New president expands group’s Board of Directors, seeks to boost community participation after taking over in wake of Anable’s death

Jon Nelson

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

FORT WORTH — Fairness Fort Worth is preparing some structural and procedural changes to the organization in the coming months.

The recent tragedy of losing longtime president Thomas Anable has not deterred the group’s five-member Board of Directors, including newly elected President Jon Nelson, from remaining active in Fort Worth and surrounding cities.

Nelson, a founding member of FFW who served as the group’s spokesman since it formed in response to the Rainbow Lounge raid, said his full-time law practice keeps him busy. Anable quit his job as an accountant in 2010 to devote himself to activism. He died Aug. 18.

Nelson said he was pleased to step in after Anable’s sudden death but would look for more input from the LGBT community and its allies for help.

“I was honored to be elected,” he said. “At the same time, it’s a daunting task and I’m going to need more people involved to help Fairness Fort Worth move forward and be productive.”

The first step is to increase the number of board members significantly, he said, adding that he wants its members to reflect the diverse community that values and supports the organization.

“The board will expand to be more representative of the community,” Nelson said. “The structure will change so there are more people involved.”

As for FFW’s initiatives, Nelson said the organization would continue to work with the Fort Worth Independent School District to help create an anti-bullying training program to coincide with its LGBT-inclusive bullying policy. FFW leaders helped the district create a comprehensive policy for reporting, monitoring and preventing bullying. He also said he wants to take FWISD’s policy to other areas of the state that do not include LGBT protections in their bullying policies.

“Even though Fort Worth and Dallas have good policies implemented, there are so many districts that have just adopted the state statute,” he said. “A generic anti-bullying policy is not as effective as one that’s specific.”

He also wants to work with other local governmental entities that do not include LGBT protections in their nondiscrimination policies, such as Tarrant County. After that, the group will likely start working with agencies to add domestic partner benefits.

Once new board members are added, Nelson said he wants to have at least three general meetings a year to update the community on FFW’s progress and seek input for future endeavors. He also wants to create committees for projects and areas in which people have an interest, moving the organization forward with additional help and resources.

“Fairness Fort Worth is going to move forward but more as a group and less as individuals,” he said.

The Rev. Carol West, FFW vice president, said she’s pleased that Nelson is taking over as president.

“I’m excited about Jon’s leadership and I think he’ll continue to take us to new and broader horizons,” West said. “We’ve done a lot and have got a lot of work to do and will continue the work that’s been started.”

Nelson said another thing he wants to work on is visibility in the larger Fort Worth community, such as finding board members that are involved in several activities and organizations like the Fort Worth Police Department’s new Multicultural Education and Proficiency Committee.

West is on the police chief’s citizen advisory council. She has applied to be a part of the new committee, which the chief came up with, she said.

The committee will bring people from various backgrounds and communities to develop training for new recruits to help them understand different cultures. The committee is still in the planning stage, but she said a training program would most likely be prepared within a few months. She said the training would be in addition to the LGBT sensitivity training police undergo, so the LGBT portion of the new training would be an overview.

“My understanding is it reaches across all boundaries and bringing us all together,” she said. “They’re targeting every community they can find.”

Tori Van Fleet, a transgender FWPD civilian employee who works in the crime lab, said she also applied to help with the new committee. She said it is a good addition because while all police officers undergo the LGBT training, many don’t meet or encounter a trans person.

Van Fleet will also be joining the FFW board. She said Anable asked her to join the FFW board in May, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to get involved with activism again. But now she’s ready and took Nelson up on his offer to join recently.

“They’ve got a lot of good ideas and a lot going on,” she said about the board. “I want to be more than just a member.”

Spreading out the workload among board members is an appealing idea because many local activists take on so much themselves, she said.

“Everyone’s getting burned out because they’re doing all these things on their own,” she said. “We need more people doing things and people on action committees. …It keeps the burnout down.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2012.