business casual luncheon from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Tower Club, Thanksgiving Tower, 1601 Elm St. 48th floor. For information visit

• July 31: Holocaust survivor speaks
If you have never heard survivors tell their stories, this is your chance at 12:30 p.m. at Dallas Holocaust Museum,
211 N. Record St #100.

• July 31: Sunday Night Fever
Cathedral of Hope’s 46th anniversary party with ’70s costumes and karaoke. From 5-8 p.m. at Cathedral of Hope,  5910 Cedar Springs Road.

• Aug. 9: Youth Summit and Diversity Dialogue
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson hosts The 2016 Annual Youth Summit and Diversity Dialoguefrom 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at SMU Meadows School of the Arts, 6101 Bishop Blvd. Contact Harrison Blair at 214-922-8885 to apply.

• Aug. 9: Bridge Building Network—Ed-U-CARE
Vivienne Armstrong talks about awareness about the care needs of LGBT older adults. Light dinner provided and Gen Silent will be shown from 6-8:30 p.m. at The Senior Source, 3910 Harry Hines Blvd.

• Aug. 10: Black Tie Sponsor Appreciation Party
Black Tie Dinner holds its sponsor appreciation party at Brendan Bass Showroom, 2001 Irving Blvd.

• Aug. 10: Holocaust survivor speaks
If you have never heard survivors tell their stories, this is your chance at 12:30 p.m. at Dallas Holocaust Museum,
211 N. Record St #100.

• Aug. 13: Back to School Block Party
Clothing and school supplies collected for homeless and in need LGBT youth and allies through the summer will be distributed
from 4-7 p.m. at Oak Lawn UMC, 3014 Cedar Springs Road. For information visit

• Aug. 14: Top Dog Couture
An evening of high canine fashion benefiting Tucker’s Gift’s LifeWalk team from 6-9 p.m. at The Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. $5.

• U.S. Rep. Veasey’s August Town Hall
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-District 33, hosts a town hall to give residence the chance to share thoughts and concerns on issues affecting their communities, 6 p.m. in the Community Room at El Centro West campus, 3330 N. Hampton Road. For information call 214-741-1387.

• Aug. 19: Cabaret & Cabernet
Sammons Center for the Performing Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd., presents Cabaret & Cabernet, featuring emcee Tracy Fulton along with Denise Lee, Linda Petty, The Larry Petty Combo, Teddy and Lorena Davey, Jay Gardner, WT Greer, Sheran Goodspeed Keyton, Keran Jackson, LaLa Johnson, Carolyn Lee Jones, Shelley Kenneavy, Pam Musgrove and Diana Savage. Wine tasting at 7:30 p.m., performances at 8 p.m. Admission is $400 for a table of eight; $300 for a table of six, available by calling 214-520-7788 and online at

• Aug. 20: Turtle Creek monthly clean up
Join Turtle Creek Association’s monthly clean-up of the shores of Turtle Creek. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Beasley steps at Hall Street and the Katy Trail.

• Aug. 20: Flame Games Gaybingo
Monthly fundraiser for Resource Center takes place 6-9 p.m. the third Saturday of the month at Rose Room at S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Doors open at 5 p.m. For more information, call 214-540-4458 or email

• Aug. 21: Holocaust survivor speaks
If you have never heard survivors tell their stories, this is your chance at 12:30 p.m. at Dallas Holocaust Museum,
211 N. Record St #100.

• Aug. 25-26: Sister Helen Holy
Sister Helen Holy headlines her own benefit show for Legacy Counseling Center saving sinners at Sammons Center for the Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. $45-100 plus sponsorship opportunities.



The Dallas Way presents “One Night Only: Songs and Stories of the Turtle Creek Chorale,” Thursday, July 21, as its annual fundraising event. Speakers — and singers — are Daryl Curry, Michael Sullivan, Doug Mitchell, Lonnie Parks and Brian Carey, with a special performance by the Nazarene Knockouts.  The performers will be telling the story of the Chorale. The Dallas Way will also honor Jack Evans at this event, and everyone is encouraged to make a donation in his honor online at or in person at the event. “One Night Only” is presented at the Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Obama visits to help Dallas heal

The president was joined by VP Biden, G.W. Bush at a memorial service for fallen officers


President Barack Obama called on Americans to “worry more about joining sides to do right.” (Tammye Nash/ Dallas Voice)


David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer
President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush — in Dallas to speak at the Tuesday, July 12 memorial service for the five officers killed July 7 following a Black Lives Matter protest rally — both spoke this week of the need to heal and to unite to bridge the growing chasm between the black community and police departments nationwide

The memorial service, coincidentally, took place on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at an Orlando gay bar that left 49 people dead and 53 more wounded. While a congressional committee marked the day by debating new ways to discriminate against the LGBT community, Obama noted the anniversary differently. He said the goal of the killer in Dallas was the same as the shooters’ in Orlando and at Charleston’s Emanual AME Church last year in June — to divide the country.

“With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right,” Obama said. “But as Americans, we can decide that people like this killer [in Dallas] will ultimately fail. They will not drive us apart. We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.”

The president was last of the afternoon’s speakers and didn’t go to the podium until after 2:30 p.m. Most people attending arrived by 11 a.m.


After George W. Bush and Michelle Obama joined hands for “The Battle Hymn at the Republic,” the rest of those on stage and everyone in the audience did as well. (Tammye Nash/ Dallas Voice)

Outside the hall, Arlington police, assisted by officers from other DFW Metroplex police departments, handled traffic and security. Barricades kept most onlookers across the street from the Meyerson and created a maze for those going into the hall.

But police were friendly and helpful to those trying navigate the labyrinth of barricades.

Inside the Meyerson, Secret Service took over security, working professionally and quickly to ensure everyone’s safety while at the same time keeping the line of guests waiting to enter moving efficiently. Meyerson staff and volunteers were also on hand to help direct guests to the proper seating areas.

By the time the president and his entourage arrived, 2,500 people had filled the Meyerson. Uniformed officers packed most of the main orchestra section of the symphony hall, with the first five rows reserved for family of the victims. Each time family members arrived, escorted by police, the crowd stood, applauded and wiped away tears.

The Dallas Police Choir was joined on stage by singers from six area church choirs. They began with a powerful rendition of “Love is Stronger than Hate.”

In addition to state and local officials who appeared on stage, governors Jay Nixon of Missouri and Suzanna Martinez of New Mexico attended. Mayors from New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Lewisville and Columbia flew in for the event. A police honor guard from Friendswood, south of Houston, sat upstairs. One Friendswood officer said it was an honor to be there for the families of the fallen officers.

Mayor Mike Rawlings welcomed everyone, noting they were there to comfort the families of the victims and “to honor those who were wounded, not only in body but soul,” acknowledging how hurt everyone on the police force is. Police Chief David Brown said earlier in the day he might require his officers to go through counseling, so that officers don’t have to request it.

The Rev. Sheron Patterson of the United Methodist Church of North Texas, Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom and Imam

Omar Suleiman of Valley Ranch Islamic Center each offered prayers for unity, healing and peace.

Before the president spoke, Sen. John Cornyn, Brown and Bush offered some remarks.

Sen. John Cornyn thanked Rawlings and Brown for the strength they’ve shown since the ambush, calling them men of uncommon courage. He praised Dallas police officers for the way they ran toward the bullets, shielded citizens and sacrificed their own lives.

“They put the people of Dallas before themselves,” Cornyn said.

After receiving a standing ovation, Bush said, “Today our nation grieves. Those of us who call Dallas home lost five members of our family.” He said the Dallas Police Department has been an inspiration for the rest of the country, and added, “We are grief stricken, heartbroken and forever grateful.”

Rawlings introduced DART Police Chief James Spiller saying, “Leadership is hard. Great leadership is unique. We experienced that leadership from James Spiller.” As he introduced Brown, whom he called “a rock” and “my friend,” the auditorium erupted into a standing ovation, the longest and loudest of the day, complete with whistles and cheers.

Brown said when he was young, he wasn’t good at asking girls out. So he would memorize lyrics to songs by Al Green and the Isley Brothers. But when he really loved a girl, he’d turned to the music of Stevie Wonder. “Today, I’m going to pull out some Stevie Wonder for these families,” Brown said, proceeding to recite the words to “I’ll Be Lovin You Always.”

The president followed Brown, beginning his speech by saying, “ I’m so glad I met Michelle first, because she loves Stevie Wonder.”

He followed that with a tribute to each of the officers. Before the event, he met with the wounded and he talked about the son of Shetamia Taylor, who brought her children to the demonstration. Her 12-year-old son told the president he wants to become a Dallas police officer someday.

“Despite the fact police conduct was the subject of the protest, the men and women of the Dallas Police Department did their jobs,” Obama said, noting that the officers had posted photos of themselves with demonstrators on social media before the shooting started.

Throughout his speech, the president expressed frustration that he “hugged too many families” of people killed in similar incidents during his eight years in the White House. But he praised the Dallas police, who “didn’t flinch and didn’t act recklessly,” and through their actions, “saved more lives than we will ever know.”

He praised Brown for being at the forefront of improving relations between police and the residents of the city, and called DPD a national model for the way a police department should be run. But he enumerated the shortcomings that too often plague police departments in this country.

“We ask police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves,” Obama said, echoing frustrations Brown expressed yesterday. “We refuse to fund drug treatment. We flood communities with guns.”

The theme that’s emerged this week in Dallas is unity. People of different religious and political backgrounds have come together. At a memorial service at Thanksgiving Square last Friday, July 8, one pastor even urged straight people to hold the hand of a gay person.

That unity was clear among those on stage, especially between Michelle Obama and George W. Bush. While others were speaking, Bush kept whispering to Michelle Obama and she’d answer. The two were  acting like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in awhile. Laura Bush and, while others were speaking, Barack Obama were continually glancing over at them, smiling or making faces at their interactions.

Everyone stood for the closing of the event as the choirs sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Michelle Obama took Bush’s hand and both began singing along. The president and former first lady then took their spouses’ hands. The three clergy seated directly behind them joined hands. Rawlings took his wife’s hand and she took Brown’s.

Just to emphasize that unity, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson joined hands with Sen. Ted Cruz. Seated above in the choral terrace, the Dallas City Council held hands. The rest of the audience joined them, singing and swaying while all holding hands.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.                    

—  David Taffet

DPD a model of de-escalation training

But the rest of the country has a long way to go to catch up to Big D’s spirit of unity


Dozens of activists participate on Monday, June 11 in a sit-in outside U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Orlando office, protesting for stricter gun control laws. The sit-in, intended to last 49 hours, was planned to honor the 49 victims of the June 12 Pulse Nightclub shooting and to pressure Rubio to take action on gun violence. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer

Although the ambush of Dallas police officers took place barely a week ago, law enforcement is already using the event to examine its tactics, plans and community relations.

President Barack Obama said in remarks to police in Dallas this week that “the Dallas Police Department has been at the forefront of improving relations between police and the community.”

“The murder rate here has fallen,” Obama said. “Complaints of excessive force have been cut by 64 percent. The Dallas Police Department has been doing it the right way.”

When David Brown became police chief in 2010, he stepped up a policy of using de-escalation tactics that have shown dramatic results: Dallas has the lowest rate of police shootings of any major city in the U.S.

The number of excessive force complaints has dropped dramatically. In 2009, 147 complaints were filed against Dallas officers for excessive force. That’s almost three complaints a week. By 2014, complaints were down to 53 or one a week and by last year there were only 13 — about one a month.

Although it was controversial at the time, one of the first steps Brown took after becoming chief was to fire officers who couldn’t conform to new standards. Since taking office, 70 officers have been let go.

De-escalation tactics have taken a number of forms: When a high-speed chase caused a fatal accident, Brown limited high-speed chases. Officers show up for demonstrations in their squad cars dressed in police uniforms, not wearing riot gear riding in military vehicles.

Dallas officers receive training in de-escalation procedures. They’re taught to listen and express empathy. They’re taught communication skills.

At the Black Lives Matter demonstration on July 7, police were interacting with demonstrators, talking to them and taking selfies with them before a gunman opened fire, killing four DPD officers and one DART officer, and wounding seven other officers and two civilians.

Lynn Walters, who attended the demonstration said there was a large police presence and a good mix of people from all races and backgrounds.

“Certainly people were angry about what happened in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis,” she said.

They were angry about the practice and pattern of targeting people of color, she said, but the protesters weren’t targeting those officers there to protect them. And officers didn’t feel threatened or targeted by the demonstrators.

Not so lucky elsewhere
But that same spirit of unity doesn’t exist elsewhere. Tensions appear to be rising between Black Lives Matter advocates and proponents of Blue Lives Matter, the name of a movement focusing on the safety of law enforcement officers.

Kelly Orians, a 30-year-old white public defender who attended a die-in protest in New Orleans, said the two movements are not — and should not be — equal.

“I don’t believe in a Blue Lives Matter movement in the same way that I don’t believe in a White Lives Matter movement or a Men’s Lives Matter movement,” she said. “Because we’re pretty clear that those lives matter and our institutions are built to protect those lives, whereas our institutions are not built … to protect black lives.”

Tracie Washington, a black civil rights lawyer in New Orleans, expressed the same frustration with the Blue Lives Matter movement, as well as with a law Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed extending hate crime status to crimes targeting police and other emergency responders.

“It tries to marginalize Black Lives Matter,” Washington said. “And it pits two equally important interests against each other that weren’t against each other.”

William Colarulo, the white police superintendent of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, is equally opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement, which he called a “violent, hateful organization that condones violence against police.”

“They chant, ‘Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon,”’ he was quoted by as saying. “I give no credit to that organization. They tend to instigate rather than heal and find solutions to the problem.”

Comedian Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and a biracial native of South Africa, said people “shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens that they are sworn to protect.”

“It always feels like in America … if you take a stand for something, you automatically are against something else. It’s such a strange world to be in,” he said last week on the show.

In an editorial published Monday in The New York Times, Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD Captain Eric L. Adams, who is black, said police and black citizens share the concern that they may be in the line of fire.

“My solution to the tension between the police and the people — which I recognize as my own inner tension — is to seek unity, not find division,” he wrote, adding that community education and police reforms are also needed.

Neither side should stereotype the other, said Gregory Thomas, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The Dallas shooter and others who fired at police in retaliation for the deaths of the black men are not “reflective of the vast majority of citizens who are engaged with and supportive of the law enforcement community,” Thomas said.

Likewise, he added, the police shootings are not “reflective of the professional work that members of the law enforcement community conduct dutifully every day.”

Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Richard Ross said the terms Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter should not be mutually exclusive, but he acknowledges the growing divisions between the two groups.

“It’s this either-or proposition,” said Ross, who is black. “This is where we’re stuck. … It’s gotten so far down the tracks that I’m afraid even people who want things to be resolved don’t have a loud enough voice.”

Associated Press writer Jesse J. Holland and Errin Haines Whack along with several other AP writers, contributed to this report.  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.

—  David Taffet

Tucker’s Gift

New group provides food and vet services for pets of low income people with HIV


The organizers of Tucker’s Gift. (Courtesy Cody Dustin)


David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer

Pamper-your-Pet-logoA DFW Sisters novice wanted to raise some money to help people with HIV take care of their pets, but was unable to find a group doing that. Seeing a need, Cody and Christopher Dustin decided to take up the cause.

“If there’s a need, we have to do something,” Cody Dustin said.

So they started a new organization called Tucker’s Gift, named after their own dog. Within weeks, they had put together a board and had their nonprofit status in place.

By January, they were in business and by May they were serving clients under the banner, “preserving the bond between warm hearts and wet noses.”

Tucker’s Gift helps provide food and veterinary care for pets of people with HIV. Clients may be referred by an agency or apply directly on the group’s website. AIDS Arms, AIDS Interfaith Network, Health Services of North Texas and Resource Center are already working with Tucker’s Gift and it was named a partner agency of LifeWalk this year.

They have also formed a partnership with the North Texas Pet Food Pantry to provide food for pets.

Dustin said people should never have to face the choice of “Do I eat or do I feed my pet?”

Once a person is approved for pet food assistance, Tucker’s Gift delivers a three-month supply.

They’ve made arrangements with several veterinarians to spay and neuter clients’ pets and to provide vaccinations and wellness checks for those animals. A client makes an appointment and then Tucker’s Gift calls in a payment for services provided. If the client needs transportation to the vet, Tucker’s Gift provides that as well.

“A bootblack from Dallas Eagle did a huge fundraiser for us,” Dustin said, and more fundraising efforts are planned.

Tucker’s Gift will have its next fundraiser, Top Dog Couture, on Aug. 14 in The Rose Room. It will be an evening of high canine fashion, with prizes for best in show, best friends — the “most creative six-legged pair” — and Tucker’s Choice, the crowd favorite.

Registration to enter the event is limited to the first 25 applicants. Go to the group’s website to enter.

Top Dog. 6-9 p.m. at The Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. $5 admission or $15 VIP. Enter at

—  David Taffet

Second North Texas UMC church votes for same-sex marriage



Rev. Eston Williams

A second North Texas conference Methodist Church has voted for same-sex weddings, according to the United Methodist Church website.

The article doesn’t refer to the first — Northaven UMC in North Dallas — and expresses some surprise that the second was rural Aley UMC, located outside Seven Points.

Seven Points is on Cedar Creek Lake, which has a large LGBT weekend and retirement community. Celebration Church on the Lake in neighboring Mabank was established with an outreach to the LGBT community, with help from the Rev. Carol West of Celebration Church in Fort Worth.

About 80 percent of Aley’s congregation voted to support its pastor, the Rev. Eston Williams, in his intention to conduct same-sex weddings, including Jim Braswell, mayor of nearby Gun Barrel City.

Williams, 67, who has been with the church 18 years, said he has opposed the Methodist position that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity for years, but was persuaded to ask for a vote when his two daughters said they didn’t want to be affiliated with “a denomination that isn’t fully inclusive.”

The resolution voted on by the congregation ends with the statement, “We support our pastor to hold same-gender weddings in the sanctuary of Aley United Methodist Church.”

Aley, which rhymes with “daily,” is an unincorporated area of Henderson County west of Seven Points. The city of Seven Points has annexed West Cedar Creek Parkway for several miles west of town into the area known as Aley. Aley UMC is at 1215 W. Cedar Creek Parkway.

—  David Taffet

Trump and his magical thinking

You can’t fight hate with hate, and hate’s all he has to offer



D’Anne WitkowskiSo much anti-LGBT dumb-fuckery has emerged after the shooting of 102 people, of which 49 were killed, by a man with a military-style assault weapon at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

There has also been much love and support for LGBT people and rainbow flags a’flyin’ — literally and figuratively. And that’s nice. But, man, the anti-gay stuff is just especially exhausting to read through and think about right now.

But I do it for you, dear reader. And while there were a lot of potential Creeps, many of them were pretty small fish, all things considered. So I chose a big fish, albeit one with very tiny hands.

As has been established, one of the first things Donald Trump did after the shootings was to hop on Twitter and basically congratulate himself “for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Granted he followed that with “I don’t want congrats,” but I doubt he really meant that. As one of the most narcissistic people ever to run for president, I’ll bet he gets a boner every time he’s praised.

On June 12, the Tweet that came before read, “Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families.” Which is an appropriate thing to say.

But it doesn’t really mean shit because from that moment on Trump has been using the Orlando shooting for political gain, namely by crafting the narrative that President Obama and soon-to-be-President Hillary Clinton are somehow softies for terrorists, and that since terrorist groups like ISIS hate LGBT people, Obama and Clinton basically hate LGBT people, too.

“Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay community as long as she supports immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists to our country and who suppress women, gays, and anyone else who doesn’t share their views or values,” Trump said in a June 13 speech.

In other words, since Trump, who doesn’t even support marriage equality, hates Muslims he’s a far better presidential choice for gays.

“Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community. Donald Trump with actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?” Trump continued.

I don’t know what actions Trump is talking about since he has no “actions” to show for his supposed support of LGBT people. He has not done a single thing but run his mouth about how much he hates brown people.

It looks like Trump is engaging in some magical thinking here. Apparently he believes that everything he says comes true. I, for one, am very relieved that is not the case.

On June 14 Trump tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

Not sure what he’s thanking LGBT people for, but support certainly isn’t it. LGBT voters support Clinton by a mile.

Some individual LGBT people have expressed their support for Trump following the Orlando shooting. Fear makes people to do stupid things.

And Trump is happy to capitalize on fear. In fact, his campaign wouldn’t exist without it.

On June 17 he promised via Twitter, “More attacks will follow Orlando.”

Perhaps Trump has dreams where he stops the next attack, flying through the air and stopping bullets with his bare tiny hands. But as far as actual policies go, all Trump has is anti-Muslim rhetoric that inflames hate and inspires bigotry.

You can’t fight hate with hate, and yet that’s all Trump has to offer. And LGBT people have had more than enough hatred, thank you.

D’Anne Witkowski is a freelance writer and poet and a writing teacher at the Universtiy of Michigan. She writes the weekly “Creep of the Week” column for Q Syndicate.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Pet of the week • 07-08-16


At just 2 months old, sweet little Amelia has already cemented her reputation with staff and her foster parents as “literally the perfect kitten.” She likes to sit in your lap, and loves to cuddle and play. Move quickly for your
chance to be the lucky person who gets to give
Amelia her forever home.

Other pets are available for adoption from Operation Kindness, 3201 Earhart Drive, Carrollton. The no-kill shelter is open six days: Monday, 3-8 p.m.; closed Tuesday; Wednesday, 3-8 p.m.; Thursday, noon-8 p.m.; Friday, noon- 5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. The cost is $110 for cats, $135 for kittens, $150 for dogs over 1 year, and $175 for puppies. The cost includes the spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, vaccinations, heartworm test for dogs, leukemia and FIV test for cats, and more. Those who adopt two pets at the same time receive a $20 discount.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Last call

Longtime Dallas bar owner Howard Okon looks back on 35-plus years in the business as he prepares to close the Brick, his final bar


Howard Okon, left and Gary Parrish


Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor
When the Brick/Joe’s closes its doors at the end of the night on Sunday, July 24, it will be the end of an era — last call not only for a bar that’s been around for 25 years, but also for a bar owner who has been part of Dallas’ LGBT nightlife scene for more than 35 years.

The Brick/Joe’s — which first opened on Maple Avenue 25 years ago, before moving to its current location at 2525 Wycliff Ave. — will go out with a bang, owner Howard Okon said this week. “We have something special going on every night right up through the very last day,” he said.

This Saturday, July 9, Dannee Phann Productions and Impulse Group Dallas present a special show benefitting One Orlando. The show will star Jaidynn Dior Fierce, Jiggly Caliente, Chevelle Brooks, emcee Kennedy Davenport and more. Doors open at nine and the show starts at midnight.

“The Night of Stars” on Saturday, July 16, a special show presented by the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund and starring Raven, JujuBee, Krystal Summers, Nova Starr, Vanity Storm, Sienna Silver and more, benefits GDMAF’s Miss LifeWalk contestant, Vanity Storm. (See the Gay Agenda, pages 6 and 7 for details.)


Dannee Phann brought outstanding shows to the Brick, often featuring Drag Race stars

Thursday, July 21, the Brick hosts the Mr., Ms. and Miss Rodeo Naked pageant, benefitting the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association. The event starts promptly at 6:30 p.m. and includes a silent auction and Rodeo Naked merchandise sales.

The club’s final Saturday night, July 23, will be dedicated to “Red — Summer Night’s Dream,” presented by the Dallas Red Foundation and starring Drag Race star Cynthia Lee Fontaine, 2016 Miss Red Raquel Blake, Gloria Devine, Onyx Anderson, Nicole O’Hara Munro, Dallas Sheraton and G-Licious G. All proceeds benefit Legacy Counseling Center.

And on Sunday, July 24, the bar says so long with a day-long farewell party. As the website says, “Please join us all day Sunday, July 24, as we reminisce, greet old friends and have one last ‘blow-out’ party.” The bar opens at 3 p.m., and the party lasts til 2 a.m., with DJs, spotlight performers, dancers and more.

The charity events, Okon said, are one of the things he will miss most about being in the bar business.

“I couldn’t begin to tell you how much money we’ve helped raise and how much we’ve given over the years,” he said. “Anyone who needed a fundraiser, we tried to help. It was important to us, to me. It was a way for us to give back to the community that supported us all these years.”

But, Okon continued, the biggest gap the Brick’s closing will leave is as an entertainment venue for LGBT people of color.

Okon recalled a time back in the 1980s when he and fellow bar owner and friend Joe Elliott — longtime owner of Jugs and the person for whom the “Joe’s” end of the Brick is named — went to another LGBT nightclub in Dallas. As they were standing in line, he said, he noticed that African-Americans were being turned away at the door because they couldn’t provide three different forms of photo ID.

“But we — Joe and I — we weren’t asked for three different IDs. But of course, we weren’t black. Hell, I don’t think I have three different forms of ID today!” Okon said. “I remember being so mad about that, thinking how wrong that was. Being of Jewish heritage myself, I was never raised to treat people that way, and I just couldn’t understand how we as a [LGBT] community that had faced so much discrimination ourselves, could discriminate against a part of our own community.”

12-BrickThat’s what prompted him and Elliott to open Rapps, back in 1989. The bar — first located off Maple on the airport side of Inwood and later moved to a space in the same block where the Brick is now — catered specifically to the black LGBT and same-gender-loving community.

The Brick, since it first opened, has also welcomed people of color, Okon said, adding that his bars helped start the black Pride celebration, now known as Dallas Southern Pride. “It made me sad, all those years ago, [to see the African-American LGBT people] treated so badly. But I am very glad that we were able to give them a safe place to party, a place to be themselves, for all these years. I think that’s the biggest void we will be leaving, giving them a place to call their own.”

Okon also played a role in giving Dallas’ lesbians “a place to call their own,” even though many women don’t realize that. It started back in 1981, when he was moving his bar, Patrick’s, from its original location on Fitzhugh to a larger space on Oak Lawn. A woman named Sandy Myers came to him then with a proposition.

“Sandy had been my cleaning lady, and when we were getting ready to move, she came to me and said, ‘Howard, give me this place. Let me start a women’s bar here. I promise you I’ll make money and I’ll turn it into a place that’s really something.’ So I did. I financed her to get started, and she did exactly what she said she would do.”

That bar he helped Sandy Myers start was Buddies, which later moved first to Mahanna and then into a space on Maple Avenue — across the parking lot from the original Brick, in a location that had previously housed another Howard Okon bar, The Wave. When Buddies closed in 2009, it was the longest-running women-owned lesbian bar in the country.

In the 1990s, when his old friend Joe Elliott needed a place to move her bar, Jugs, Okon leased her space in the Brick’s building on Maple. Later, as Elliott’s health was fading, her long-time partner broke up with her, stealing the bar away in the process.

“She owned Jugs,” Okon said of the girlfriend. “But I was the landlord. I told her, ‘I’m gonna open a small bar in the space at the other end of the building, and I’m gonna call it Joe’s, and it will run you out of business.’ That’s exactly what happened. I gave Joe that space to open up Joe’s, and all the women were loyal to Joe, so Jugs was gone in no time.”

Even when it wasn’t doing much business, even after the Brick moved to Wycliff, Okon kept Joe’s open, tagging the name onto the small bar at the end of the new space on Wycliff, all to honor the memory of his friend, who died of cancer and heart disease on Dec. 27, 1999.

Okon’s legacy in the Dallas LGBT nightlife scene dates back to the early 1980s when he opened his first bar, Patrick’s, on Fitzhugh. In addition to Rapps, the Brick and Joe’s, he has also owned The Wave, Moby Dick’s and the Box Office. He was one of the founding members of the Dallas Tavern Guild, the association of Dallas LGBT bar owners that stages the Dallas Pride parade each September, and he has fond memories of other bar owners and employees through the years.

“I made so many friends through the years in this business,” Okon said. “Joe and Sandy of course. Gary Monier [of the Cruise Inn], Denis Weir and Frank Caven [of Caven Enterprises], Bill Hargis [of The Eighth Day and The Cove], Ray Martin [of High Country].

“We were more than just business associates back then. We were friends. We were competitors, yes. But we were friendly competitors, and we worked together for the good of the whole community when we could,” Okon said.

“We’ve been through a lot over the years, good times and bad,” he continued. “We came through the AIDS epidemic when we watched so many of our friends die. But we made it through all of it, and it’s been good overall.”

Brick-logoJust as he remembers fondly the other bar owners he has known, Okon said he will always remember and love the people who have worked for him, in all his bars.

“It was the people who made it special,” he said. “It’s always been the people. There are people who worked for me 30-something years ago, people who paid their way through school working as barbacks and bartenders in my bars, and now they are doctors and lawyers. I am proud of all of them. I like to think we set them a good example and helped them become who they are now.”

Okon said he and his partner — in business and in life — Greg Parrish are retiring from the bar business, at least as far as owning and operating a bar is concerned. But, he said, he would be willing to help out if some of his employees decide to open their own place.

“Our employees have always been so good, so loyal. If they right location came around, and one of them wanted to open their own bar, I’d back them,” he said.

But for now, Okon said, he and Parrish want to take some time to relax, and to spend more time enjoying their home in Hawaii. But they aren’t leaving Dallas for good.

“It’s good to go out on top,” he said. “But just because we are retiring, that doesn’t mean we’re pulling up roots and leaving Dallas. We’ll be around. We’re closing this one book, yes, but just so we can open a new one.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2016.


—  Tammye Nash

Nuvo: 30 years and still going strong

Oak Lawn gift shop opened with one location in Austin back in 1986


Nuvo’s new interior. (Turk Studio courtesy Jeff Wright)


DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Nuvo owner Jeff Wright said he based the concept of his original Austin store on several shops in New York and on Arresta, a store owned by Ken Knight on the corner of Reagan Street and Cedar Springs Road in Dallas.

“I used to come to Dallas for fun,” Wright said. “I went to Arresta and it was like I entered an oasis.”

The original Nuvo opened on Guadalupe Street, just north of the University of Texas campus in Austin.

After looking around the city for the right location to open his new store, Wright said he found what he thought was the perfect location. At the time, that space was occupied by a women’s clothing store.

But as his partner, Jon Bonsignore, said, Wright was a great salesman. He found a different location where he thought the clothing store would do well and convinced the owner of the women’s store to move. Wright took over the lease on Guadalupe Street and opened Nuvo 30 years ago this past week.

Bonsignore said not only did Wright get the location he wanted, but the clothing store thrived in its new location. But Arresta closed on Cedar Springs Road a little more than a year later.

“Lots of people who came in [to Nuvo in Austin] after Arresta closed said there was no fun place to shop in Dallas,” Bonsignore said.


The Austin store was doing well and it made sense to open in a Dallas location, Wright said. And he and Bonsignore didn’t have to look further than the old Arresta space to find the perfect location. They opened Nuvo in Dallas in July 1988.

Nuvo has always been a great place to find gifts and original cards, but the merchandise mix has evolved over the years. When they arrived in Dallas, Bonsignore said, the customer was more sophisticated.

In Austin, they carried a line of earrings for $30, which they sold mostly to college students. In Dallas, customers asked for higher quality, so they upgraded their line to the $200-to-$1,000 range. They’ve been carrying product from some jewelry designers for 20 years.

Bonsignore said in the early 1990s, duvets became popular on beds. So, “We had several people in Dallas make bed skirts, shams and duvets for us,” he said. At one point, they had three beds in the store to display the linens.

But as big linen companies started doing duvets, sales dropped. “That business dried up for us as fast as it erupted,” Bonsignore said.

In Austin, Nuvo carried T-shirts. In Dallas, Union Jack, Off the Street and other stores were all selling T-shirts, so the Dallas store dropped that category in the Cedar Springs store pretty quickly. “As our merchandise mix became more sophisticated, T-shirts didn’t belong in the store,” Bonsignore explained.

Dinnerware was another item that had a good run, until their primary supplier was purchased by a larger company, which put an end to the line’s innovative products. But as bookstores in Dallas have become rare, coffee table books have grown as a category for Nuvo.

Wright said the company expanded once more to a Houston location. But after tiring of having to travel constantly between the three stores, he and Bonsignore decided to close the Houston location, which was under-performing, and they sold the Austin store. Then three years ago, Nuvo in Dallas moved from its original address on Cedar Springs Road to its current Oak Lawn Avenue location, two blocks away.

Bonsignore said they hadn’t really wanted to move. But they had been in the Cedar Springs Road location for 25 years and their lease was coming due. It was time to give the store a fresh, new look, starting with the need to replace the black vinyl tiles that had been in the store since it was Arresta.

Bonsignore and Wright had always had a good relationship with their landlord, and they expected her to renew the lease and split the cost of the remodel, something common in retail leases. They planned on work being done nights so that the store wouldn’t have to be closed more than a couple of days.

Instead, Bonsignore said, the landlord told them that if they tore out the tiles, the space would have to go through complete asbestos abatement. Everything in the store would have to moved out and the space closed for several weeks. They had no place to move some of their large fixtures or store merchandise during the remodel and they didn’t want to be closed that long.

Still, “The idea of moving was overwhelming,” Bonsignore said.

They found a location they loved, in the building with Parigi, and when the landlord heard they were looking for a new space, he said, “Oh, God, we would love to have you.”

So rather than close, they moved two blocks away.

They hired movers who specialize in moving fine pieces. One table was so big, the only way they were able to move it was by lifting it on furniture dollies and rolling it down the street.

Wright said the new location is so quiet compared to their old space: “It’s nice not hearing fire engines.” He also likes the glass in the front and back of the space, and he loves having parking in the back that they share only with Parigi.

Wright said he and Bonsignore have talked about retiring. But that discussion always ends with the question, “What would we do?” Most of their staff has been with them for years, and they want those employees to know they can have a career at Nuvo.

“I guess we’ll be here til we drop,” Wright said.•

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2016.


—  David Taffet