Turtle Creek Chorale leadership spoke this week to a room full of agents at the FBI’s Dallas office. The invitation to speak came from a special agent with the FBI office, an ally who programs an LGBT special emphasis project each year.
The FBI, by the way, is the agency that investigates civil rights violations, including those against LGBT people.
TCC’s Executive Director Bruce Jaster, Artistic Director Sean Baugh and Board Chair John Reiger made the presentation. Baugh called it a remarkable morning, noting, “Overwhelming actually.”
Jaster said agents want enforcement of civil rights laws to be from a positive not punitive standpoint. He said he was told, “I’d rather know about things and talk with people about something that occurred, than have a violation occur and not know about it.”
Their desire is to be more a part of the LGBT community and all communities. They want to enforce the law, not intimidate, is something Jaster said he took from the meeting.
“The new special agent in charge of the Dallas region is concerned with their equanimity,” he said.
Jaster said they brought clips of chorale performances. They discussed how the chorus was founded and the challenges the organization has faced since it began in 1980 — from the AIDS crisis to meth addiction — and how the chorale has collaborated with other groups through the years.
Among the questions from the agents was what was what their perception of the FBI was. Baugh said he really didn’t have one. Jaster said his was mostly positive because he had a cousin who ran the Birmingham office.
But, they admitted, the community’s perception was probably tied more to its attitude toward law enforcement. Jaster outlined a brief history of the local LGBT community’s relationship to the police has evolved over the years from police raids on the bars to the Mica England case that finally opened employment to the LGBT community but took a toll on England herself, to the raid on the Rainbow Lounge.
The chorale, he said, worked to build bridges. At its June concert, a piece was commissioned by the chorale based on a photo former Dallas Voice publisher Robert Moore took during the police shootings last summer and Moore attended the concert with the officer who protected him for more than three hours during the siege.
“I was very impressed with the comfortable efficiency, warmth and friendliness of the Dallas office,” Jaster said.
“Honestly it was a remarkable morning,” Baugh said. “All I could think of — this wouldn’t even have been anywhere close to doable just 10 years ago — and they were REALLY interested in our community.”
He said the FBI wants to know about civil rights violations and if someone feels their rights have been violated, they can call the main number: 972-559-5000. However, even if you believe your civil rights were violated and a crime like a robbery or assault were committed, call the police.
Baugh said the head of the Dallas FBI would like to continue the conversation and is reaching out to other groups interested in discussing the varied parts of our community.