Thursday, April 12
The GLBT History Museum
Historian Amy Sueyoshi will discuss her new book, Discriminating Sex: White Leisure and the Making of the American “Oriental” (University of Illinois Press, 2018). While San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century perturbed religious conservatives who saw it as a “moral cesspool,” it also developed a reputation as a city that tolerated a wide range of gender and sexual expression and that cultivated easy race relations. Yet all was not love and joy in this “wide-open town.” Discriminating Sex reveals how increasing gender and sexual freedoms for white people directly created the archetypal “Oriental” — geisha, prostitute, homosexual and martyr all rolled into one.
A new exhibition at the GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St., San Francisco, drawing on rare posters and ephemera from a private collection will highlight the journey of black lesbian activist Angela Davis: from radical scholar, to political prisoner, to revolutionary icon, to public intellectual.
The Lexington Club:
Nate Allbee stood in a room surrounded by crying women and he realized that something was terribly wrong. They were dykes and lesbians and queer women of all races, ages, and backgrounds, who had gathered to mourn the passing of the Lexington Club. A bar that had — for almost 20 years — been the beating heart of San Francisco’s lesbian community. A place where generations of queer women met, organized, and shared in the communion of the dance floor. It had been their home, their church. Now it was closing its doors for good. So they had come — from all over the San Francisco Bay Area and all over the country — to pay their respects, to celebrate its memory, this place that had been their home, as well as mourn its passing. They laughed and sobbed and told stories about how this bar had changed their lives, until the Lexington Club’s ample hall could not contain them or their stories, and they spilled out into the street and the warm summer night.
There are certain cities around the world that have been places of sanctuary for queer people, none more so than San Francisco. Perched as it is, at the edge of the world and the end of the American frontier, it’s the last refuge for trailblazers and those who think differently. Nearby gold fields and tech booms have served as convenient excuses for those who needed to escape the small towns and farmsteads of their birth in order to be their authentic selves.
When Harvey Milk ran for office, he ran at least partially on the idea that the best thing any of us can do for our community is to come out of the closet and come to the city, where we would find a place for ourselves.
“And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out,” Milk once said. “The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great.”
That vision of San Francisco as a city of queer sanctuary had attracted Lila Thirkield to the city in the early ’90s. There, when just 25 years old, Thirkield had been inspired to open the Lexington Club to serve a growing lesbian community in the city’s Mission District.
Above: Lila Thirkield, who opened the Lexington Club in 1997, poses with plaque memorializing the now-closed bar.
Nate Allbee was drawn to the city a decade later. A tall and handsome man with a broad smile and a booming voice, he moved to San Francisco in his 20s to work as a nightlife promoter before falling into political organizing when City Hall began passing restrictions on his chosen industry. And though Allbee was not a lesbian, he too found a home in the Lex, and its loss in 2015 sent him reeling. It wasn’t the first establishment to close that year. Other valued S.F. gay institutions had already sunk beneath the surface of the rising tide of hyper-gentrification, but the Lexington Club was one of the most respected and celebrated queer bars in the country, if not the world. “I was stunned. I realized if the Lex can close, no gay bar is safe,” said Allbee. “People kept asking ‘What can we do?’”
But in the end there was nothing to do; the last lesbian bar in San Francisco closed. The Lex was gone.
Legacy Business Registry:
The shuttering of the Lexington and other queer bars — including Esta Noche, a bar that had served San Francisco’s LGBT Latinx community for 33 years until it too closed to make room for gentrification — represented an incalculable loss to the queer community. In many ways, these bars served the same role in the LGBT rights movement as churches did for the African-American civil rights movement, acting as a safe place for queer people to congregate and share political ideas.
They were also vital to the economic health of San Francisco. Tourism has long been a leading industry in the city, and LGBT tourism makes up a significant portion. Esta Noche and the Lexington were economic drivers, part of what drew those tourists from all over the world. So Allbee began to look for ways to bulwark these spaces, integral to queer life, against S.F.’s ever soaring rents. (The city has some of the highest housing costs in the nation.) California state law forbids rent control for commercial properties, and the current structure of historic preservation only allows for the saving of tangible features like crown molding. It doesn’t protect the idea of places or the businesses inside of them.
The first step was to find a way to identify and catalog historic businesses being threatened by gentrification. To that end, Allbee met with Mike Bueller, executive director of San Francisco Heritage, who Allbee calls a “punk rock star of preservation.” Together with Supervisor David Campos they created the Legacy Business Registry — the first registry of its kind in the nation. Businesses that have served the community for at least three decades are nominated by the mayor and city supervisors. Those establishments are asked to go before San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission and Small Business Commission to make a case that they are important to the culture and history of their neighborhood. If both commissions approve them, then the business itself — not the building thay houses it — is officially recognized as a historic and cultural asset of the city of San Francisco. Perhaps most importantly, in addition to formal recognition, businesses added to the directory are also able to access a rent stabilization fund to help them weather the out-of-control S.F. real estate market.
But once you identify what’s historic and worth preserving, how do you then protect these businesses from a real estate market that has little incentive to preserve queer spaces? You have to take them out of that market system. “Not to sound Marxist,” says Allbee, “but if the capital-driven market is going to — by its very nature — close down queer spaces, then we have to operate outside of that market. So I started to look at models that do that.” The very clear and obvious model in San Francisco was co-ops.
San Francisco has a rich history of worker-owned cooperatives: from grocery stores to bakeries to the Lusty Lady (the first worker-owned and unionized strip club in the U.S., pictured above). Allbee started meeting with people from these co-ops to learn everything he could about how co-ops function. “If we had been ready we might have been able to save the Lexington. The next time one of these gay bars was going down, I was going to make sure that we were there to save it.” The opportunity to try was right around the corner.
More than a year after the closing of the Lexington Club, Allbee found himself in another room, in another bar in San Francisco, but this time there were no tears. He was at San Francisco’s oldest gay club, the Stud, a space every bit as sacred to the Bay Area’s queer performance and drag community as the Lex had been to queer women. All around him, many of the leading members of that community — drag queens, DJs, bartenders, party promoters, writers, musicians, burlesque dancers, and other practitioners of the “nightlife arts” — sat stone-faced as they listened to a story that was by now all too familiar. The building housing the Stud had been sold, the new owners were raising the rent significantly, and the Stud’s owner, Michael McElhaney, preferred to retire after 20 years of bar ownership rather than fight. He told those assembled that if anyone was interested in saving the Stud he would support them. If not the bar would be closing its doors.
Allbee looked around the room and saw “some of the smartest people that I’ve ever had the pleasure to know or work with. The real artistic core of the S.F. LGBT nightlife community was in that room.” Among them, VivvyAnne ForeverMore, hostess of Club Some Thing, the Stud’s long-running and beloved Friday night drag show. Upon hearing the news, she was devastated.
“Not only has it been my nightlife home for the last seven years, but a lot of the people I work with came up at the Stud. It has a lot of history for me personally. And culturally, the history of The Stud is very rich, and I can’t imagine it not being there, not just for what it is, but what it represents.”
Immediately after the meeting, Allbee grabbed her and said, “Vivvy, I’ve been preparing for this. I think we can save The Stud.” Between the two of them they pulled together a group of 15 people (which later expanded to 18) from across the queer community, and they then spent the next six months in an intensive co-op boot camp: learning what they are, how they work, and tailoring co-op structures for a bar. If the team pulled it off, The Stud would be the first worker-owned nightclub in the United States.
The newly formed Stud Collective reached out to the community for support and was able to raise the equity to purchase the bar. The collective negotiated with the landlord to both decrease the rent and extend the lease two years. And it has breathed new life into one of San Francisco’s most beloved LGBT institutions. New parties, new promotions and the workers — everyone behind the bar, security, the person checking IDs at the door, and many of the drag queens on stage are now the proud owners of one of the most storied gay bars in the country.
At the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2016, it became official. The collective had been notified the day before, and as Vivvy and fellow co-op member Honey Mahogany (of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 5 fame) took the stage to ring in the New Year there was an air of disbelief. Many of those assembled had been at the Lex on her final night a year and a half earlier, and when the clock struck 12 a similar scene played out — with drinking and tears and stories about how a bar had changed their lives — but this time was different. This time they had won.
Above: San Francisco’s Queer Land-Use Activists (from left): Honey Mahogany, Compton’s District Coalition; Oscar Pineda, the Stud Collective; Aria Sa’id, The Compton’s District Coalition; Mica Sigourney, the Stud Collective; Rachel Ryan, the Leather District Coalition; Nate Allbee, the Legacy Business Foundation
Legacy Business Foundation:
To build on that success and help queer communities beyond San Francisco preserve their culture and history, Allbee has started a nonprofit, the Legacy Business Foundation. “What we are trying to do right now is get ready to spring into action when the next bars are closing and the bars after that, and take what we’ve learned about how to start these worker-owned co-ops — how to negotiate with landlords, how to make sure that the city is providing the support that these legacy businesses deserve—and start saving these bars and restaurants on a citywide scale.”
LGBT culture and history, Allbee believes, is under assault. Not from blind economic forces, but from the machinations of an industry that often sees LGBT spaces as a barrier to their bottom line — realtors associations and for-profit developers. “In some ways there is a concerted and orchestrated effort to work against minority neighborhoods and business districts,” says Allbee. “To realtors and developers minority businesses are often seen as blight. A gay bar or a Latino venue where Latin music is being played or a bar that’s a historic place for African-Americans to congregate: They think they bring down the value of a neighborhood, just by their existence.”
“We’re really in a war with developers and realtors on how to define our historic neighborhoods. We want to keep them queer and realtors want to turn them into whatever will make the most money.” Allbee points to the realtors’ maps used to sell property in San Francisco. “They’ve completely removed the Castro and even Chinatown from their maps. It’s like they’re hoping that people will just forget we were ever there.”
“We need to be legislatively protecting our historic neighborhoods — and that’s dense, complicated work. We want to be a resource to help other queer communities in other cities do that work. And as a national and worldwide community, we need to be investing our money into helping queer non-profits acquire land in our neighborhoods.”
That work is essential, Albee argues, because “queer people don’t just want community, we need community. If you stay in the suburbs, if you stay in cities that are predominantly straight, sure you’ll find tolerance — maybe acceptance — but you’ll always be that gay sidekick who dies first in the horror movie. If you find your community, you can actually be the star.”
Above: Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, an Emmy Award-winning documentary of the collective resistance by queer and trans people in San Francisco (especially trans women of color), which occurred three years before Stonewall.
As the Stud Collective was making history as the first worker-owned bar in America, the Obama administration was making some history of its own. LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, a publication of the National Park Foundation, argues that LGBT historical spaces need to be preserved and lists some of the prime real estate in need of protection. Penned by leading representatives of the LGBT community, the study includes a chapter by renown transgender historian Susan Stryker, who co-directed the 2005 documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria. The number 1 site on that list of historic LGBT places was the Stonewall Inn, which President Obama later designated a national monument. Number 2? Compton’s.
Compton’s Cafeteria was an all-night diner at the corner of Turk and Taylor in S.F.’s Tenderloin. It was one of the few places where trans women, and particularly trans women of color, could gather publicly. In the summer of ’66 a hostile staff member called the police, and an ensuing riot poured into the street and lasted two days. This was one of the very first LGBT civil rights uprisings in the U.S. — though the queer history of the Tenderloin neighborhood goes all the way back to the Gold Rush.
With the release of the report, the federal government had — for the first time — recognized the importance of preserving LGBT history. Reading the expansive 1,000-page document, Mahogany and Allbee realized that a number of these spaces significant to the birth of the trans rights movement were in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, and they were almost all being threatened by development.
Mahogany and Allbee approached Janetta Johnson, head of the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project, Aria Sa’id of the St. James Infirmary, and Brian Basinger from Q Foundation, Inc., with a unique idea: Using San Francisco’s arcane land use laws to create the first legally recognized transgender neighborhood in the country.
With the support of San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim the group created the Compton’s Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual District, centered on the old cafeteria. The area making up Compton’s TLGB District has the densest number of historical resources for the trans community anywhere in the country. The legislation creating it officially recognizes this history as an asset to the city and makes protecting it a priority. But Allbee says it doesn’t go far enough.
“It’s all about land. We need to make sure that transgender women in the Compton’s District are gaining control of that land,” says Allbee. “The businesses need to belong to them, the buildings that house the businesses need to belong to them, the apartments where they live need to belong to them, empty lots to build future housing need to belong to them. We need to make sure the trans district is a space run for trans people by trans people. That’s the only way this community will ever be truly protected.”
Less than two years since 20 historic members of the LGBT were memorialized by bronze plaques in the sidewalks of San Francisco’s Castro District, the all volunteer Rainbow Honor Walk (www.rainbowhonorwalk.org) has announced 24 new honorees.
“LGBT history is world history,” said Rainbow Honor Walk Co-Founder and Board President David Perry. “These 24 individuals represent real battles fought during their lifetimes for equality, equity and justice. They are symbols to hold up to future generations so that we may learn from them and continue their work.”
The Rainbow Honor Walk salutes the groundbreaking achievements of noted LGBT persons throughout history.
Following are the second 24 honorees for inclusion on the Rainbow Honor Walk:
• Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) Gay American ballet dancer and choreographer credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance.
• W.H. Auden (1907-1973) Gay English poet known for love poems such as “Funeral Blues,” poems on political and social themes such as “September 1, 1939,” and poems on cultural and psychological themes such as “The Age of Anxiety.”
• Josephine Baker (1906-1975) Bisexual American-born French dancer, jazz and pop music singer, actress, and world-famous entertainer who refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States. She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934).
• Gladys Bentley (1907-1960) Lesbian American pianist, singer, and performer during the Harlem Renaissance whose comical, sweet, and risqué performances included songs about her female lovers.
• Glenn Burke (1952-1995) First openly gay major league baseball player who was discriminated against by Major League Baseball and whose raised hand, after a home run, led to the invention of the high five.
• Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) Gay English writer and raconteur whose flamboyance attracted increasing public interest in his views about social manners and the cultivating of style.
• Divine (1945-1988) Gay American singer and actor specializing in female roles made famous by director John Waters.
• Marie Equi (1872-1952) Lesbian American physician and political activist devoted to providing care to working-class and poor patients, providing health care information to women, and fighting for civic and economic reforms, women’s right to vote and an eight-hour workday.
• Fereydoun Farrokhzad (1938-1992) Gay Iranian singer, actor, poet, TV and radio host, writer, and iconic opposition political figure who advocated for an open society that accepted all people.
• Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) Noted American politician and civil rights leader widely considered to be the first open lesbian elected to Congress, representing Texas in the House of Representatives.
• Kiyoshi Kuromiya (1943-2000) Japanese-American civil rights activist, founder of the Critical Path Project, one of the earliest and most comprehensive sources of HIV treatment information.
• Audre Lorde (1934-1992) Lesbian American writer, radical feminist, and political activist whose works expressed anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life.
• Leonard Matlovich (1943-1988) Decorated American soldier, widely recognized as the first to challenge the U.S. military’s ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces.
• Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) Bisexual British singer, songwriter, record producer and lead performer with the rock group Queen.
• Sally Ride (1951-2012) Lesbian, physicist and first American female astronaut in space.
• Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) American transgender activist and founder of the Gay Activist Alliance.
• Vito Russo (1946-1990) Gay American film historian, activist and author of The Celluloid Closet that brought awareness to LGBT characterizations in film.
• José Sarria (1922-2013) Political activist, the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States and founder of the Imperial Court system.
• Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) Gay American illustrator and author of children’s books, best known for Where the Wild Things Are.
• Rikki Streicher (1926-1994) Lesbian American political activist and founder of the Gay Games Federation.
• Gerry Studds (1937-2006) American politician and the first openly gay member of the U.S. Congress.
• Lou Sullivan (1951-1991) American author, activist, and female to male transgender pioneer who is widely credited for the modern understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as distinct, unrelated concepts.
• Chavela Vargas (1919-2012) Lesbian Costa Rican-born singer known for her rendition of Mexican rancheras and for her contribution to other genres of popular Latin American music.
• We’wha (1849-1896) Zuni Native American Two-Spirit/Mixed Gender Tribal Leader who was male-bodied but performed primarily “feminine” tasks as well as serving as a mediator.
“Our hope as a board is that people from around the world will walk the Rainbow Honor Walk and take away inspiration and education,” said Perry. “Some of these names are well-known. Some are barely known. All deserve to be known.”
The Rainbow Honor Walk Board is comprised of the following individuals:
Kathy Amendola, Peter Goss, Madeline Hancock, Karen Helmuth, Ben Leong, Bill Lipsky, David Perry, Joe Robinson, Charlie Roddy, Charlotte Ruffner, Donna Sachet, Gustavo Serina, Kendall Stulce, Barbara Tannenbaum, Tarita Thomas, Colton Windsor.
Envisioning the Rainbow Honor Walk, a volunteer committee of community members received the unanimous support of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to create the sidewalk monument. Comprised of 3 foot x 3 foot bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk, the Walk salutes the groundbreaking achievements of noted LGBT individuals throughout history. The first 20 honorees were announced in 2011. In 2012 the Rainbow Honor Walk board solicited design proposals from around the world. An independent jury of artists and cultural leaders selected the winning design by architect Carlos Casuso of Madrid, Spain. The plaques were manufactured by Mussi Artworks of Berkeley, California with creative oversight of the process spearheaded by Lawrence Noble, head of the sculpture department at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. The first 20 plaques were installed in September 2014.
The Rainbow Honor Walk will eventually extend from the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy on 19th Street at Diamond down to Castro Street—the LGBT community’s “Main Street”—and will continue up Market Street with additional extensions on 18th Street. On Market Street, San Francisco’s main thoroughfare, the Walk will continue to the LGBT Center at Octavia Boulevard.
All funds for manufacture of the Rainbow Honor Walk are raised privately, with each plaque costing approximately $5000. A major source of income comes from the San Francisco Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store (575 Castro Street) through the sale of commemorative mugs, t-shirts and lapel pins, which has generated over $15,000 for the Rainbow Honor Walk.
“We would not be walking the walk today without the donations of hundreds of people from all over the world and the continuing efforts of our friends at HRC,” said Perry, noting that tax deductible donations can be made online at www.rainbowhonor.org. Donors are listed on the website.
The first 20 honorees, whose plaques were installed in September 2014, are:
• Jane Addams (1860-1935), Social worker, first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, 1931.
• James Baldwin (1924-87), American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, civil rights activist.
• George Choy (1960 — 93) : San Francisco activist for Asian and Pacific Islander youth and people with AIDS.
• Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), Spanish poet, playwright, political activist.
• Allen Ginsberg (1926-97), American poet. San Francisco Beat poet/ Free speech activist.
• Keith Haring (1958-90), American artist and AIDS activist.
• Harry Hay (1912-2002), English born writer, gay rights activist. Founder of The Mattachine Society, 1950.
• Christine Jorgensen (1926-89), Pre-eminent American transgender pioneer and advocate.
• Frida Kahlo (1907-54), Mexican artist whose work has been celebrated as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition.
• Del Martin (1921-2008), American feminist, gay rights activist. Founder Daughters of Bilitis.
• Yukio Mishima (nee Kimitake Hiraoka, 1925-70), Japanese playwright, poet, actor, film director.
• Bayard Rustin (1912-87), American civil rights leader.
• Randy Shilts (1951-94), San Francisco journalist, biographer.
• Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), American novelist, essayist, playwright.
• Sylvester (1947-88), American disco star, soul singer, San Francisco performer.
• Alan Turing (1912-54), British scientist who broke the Nazi’s Enigma Code and father of the modern computer, cryptanalyst, logician, mathematician.
• Tom Waddell (1937-87), American athlete, physician, founder of the Gay Games.
• Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish playwright, poet, novelist, essayist.
• Tennessee Williams (1911-83), American dramatist, poet, novelist.
• Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), English novelist, essayist, publisher.
Individuals interested in contacting the Rainbow Honor Walk may do so by email at [email protected] or by mail to Rainbow Honor Walk, 584 Castro Street, #113
San Francisco, California 94114.
Contact can also be made via Facebook by searching “Rainbow Honor Walk”. Information can also be found online, and donations made, through the Rainbow Honor Walk website at www.rainbowhonorwalk.org.
From July to October, the GLBT History Museum will present a historical retrospective of erotic illustrations by artists who worked for gay men’s magazines from the 1950s to the 1990s. “Stroke: From Under the Mattress to the Museum Wall” originated at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City. The San Francisco show is its only scheduled West Coast appearance.
Curated by artist Robert W. Richards, this exhibition of a largely forgotten body of work not only explores the male form, but also offers an examination of erotic fantasies as experienced through publications that were available at nearly every newsstand in America, but that men often hid under their mattresses for fear of being discovered. The exhibition will feature originals of illustrations from the magazines, along with related work that has never been seen publicly.
“Stroke” will run from July 21 to October 16, 2016, at the GLBT History Museum, located at 4127 18th St. in San Francisco. A public opening reception is set for Thursday, July 16, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. In addition, curator Robert Richards will join Leslie-Lohman Museum Director Hunter O’Hanian in presenting a gallery talk on Friday, July 22, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Admission for each event is $5.00; free for members of the GLBT Historical Society. For more information, visit www.glbthistory.org.
San Francisco will have two events to commemorate Harvey Milk Day this year, which falls on Sunday, May 22 and would have been the slain gay supervisor’s 86th birthday.
The state of California held the first Milk Day on May 22, 2010 to mark the birthday of the first out politician elected to public office in the Golden State. In 1977 Milk won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors but was assassinated the following year.
Harvey Milk Day is considered a day of special significance, meaning public employees do not receive the day off and schools are not closed when it falls on a weekday.
For the seventh annual observance, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club will present a screening of The Times of Harvey Milk , the 1984 Academy Award-winning documentary, at 3 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street. Tickets are $12 and available online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-times-of-harvey-milk-birthday-screening-the-castro-theatre-tickets-25012714703. More information is available at the Facebook page, “The Times of Harvey Milk – Birthday Screening at the Castro Theatre.”
Earlier in the afternoon, at 1, gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, will join other community leaders at Harvey Milk Plaza (Castro and Market streets), to celebrate and honor Milk. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band will perform. Interested people are welcome to attend.
San Francisco Pride has announced the winners of the 2016 Public and Member’s Choice Vote for Community and Organizational Grand Marshals of the 2016 San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade.
Larry Yang has been chosen as the Community Grand Marshal. A teacher of meditation and mindfulness, Yang is committed to serving multicultural, queer and activist communities. Playing a key role in the development of both the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) and the Insight Community of the Desert, Yang helped start a variety of long-running LGBTQI meditation groups in the Bay Area and beyond. He is on the Teacher’s Council of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and is a core teacher at EBMC.
An international network of more than 30 chapters working for the validity of Black life, Black Lives Matter has been chosen as Organizational Grand Marshal. Black Lives Matter is working to (re)build the Black liberation movement and affirm the lives of all Black people, specifically Black women, queer and trans people, people who are differently abled, and those who are undocumented and formerly incarcerated. Centering on those who are marginalized within Black liberation movements, Black Lives Matter imposes a call to action and response to state-sanctioned violence against Black people, as well as the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.
The member’s choice for Community Grand Marshal is Janetta Johnson. Selected by the General Membership of San Francisco Pride at their March 9 meeting, Johnson is the executive director of the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). Johnson’s experiences as a formerly incarcerated trans person have inspired and informed her work to affirm the value of black trans lives through media, education and community-building. She has developed grassroots re-entry programs designed to reduce recidivism, as well as building the organizing capabilities of trans and gender non-conforming communities of color.
The Bob A. Ross Foundation has pledged $1 million to support the expansion of Openhouse programs and services to meet the diverse needs of thousands of Bay Area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. The agency’s new community facilities at 65 Laguna Street will be named the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center in recognition of the life and work of Bob Ross, who co-founded the Bay Area Reporter and galvanized a community-wide response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“This transformational pledge will help realize our vision to serve all LGBT seniors who will look to Openhouse in the years ahead for a range of support that meets their unique needs,” said Openhouse Executive Director Seth Kilbourn. “This gift is a wonderful affirmation of the strength and vitality of seniors in our community, many of whom survived for decades by staying invisible. We’re deeply honored to partner with the Bob Ross Foundation and recognize the legacy of a truly transformational community pioneer.”
The new Openhouse community facility at 65 Laguna Street will be named the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center in recognition of this gift and Ross’ transformational contributions to the LGBT community. The pledge is the largest single gift in the organization’s history.
“A principal concern of Bob’s during his lifetime was the need for housing and services for LGBT seniors,” said Thomas E. Horn, president and trustee of the Bob Ross Foundation. “He supported Openhouse in in its early days and would have appreciated its well-considered and adaptive approach to meet the unique and pressing needs of LGBT seniors. He also would have appreciated its efficient business model and client centered approach. I hope this gift inspires others to invest in Openhouse and the community’s capacity to support ourselves and each other.”
The gift builds on Ross’ legacy of connecting people, building awareness and strengthening organizations to address urgent community needs.
“Bob was a pioneer in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when government agencies were not responding and was one of the leaders in bringing the LGBT community together to build allies and mobilize a largely volunteer driven community infrastructure to care for thousands of people throughout the epidemic,” Horn added. “Openhouse has been a catalyst for developing a similar, community-based model driven by volunteers and service partnership to ensure our community’s health as we all face the challenges that come with getting older.”
In an increasingly expensive city, the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center will be a permanent home for Openhouse and a sustainable community resource for LGBT seniors, their caregivers, family and friends to stay healthy and live independently in community.
“This deeply generous gift significantly strengthens our capacity to deliver on our core vision to ensure every LGBT senior has access to safe and stable housing, care providers that understand their lives and opportunities to stay engaged in their community,” said Openhouse Board President, Bill Scherer. “We’re proud to share and continue Bob Ross’ legacy, while adding critical momentum to our work and breaking new ground for LGBT philanthropy in the Bay Area.”
Openhouse continues to raise funds for tenant improvements at both 65 Laguna, expected to open later this year, and the new program center included in the new building to be constructed at 75 Laguna St.
Over the next decade, the number of LGBT people in San Francisco who are 60 and older is predicted to increase by 25% percent to almost 30,000. While the city includes an array of services and housing options for older adults, LGBT seniors are only 20% as likely as their heterosexual peers to get the support they need. Largely without children and traditional family support that non-LGBT seniors depend on, LGBT older adults rely more heavily on community.
“As we get older, many LGBT people experience a sense of growing invisibility,” said Community member Margie Adam. “What would draw me out would be a set of services and activities that celebrate and rekindle our precious LGBT life experiences. Openhouse is already a national model in this regard and will be able to provide many more opportunities to keep us connected by expanding their programming in a space designed for older adults.”
The Bay Area Reporter story on this donation can be accessed on line at http://ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=71224
About Bob Ross and the Bob A. Ross Foundation
Bob Ross (1934 – 2003) was the founder and former publisher of the Bay Area Reporter and a leading gay rights and AIDS activist in San Francisco. As a businessman, publisher, political activist, board member and philanthropist, Ross personified community leadership. In addition to co-founding the B.A.R. with Paul Bentley in 1971. Ross also participated in the founding of the Tavern Guild, founded Gay Comix, and helped transform the city’s gay community into a vital and visible regional power. He established the foundation in 1996 to give to a broad portfolio of non-profits, which the foundation has continued ever since.
Thomas E. Horn, an attorney and president of the foundation, was a close friend of Bob Ross and is Publisher Emeritus of the Bay Area Reporter.
Founded in San Francisco in 1998, Openhouse enables San Francisco Bay Area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors to overcome the unique challenges they face as they age by providing critically needed housing, direct services, and community programs. Openhouse works to reduce isolation and empower LGBT seniors to improve their health, well-being and economic security. To learn more about Openhouse please visit www.openhouse-sf.org and facebook.com/openhousesf.