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LGBT History Month: Jeffrey Seller

on Thursday, 26 October 2017.

Broadway Producer of Hamilton

LGBT History Month: Jeffrey Seller

“I fail all the time and I have to be willing to fail in order to succeed.” Jeffrey Seller is Tony Award-winning theater producer best known for the smash hits “Rent,” “Avenue Q,” “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.” Seller grew up in suburban Detroit, the adopted middle child of a Jewish family. He was enamored of musical theater from an early age. After hearing Patti LuPone sing “Evita” on the “Tony Awards,” he dashed to the library in search of the soundtrack. In fourth grade he wrote his first play, “Adventureland,” which later became the name of his production company. In 1986 Seller graduated from the University of Michigan and moved to New York City. He got his start as a booking agent and became a publicist and producer. Along with his business partner, Seller produced “Rent” in 1996, “Avenue Q” in 2003 and “In the Heights” in 2008. All three shows received the Tony for Best Musical. While working on “Rent,” Seller created the idea for the first-ever rush and lottery ticket policies. With prices and demand for popular Broadway tickets soaring, he was determined to make shows accessible to all people, regardless of their income. He offered a number of front-row seats at a low price on a first-come, first-served basis. People camped out overnight to get the coveted spots. The success led him to offer discounted seats through a lottery system. Seller has worked on numerous shows, including “De La Guarda” in 1998, the “Wild Party” and “High Fidelity” in 2000, the revival of “West Side Story” in 2009, and the “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” in 2011, starring Robin Williams. He produced the film adaptation of “Rent” in 2005. In 2014 Seller produced “The Last Ship”—the musical written by rock icon Sting, based on the album of the same name. In 2015, with collaborator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Seller produced “Hamilton.” A Broadway phenomenon, “Hamilton” received 11 Tony Awards and a record-breaking 16 nominations—the most ever for a musical. Seller lives in New York City with his spouse, John Lehrer. They are the parents of a daughter and son.

LGBT History Month: Craig Rodwell

on Wednesday, 25 October 2017.

Gay Pioneer

LGBT History Month: Craig Rodwell
“There was no one thing that happened or one person. There was just … mass anger.” Craig Rodwell was a Gay Pioneer and the leading New York activist of the 1960s. He founded the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, the nation’s first gay bookstore, and the New York Pride Parade. Born in Chicago, Rodwell attended an all-male Christian Science boarding school, where he experimented with same-sex relationships. After graduating from a public high school, he accepted a scholarship in 1958 to the American Ballet School in New York City. In New York he volunteered for The Mattachine Society, one of the nation’s first gay organizations. In 1962 Rodwell developed a relationship with Harvey Milk. It was his first serious romance. In 1964 Rodwell protested against the exclusion of gays from the military. It was the first gay rights demonstration in New York City. The same year, he and fellow Gay Pioneer Frank Kameny conceived the first organized public demonstrations for gay and lesbian equality. Known as Annual Reminders, the protests took place in Philadelphia each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969 in front of Independence Hall. Demonstrators participated from Philadelphia, New York and Washington. During those seminal years, Rodwell was involved in numerous gay rights organizations. He was an early member of East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) and started the Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods, which held rallies and published the periodical HYMNAL. In 1965 Rodwell led a protest at the United Nations Plaza against the detention of gay Cubans in work camps. The following year, he participated in a “sip in” at Julius, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, to protest a State Liquor Authority rule prohibiting homosexuals from congregating in places that served alcohol. Continuing protests ended the rule in New York State. Rodwell opened the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in 1967. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, it became a mecca for gay activists. In 1969 Rodwell took part in the Stonewall Rebellion and was the first to shout “Gay Power!” At an ECHO meeting thereafter, he proposed a resolution to suspend the Annual Reminders in favor of an event commemorating the anniversary of Stonewall. Rodwell, Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and other pioneering activists organized a march. Held on June 28, 1970, it is remembered as the first New York Gay Pride Parade. Rodwell remained a consequential figure in the gay liberation movement of the ’70s and ’80s. He was honored with the Lambda Literary Award for Publisher’s Service in 1992. He sold his bookstore the following year. It remained open until 2009. Rodwell died of stomach cancer at age 52.

LGBT History Month: Yukio Mishima

on Tuesday, 24 October 2017.

Japanese Author

LGBT History Month: Yukio Mishima

“When silence is prolonged over a certain period of time, it takes on a new meaning.”

Yukio Mishima is the pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka, one of the most prolific and influential Japanese authors of the 20th century. He was the first living Japanese writer to gain broad recognition in the West.

Born in Tokyo, Mishima was not allowed to play sports or interact with other children his age. He attended an elite Japanese school, studied several languages and was exposed to European culture. His early experiences played an important role in shaping his writing. 

Mishima’s first opportunity at professional writing came as a teenager, when he was invited to write a short story for a prestigious literary magazine. He based the story on the bullying he suffered at school. To avoid scandal, he adopted the pseudonym Yukio Mishima, which he continued to use for the rest of his life.

In 1947 Mishima graduated from the University of Tokyo and began work in the government finance ministry. He quit to focus on his writing.

Mishima wrote 50 plays, 34 novels, 25 books of short stories and 35 books of essays. One of his most famous works, “Confession of a Mask,” tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young gay man who must hide behind a mask in order to be accepted by society. He wrote the book when he was 24 and found fame shortly thereafter.

In addition to writing, Mishima worked as a model and a movie actor. In 1958 he married a woman and fathered two children, before exploring the underground gay culture in Japan. Although his widow denied his homosexuality, a gay writer published an account of his relationship with Mishima.

Mishima practiced martial arts and strove to live by the ancient samurai code. In the late 1960s, he became a radical nationalist and formed a private militia called the Tatenokai. In 1970 he and several of its members captured the commandant of the Japanese army in an attempted coup. When the coup failed, Mishima committed the ritual samurai honor suicide, seppuku (also known as hara-kiri), a self-evisceration followed by decapitation. He was buried in Tokyo.

Mishima received many awards and was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. A biographical film, “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters,” was released in 1985, and in 1988 the Mishima Yukio Prize, a literary award, was created in his memory. In 1999 the Mishima Yukio Literary Museum opened in Japan. 

LGBT History Month:Johnny Mathis

on Monday, 23 October 2017.

Singer

LGBT History Month:Johnny Mathis

“Sometimes being famous gets in the way of doing what you want to do.”

Johnny Mathis is a Grammy Award-winning American singer who sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. One of the most popular solo artists of the 20th century, he released more than 200 singles. “The Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson called him “the best ballad singer in the world.”

Mathis’s family moved to San Francisco when he was a boy. His father, a vaudeville performer, spotted his young son’s talent and encouraged his singing. Also a star athlete, Mathis excelled in high jump and basketball. In 1954 he enrolled at San Francisco State University on an athletic scholarship.

As a teenager, Mathis caught the attention of a club owner who offered to become his manager. After she invited a talent agent from Columbia Records to see him perform, the company signed him.

Despite a recording deal, Mathis was torn between music and sports. The U.S. Olympic Team invited him to try out at the same time he secured the contract with Columbia.

On his father’s advice, Mathis recorded his first album, “Johnny Mathis: A New Sound in Popular Song” in 1956. He recorded two of his most famous songs, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “It’s Not For Me to Say,” that same year. By the end of the 1960s, he had released a greatest hits album, which spent an unprecedented 461 consecutive weeks on the Billboard charts.

Mathis struggled with drugs and alcohol. He was candid about his addiction and rehabilitation. He was reluctant, however, to discuss his sexuality. In 1982 he told US magazine, “Homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to.” He received death threats over of the comment.

Mathis’s music has been featured in movie soundtracks and in more than a hundred television series. His 1978 song “The Last Time I Felt Like This” was nominated for an Academy Award. He has appeared in films and more than 300 times on TV, including in his own specials.

In 2003 the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored Mathis with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame.

In 2016 Mathis performed a sold-out show as part of his 60th Anniversary Concert Tour. A year later, he came out on “CBS Sunday Morning.” “I come from San Francisco,” he said. “It’s not unusual to be gay in San Francisco … I knew that I was gay.”

 

LGBT History Month: Barry Manilow

on Sunday, 22 October 2017.

Singer and Songwriter

LGBT History Month: Barry Manilow

“I’m so private. I always have been.”

Barry Manilow is an award-winning American singer and songwriter. He has recorded 47 Top 40 singles and sold more than 80 million albums worldwide, making him one of the best-selling recording artists of all time.

Born Barry Alan Pincus in Brooklyn, New York, he adopted his mother’s maiden name, Manilow, at the time of his bar mitzvah. He attended the New York College of Music and studied musical theater at Julliard.

Early in his career, Manilow earned a living as a pianist, producer and arranger for CBS. He also wrote advertising jingles for clients such as State Farm (“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”) and Band-Aid (“I’m stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me”) and sang jingles for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi and McDonald’s, including for the hamburger chain’s famous “You deserve a break” campaign.

By 1971 Manilow was playing piano for a then-unknown singer, Bette Midler, in the Continental Baths—a gay bathhouse in New York. He wrote and recorded his own music and arranged and co-produced Midler’s chart-topping 1972 debut album, “The Divine Miss M.”

Manilow’s first big hit came in 1974 with “Mandy,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. He followed it with a string of hits, albums and television appearances. His international hit “Ready to Take a Chance Again” was nominated for the Oscar for Best Song in 1978. The same year, he met Garry Kief, the man he would marry in 2014 after California legalized same-sex marriage. The longtime couple kept their relationship secret for most of Manilow’s career.

In the early 1980s, Manilow hosted his own variety show on ABC for which he won an Emmy Award. He went on to win another Emmy, four Academy Awards, two American Music Awards and a special Tony Award. He has been nominated for 15 Grammys.

Manilow has toured worldwide. He has performed at many charity events for health organizations and to benefit victims of natural disasters. He created the Barry Manilow Scholarship for the six highest-achieving lyric-writing students at UCLA.

Manilow officially came out two years after making headlines for marrying his longtime partner. He told People magazine that he kept his sexuality secret for fear of disappointing his female fans. Manilow’s first marriage, to a woman, was annulled in 1966. 

LGBT History Month: Marsha P. Johnson

on Friday, 20 October 2017.

Stonewall Veteran

LGBT History Month: Marsha P. Johnson

“I may be crazy but that don’t make me wrong.”

Born Malcolm Michaels, Marsha P. Johnson was a well-known New York City drag queen who fought police at the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and became a trailblazing transgender, gay rights and AIDS activist.

Immediately after Stonewall, Johnson joined the nascent Gay Liberation Front. In 1970 she cofounded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) with fellow Stonewall agitator, Sylvia Rivera. At the time, transvestitism was illegal in New York. Gender-nonconforming people, particularly those of color, faced intolerance, harassment and violence. Like Johnson, many lived on the streets and resorted to sex work for their survival.

S.T.A.R. created a shelter where transgender adults and youth could share food, clothing and support in relative safety. At the residence, Johnson’s maternal behavior earned her the nickname “queen mother.”

Johnson performed at local clubs and became a visible presence at gay rights events and protests. Andy Warhol photographed her and produced screen prints of her portrait. Although she favored the pronoun “she,” Johnson described herself as a “gay transvestite.” When asked about her middle initial, she would reply that “P” stood for “pay it no mind”— words that helped her persevere.

Johnson struggled with drug addition. She contracted AIDS and joined ACT UP, an organization founded in the 1980s to combat the epidemic. She was instrumental in raising awareness about issues impacting people with the virus.

In 1992, shortly after New York’s Gay Pride Parade, Johnson’s body was found floating in the Hudson River. Although police initially ruled the death a suicide, she was last seen being harassed by a group of men. Despite a grassroots campaign to investigate her death, the N.Y.P.D. did not reopen the case until 2012. It remains unsolved.

Johnson has been the subject of multiple plays and films. Ten days before she died, she was interviewed for what became the 2012 documentary, “Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson.” Johnson was also featured in the Oscar-nominated 2012 documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” about the early years of the AIDS crisis. A new documentary, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017.

 

Let's Make a Queer Bar: Halloween Edition

on Thursday, 26 October 2017. Posted in Events

Let's Make a Queer Bar: Halloween Edition

Want more queer space in Burlington? Let's make it happen. 

Join us on Friday 10/27 for an LGBTQIA+ bar takeover at Lamp Shop and Radio Bean from 10pm to 1am!
This event is 18+ (on the Radio Bean side) with a $5 cover (we're working on options for those who cannot pay). Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available for purchase. All are welcome!

Invite your friends from the community! More details to come!

LGBT History Month: Laverne Cox

on Thursday, 19 October 2017.

Actress & Activist

LGBT History Month: Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is an American actress and LGBT advocate. She rose to prominence with her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category, and the first to be nominated for an Emmy Award since composer/musician Angela Morley in 1990.  In 2015, she won a Daytime Emmy Award in Outstanding Special Class Special as executive producer for Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word.. This made her the first openly transgender woman to win a Daytime Emmy as an executive producer. Also in 2015, she became the first openly transgender person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussauds. In 2017, she became the first transgender person to play a transgender series regular on broadcast TV as Cameron Wirth on CBS's Doubt.

Cox appeared as a contestant on the first season of VH1's reality show I Want to Work for Diddy, and co-produced and co-hosted the VH1 makeover television series TRANSform Me. In April 2014, Cox was honored by GLAAD with its Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work as an advocate for the transgender community.[11] In June 2014, Cox became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.[4][12][13]

LGBT History Month: Taiga Ishikawa

on Wednesday, 18 October 2017.

Japanese Politician

LGBT History Month: Taiga Ishikawa

"Coming out as a gay is not easy in Japan yet.”

Taiga Ishikawa is the first openly gay public official elected in Japan.

A native of Sugamo, Ishikawa graduated from Meiji Gakuin University School of Law. He came out at age 28 in his autobiography, “Where Is My Boyfriend?” (2002). Since then, he has actively supported LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage and workplace protections. He has appeared on various television programs and participated in the Tokyo Pride Parade. In 2004 Ishikawa founded a nonprofit organization, Peer Friends, that hosts events for gay men in Japanese cities.

In 2011, after serving as the secretary to Social Democratic Party (SDP) Leader Mizuho Fukushima, Ishikawa was elected to a seat on Tokyo’s Toshima Ward Assembly. After his historic win, Ishikawa said, “I hope this news will give hope to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who still feel isolated from the society.”

Two years later, Ishikawa ran for chairman of the SDP. He was the first openly gay candidate to run for parliamentary party leadership in Japanese history. Although he lost the bid, he was applauded again for breaking barriers. He became one of the most famous gay men in Japan. The Japan Times hailed him as a potentially “valuable asset” to the party who could help “channel the voices of marginalized people.”

In office Ishikawa successfully lobbied for the right of Japanese citizens to marry foreign nationals of the same sex in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. He also campaigned for creation of a domestic partnership registry that managed housing and hospital visitation rights on the municipal level. In 2016 he opposed an anti-LGBT legislator, saying that same-sex marriage and other rights are important in ending discrimination in Japanese society.

Although homosexuality is not criminalized in Japan, people in the LGBT community face open discrimination. “In Japan, gay people instantly know they shouldn’t tell anyone about their sexuality,” Ishikawa said. “Coming out as a gay is not easy in Japan yet.”

Josie's Story

on Tuesday, 17 October 2017.

Josie's Story

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"Three years ago I started smoking again after being smoke-free for twenty years. I started again because the day after my father-in-law died my mother was taken to the ER for a critical health issue. I turned to the comfort of cigarettes when faced with the loss of a loved one and the worry over another one.

I was so disappointed in myself for starting again. I kept telling myself I would quit at the end of the summer, before the holidays,etc. I kept making excuses and kept right on smoking. I was on the Board of the Pride Center of Vermont and joined their first smoking cessation class. After the four sessions of class, Mike Bensel, my cessation counselor, really gave me the tools I needed to actually quit. So, after three years of smoking a little and sometimes a lot, and being angry at myself everyday for doing so, I quit on Halloween of 2016 and haven’t smoked since. I feel so much better, my house smells better and I’m proud of myself everyday for not stopping and buying cigarettes."  

 

Do you use tobacco? Is 2017 your year to quit? 

The Pride Center of Vermont is offering a free 5-week smoking cessation program. 
If you're interested in participating or have questions- contact Mike at LGBTQuits@pridecentervt.org.

LGBT History Month: Lorraine Hansberry

on Tuesday, 17 October 2017.

Playwrite & Activist

LGBT History Month: Lorraine Hansberry

b. May 19, 1930

d. January 12, 1965

“There is always something left to love.”

Lorraine Hansberry is an acclaimed American playwright and author, best known for “A Raisin in the Sun.” She was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway.

Hansberry was born on the South Side of Chicago. Her family’s home served as a hub of black intellectualism. Her parents entertained some of the most respected thinkers of the day, including W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson.

Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she became politically active and helped to integrate her dormitory. She dropped out after two years and moved to New York City to pursue a writing career. She enrolled in The New School and joined the staff of Paul Robeson’s progressive black newspaper, Freedom.

In 1953 Hansberry married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish publisher, songwriter and political activist. At the time, Hansberry was a closeted lesbian.

In 1957 Hansberry joined the Daughters of Bilitis, an early lesbian rights organization, and became an activist. She wrote “A Raisin in the Sun” the same year.

“A Raisin in the Sun” premiered on Broadway and ran for 530 performances. It has been translated into 35 languages and was adapted for the screen. The acclaimed play made Hansberry the first black dramatist, the fifth women and youngest person ever to win a New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award.

Hansberry divorced in 1962 and died of pancreatic cancer in 1965. She was 34. At the funeral, the novelist James Baldwin and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. eulogized her.

After her death, Hansberry’s ex-husband adapted her writings into “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” which became the longest-running Off-Broadway play of the 1968-’69 season. In 1969 Nina Simone recorded a song of the same name as a tribute to her departed friend.  

“Raisin,” a musical adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun,” opened on Broadway in 1973 and won a Tony Award for Best Musical. A revival of the original play won a Tony in 2004.

Hansberry was named to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame and to the biographical dictionary “100 Greatest African Americans.” In 2013 she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame and the Legacy Walk, an outdoor display in Chicago celebrating LGBT heroes. 

 

Legal Assistance, VA Benefits, and Supportive Services For LGBTQ Veterans

on Tuesday, 17 October 2017.

Legal Assistance, VA Benefits, and Supportive Services For LGBTQ Veterans

Please join representatives of the Vermont Veterans Legal Assistance Project of South Royalton Legal Clinic, the VA Lakeside Clinic, and the Vermont National Guard Pride Program to learn about important resources for LGBTQ veterans and VA-eligible service members in Vermont.

Monday, October 23, 2017

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Location:

Pride Center of Vermont

255 S Champlain Street, #12

Burlington, VT

­

We look forward to seeing you there.

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LGBT History Month: Karl Gorath

on Monday, 16 October 2017.

LGBT History Month: Karl Gorath

Auschwitz Survivor

b. December 12, 1912
d. March 18, 2003

“I wore a pink triangle.”

Karl Gorath was imprisoned at Auschwitz for being gay. He was arrested in his home in 1938, after a jealous lover reported him to the Nazis.

Paragraph 175 of the German code criminalized homosexuality. Though the law was on the books long before World War II, the Nazis used it as grounds to make wholesale arrests of homosexuals. Hilter launched a crackdown on gay individuals, organizations and activities after he came to power in 1933.

Gorath was born in a small town in northern Germany. When he was arrested by the Nazis at age 26, he was first imprisoned at Neuengamme, a concentration camp near Hamburg, Germany. He was forced to wear a pink triangle, the symbol used by the Nazi’s to identify gay prisoners. In the camps, homosexuals were worked to death, subjected to torture and forced to endure horrific medical experiments.

Because he had some training as a nurse, Gorath was transferred to a sub-camp, where the Nazis put him to work in a prison hospital. When he was ordered to decrease the already meager bread rations given to Polish patients, he refused. As punishment, the Nazis sent him Auschwitz—the largest and most notorious death camp, located in southern Poland. At Auschwitz he met a Polish man who became his lover.

According to estimates, the Nazi’s murdered 1.1 million people at Auschwitz, including homosexuals. Gorath was one of the lucky ones. He was liberated in 1945.

After the war, Gorath continued to face discrimination. Because he was a “convicted homosexual,” most employers refused to hire him.

The German Legislature, the Bundestag, repealed Paragraph 175 in 1990. In 2002 the Bundestag vacated convictions of homosexuality by the Nazis, and in 2017 Germany pardoned and compensated gays who were convicted under the old law.

Gorath is one of six gay men profiled in the documentary,  “Paragraph 175” (2000), which chronicles homosexual persecution during the Holocaust. 

 

LGBT History Month: Mary Douglas Glasspool

on Sunday, 15 October 2017.

Mary Douglas Glasspool

LGBT History Month: Mary Douglas Glasspool

Episcopal Bishop

b. February 23, 1954

“My top priority is serving God’s people in God’s church.”

The Rt. Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool is the first out lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion—an association of Anglican and Episcopal churches around the world. Glasspool follows in the footsteps of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop, who was consecrated in 2003.

Born on Staten Island, New York, Glasspool is the daughter of a conservative Episcopal priest. She attended Dickinson College and graduated magna cum laude. She received the college’s Hofstader Prize as the outstanding woman in her class.

Glasspool entered the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1976. At the time, the ordination of women was controversial and the church was generally unreceptive to LGBT participation.

Glasspool’s father was opposed to women’s ordination. Nevertheless, he supported his daughter’s calling. “In his own gracious way, he sort of separated out public and private,” Glasspool told Newsweek. While still a seminarian, she attended the church’s General Convention, where she made a presentation regarding the ordination of homosexuals.

Glasspool was ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1981. She became a priest and, later, assistant to the rector at St. Paul’s Church in Philadelphia, before accepting the rectorship at a church in Boston. While in Boston, she met her life partner, Becki Sander.

In 2001 Glasspool was chosen as canon to the bishops of the Diocese of Maryland. She was elected bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in 2009. That same year, the Episcopal General Convention resolved, “God’s call is open to all.”

Glasspool is the 17th woman to become an Episcopal bishop and the first out lesbian to become a bishop in the Anglican Communion. Her controversial election gained worldwide attention, helping shape the international debate about LGBT clergy in Anglicanism. Since 2015 Glasspool has served as a bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

Glasspool and Sander, a Ph.D. social worker, have been together since 1988. 

LGBT History Month: Alicia Garza

on Saturday, 14 October 2017.

Black Lives Matter Cofounder

LGBT History Month: Alicia Garza

b. January 4, 1981

“We understand organizing not to happen online but to be built through face-to-face connections.”

Alicia Garza is an African-American activist and writer who cofounded the racial justice movement Black Lives Matter.

Garza (née Schwartz) grew up with her African-American mother and Jewish stepfather in Marin County, California. Her activism began early. In middle school she worked to make birth control information available to  San Francisco Bay Area students.

Garza attended the University of California San Diego. At 22, she met Malachi Garza, a biracial transgender male activist and organizer. A year later she came out to her family. She married Garza in 2008.

In 2013 Garza cofounded #BlackLivesMatter following the the not-guilty verdict in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black youth. The hashtag derives from a post she published on Facebook.

In 2014 Garza led the Freedom Ride to Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of Michael Brown—another unarmed black youth—by a police officer. She also attempted to stop a Bay Area Rapid Transit train to memorialize Brown’s death. She and other protestors chained themselves to the train before police arrested them. The Ferguson-shooting protests coincided with the development of Black Lives Matter chapters across the country.

Garza works in Oakland, California, as a community organizer around issues of health, student rights, domestic worker rights, police brutality and anti-racism. She identifies as a queer woman and has been an outspoken advocate against violence aimed at transgender and gender-nonconforming people of color. Her writing has been featured in Rolling Stone, The Nation, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and other publications.

Garza served as director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights in San Francisco and won the right of youth to use the city’s public transportation for free. She also fought gentrification and helped expose police brutality in the Bay Area. She serves on the board of directors of Forward Together, a grassroots organization that trains people for leadership, and she is involved with Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity. She also directs special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Along with other honors, Garza received the Bayard Rustin Community Activist Award and twice received the Harvey Milk Democratic Club Award. She was named to The Root 100 list of African-American Achievers between the ages of 25 and 45 and to Politico’s 2015 guide to thinkers, doers and visionaries. In 2015 the Advocate selected her among its nominees for Person of the Year.

Garza lives in California with her spouse.

 

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