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

Singer George Michael in press conference today: “I’m incredibly fortunate to be here.”

Singer George Michael held a press conference today speaking about recovering from his bout with pneumonia. After a month-long stay in a Vienna hosptial, he held this conference back at his London home. In the video, he discusses quickly his condition, apologizes to fans and chokes up a bit when thanking his doctors for saving his life. Michael looked a bit gaunt and tired, but sounded like he’s fully intent on returning to the road to make up for the concerts he had to cancel.

Watch his statement after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Christian group calls to pray for George Michael’s death

I blogged Monday in Queer Music News that singer George Michael has been hospitalized in Austria due to pneumonia. In that post, I added that Fox News reported there is speculation that his illness is much more severe than being let on. This appears to have spawned the group Christians for a Moral America to action and have called for the singer’s demise.

Huffington Post’s Gay Voices posted tweets by Kyle (@GodsWordIsLaw) from Nov. 26 about their intentions. His profile cites @CFAMABlog as the group’s official feed. From HuffingtonPost.com:

After the Daily Mail reported that Michael’s family and long-time partner Fadi Fawaz had gathered at his bedside in Vienna, Christians For A Moral America took to Twitter, claiming the singer “has AIDS” and calling for followers to pray for the his demise in light of his “satanic lifestyle.”

Read their Twitter posts after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Queer Music News: Big Freedia’s new vid, George Michael hospitalized, new album by Lambert

Spinner posted this new video by rapper Big Freedia. He told the site, “I recorded the song in response to all the people getting mad at my success. You watch that video, feel that beat and see those dancers coming hard, and I’m like ‘Na Who Mad’?” I love seeing the fringe rapper grow his profile and the video is hella fun, even with the ladies dry humping the street. Yaka yaka yaka.

The song is from the his upcoming mixtape, God Save the Queen Diva. You can download this track for free though by clicking here.

Read more Queer Music News after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Deaths 10.21.11

Preston.Cody

Cody Preston

Cody Preston, 36, died of pneumonia on Oct. 9 at Presbyterian Hospital Allen.

He was born March 24, 1975, in Sacramento, Calif., and attended Elk Grove High School. He had lived in the Dallas area for the past five years. He worked as a parts and service manager for B&L RV Center in Sacramento from 1991 to 2006, and at All Star RV Center in Plano since 2006.

Preston’s friends remember him as an amazing person who would do anything for a friend and ask for nothing in return. He was always the life of the party and knew how to make people smile; he never met a stranger who didn’t instantly fall in love with his personality and charm. One of his trademarks was his tight bear hugs, a surprise coming from someone with such a small frame. He will be greatly missed by his family and many friends.

Preston is survived by his father, Mike Barnett of Elk Grove, Calif.; his mother, Sheila Barnett of Elk Grove, Calif.; his brother, Sean Barnett of Elk Grove, Calif.; his sister-in-law, Marcy Barnett of Elk Grove, Calif.; one niece; his best friend, Robert Peterson of the Dallas area.

As per his final wishes, Peterson will be cremated and his ashes sent to his parents in California, who, sometime near Thanksgiving, will sprinkle his ashes over his grandparents’ plot at Joshua Memorial Park and Mortuary in Lancaster, Calif.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Google marks Freddie Mercury’s b’day

Although Queen singer Freddie Mercury’s birthday was Monday, Google celebrates the late rocker today with this Google Doodle animated video of “Don’t Stop Me Now.” They held the video for today so that more people could catch it rather than possibly missing out because of the Labor Day holiday.

The famously bisexual singer would have been 65. He died in November 1991 from AIDS-related pneumonia.

The video can be found at Google.com, but since you’re already here …

—  Rich Lopez

Debbie Friedman, lesbian who composed prayer of healing used in service for Giffords, dies

Monday evening, as I drove home from work, I was listening to All Things Considered on KERA 90.1 radio. They were, as you would expect, talking about the shootings Saturday in Tucson. The announcer segued from one segment to another by noting that Congregation Chaverim, the reform synagogue of which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a member, had held a service in which they prayed for healing for the congresswoman injured in the assassination attempt.

Debbie Friedman

One of the prayers the congregation sang, the announcer said, was the Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing by Debbie Friedman, who translated the words and wrote the music. There was a particular line that really caught my attention: “May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing. And let us say Amen.”

That was, to me, such a beautiful piece of poetry that I posted it as my status on Facebook.

What made it even more poignant was the fact that Friedman died Sunday, Jan. 9, of complications from pneumonia. She was, according to The New York Times (free subscription), “credited with helping give ancient liturgy broad appeal to late-20th-century worshippers.”

That’s when my co-worker, David Taffet, stepped in to explain to me that Friedman was a lesbian, and that her music is very popular not only in Reform Judaism congregations, but also in some Conservative and Modern Orthodox congregations — and even, according to The New York Times, in some Christian congregations.

David also told me that Mi Shebeirach (though not necessarily Friedman’s version) started to become popular as a prayer of healing in Reform congregations with large LGBT memberships in the 1980s in response to the AIDS epidemic. (He also acknowledged that mainstream congregations might argue with that, but insisted he is right — as usual.) Not being Jewish nor ever having attended a Jewish service, I had never heard the prayer. And so it’s simple beauty really touched me when I heard Friedman singing it on the radio last night, especially since it was sung for Congresswoman Giffords and that Friedman had died the day after the congresswoman was shot.

So now, I have learned something new about my LGBT community. It’s just too bad, I think, that I learned it so late.

—  admin