Volunteer opportunity for Tyler-area gays

If you live in or plan to visit the Tyler-Canton-Longview area, Tyler Area Gays and East Texas PFLAG need your help on July 12. Members of these two organizations will be participating in Trash Off Day on July 12 by cleaning up the portion of U.S. 69 that has been adopted by TAG.Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 10.17.18 AM

Participants should be at New Life Worship Center , 18535 U.S. 69 (1.5 miles south of the light at Loop 49 — the modern-looking church up on the hill) by 8 a.m. The TAG portion of U.S. 69 is about 3.3 miles south of the light at Target on South Broadway and on the south side of Loop 49. According to a press release about the clean-up effort, the clean-up ALWAYS starts on time and takes about an hour.

That stretch of highway has two signs — one on the southbound side of the road and the other on the northbound side — noting that it has been “adopted” by Tyler Area Gays. In return, TAG has “agreed to clean up a two-mile section of highway four times a year.” But as TAG leaders pointed out in a press release about the clean-up effort, “A two-mile section may not sound very long but since we are cleaning both sides of the highway, this immediately becomes four miles of cleaning.” So they need all the help they can get.

In the conservative East Texas town where, in 1993, Nicholas West was murdered in a brutal, anti-gay hate crime that made national headlines, it’s significant that an LGBT organization is so out and so visible. As TAG leaders said in their press release looking for clean-up volunteers, “Our participation testifies to our community spirit, promotes teamwork and exercise and makes our presence known. Another way to put it is we want people to know that we we are here and that we are responsible. citizens.”

—  Tammye Nash

Tyler Area Gays hosts banquet

1459226_582195881850723_763259524_nThe Tyler Area Gays will announce the winner of the TAG Award at their Fifth Annual Project TAG Awards Dinner  on Friday.

A press release from the organization lists 11 people who are nominated for the award: Jeanette Calhoun, director of East Texas Cares and Resource Center; Joey Gonzales, board member and Treasurer of Project TAG; Adrien Grimm, East Texas transgender activist; Don Lindman, Project TAG supporter; Brenda McWilliams, political and educational activist; Gene Schriener, Project TAG board member and secretary; Rosemary Slayton, community volunteer; Jolie Smith, Project TAG past chair; Lou Anne Smoot, Project TAG and PFLAG board member; Neil Wilson, Project TAG member; D. Karen Wilkerson, Project TAG board member and chair.

TAG is Tyler’s first LGBT community organization and organizes political and community events such as camping, dinners and flag football. According to their mission statement, “Project TAG promotes an environment where all may feel free to be themselves without fear of repression or repercussion and where all are encouraged to share their knowledge and support with others.”

—  Steve Ramos

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

Group profiled in Dallas Voice makes national news for its efforts to clean up East Texas

Advocate.com
Advocate.com

Several months ago I wrote about Tyler Area Gays, or The TAG Project, the thriving new LGBT group in East Texas. Now comes this similar piece from The Advocate, with one remarkable twist: The group has signed up for the “Adopt-A-Highway” program, cleaning up litter on a 2-mile stretch of U.S. 69.

“We’re a very backwards community,” TAG founder Troy Carlyle told The Advocate. “So it was clear to us that we needed to get the word ‘gay’ out there so that people can see it and we can start to desensitize people. And what better way to do that than to get an Adopt-A-Highway sign. We may be one of the last places in America to allow gays to live relatively free of hatred, but we were the first to insist that our roads be free of litter.”

—  John Wright