Let’s honor our longtime activistsConversations with Nicole Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Commentary: Conversations with Nicole
Be afraid … be very afraid. I’ve decided that I will become very active on the Internet with a personal blog and a Facebook account by the end of the year. You can bank on this decision of mine. This will all happen by Jan. 1, 2012. By the way I lost my cell phone and laptop in Washington this past weekend.
AIDS Walk to honor founder Susan Jester
At this coming Sunday’s annual AIDS Walk San Diego in <b>Balboa Park a very long overdue and wonderful recognition will happen. Sixty-seven-year-old longtime gay civil rights and all-around political activist and leader, Susan Jester will be honored as the founder of our city’s AIDS Walk.
Those of us who were involved in those dark early years at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic remember well how frightened and alone people in our community felt. There were no such things as corporate sponsors, nor did we have many straight friends or allies. Many people thought you could get AIDS just by touching someone.
I founded the AIDS Assistance Fund, and served as its president for five years. We provided food, clothing and housing for those affected by HIV/AIDS. I recall that many people did not want to see our name on checks. Instead, the organization’s initials, AAF were used.
It was in this awful climate that Susan Jester put together our first AIDS Walk, Walks for Life, which took place on Pacific Coast Highway. The first directors of our AIDS Walks were Gary Reese and Albert Bell, both of whom later succumbed to AIDS.
In those dark early years, our AIDS causes and organizations could only depend on our bar owners, the Imperial Court, M.C.C. and adult businesses – Vulcan, <b>Club San Diego and All Worlds Studios for support. Did you know that F Street alone contributed $250,000 in five years to the AIDS Assistance Fund?
Give Susan Jester a hug and an ovation when she gets her well-deserved honor and thank her for all she has done for so many. God bless you, Susan!
Lorena Gonzalez and labor – longtime friends
It was really sad and disappointing to see some of the attacks and falsehoods printed about Lorena Gonzalez and the Labor Council of San Diego and Imperial counties. First of all I want to make it very clear that I believe the recent statements by the president of the Firefighters Union concerning Councilman Carl DeMaio were indeed gay-baiting and somewhat homophobic. And even though the Firefighters Union is <b>not a member of Lorena’s Labor Council, she still called their president and got him to take his Internet posting down. Lorena has been a longtime fighter for GLBT equality. In fact, she and the union, filled an important role in the No on 8 campaign and the successful Manchester Hotel boycott. Let us not forget that Harvey Milk would not have gotten elected in the 1970<b>s if it wasn’t for the labor union endorsements and campaign volunteering.
I found Johnathan Hale and <b>Ben Cartwright’s writings concerning Lorena and the unions both misinformed and unwarranted. Their focus should have been on the president of the firefighters union alone as he wrote as an individual.
Honoring Frank Kameny in Washington
My activities during the five days I spent in our nation’s capital included presenting an award to longtime civil rights activist and gay icon Dr. Frank Kameny and The Academy of Washington (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary) and 68-year-old community leader Carl Rizzi, all at a gala dinner held at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel. The D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus opened up the event and, wow, what talented men. Dr. Kameny became a vocal gay rights activist in 1957 and co-founded the Mattachine Society. We had a great time together and there is an ongoing campaign to get the president to bestow upon Frank the “National Medal of Freedom.” While in Washington, I stopped by to see the new Martin Luther King memorial. It’s unbelievable and magnificent. It’s a must-see tribute that everyone should visit. I actually got some free time between speeches and meetings and checked out the first lady’s inaugural gowns exhibit at the National <b>Museum of American History. U.S. Sens. Scott Brown (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) were guests of honor at the Log Cabin Republican annual national dinner. I had many conversations with top Democratic Party officials and all are very worried about Obama’s re-election chances with some hoping lightening would strike and Hillary Clinton would run!
It was great talking to reporters of the Washington <b>Blade, which for me and many others is “The Bible” of gay politics/civil rights nationally. I discovered some great new restaurants and one of my most interesting and exciting nights was when world renowned cosmetic icon, Dr. Danne Montague King took me to the world famous “<b>Ziegfeld’<b>s” where male nude dancers are totally legal and 12 were performing on many stages. Popular general manager Jon Parks took me into his private office and told me all the “secrets” of this huge, beautiful two floor mega nightclub. Needless to say this was a most interesting experience as I need to get out more when I am in D.C.!
Trevor Project San Diego ambassadors
Recently the Trevor Project was honored at the White House with recognition for its work in saving and changing the lives of so many GLBT youths from suicide and bullying. Their San Diego ambassadors are one of the most organized and productive chapters in the nation and made our city proud. Tonight, Thursday, Sept. 22 at Eden nightclub there will be one of their annual gala events and I hope to see you all there!
Being invited to speak in such cities as Missoula, Mont. is such an honor. These brave GLBT activists are on the frontlines of changing America. The University of Montana has over 15,000 students and is one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen, and I love their GLBT student organization. I was given a tour of the historic Fort Missoula Museum. Did you know this place served as an internment camp for thousands of Japanese, German and <b>Italian men – many of course Americans? What a sad chapter in our nation’s history. Did you know that Montana has one annual Pride parade/festival that rotates between five cities: Missoula, Helena, Billings, Bozeman and <b>Kalispell? And this state has one of the largest neo-Nazi hate groups in the country. In spite of that, Montana is a beautiful state, but their GLBT activists are even more so!
Nicole Murray Ramirez has been an award-winning columnist since 1973, and a Latino and gay activist for well over 40 years. He is currently a city commissioner and has served the last five mayors of San Diego. He is also a national board member of the Harvey Milk Foundation and chairman of the International Court Council of the USA, Canada and Mexico. Nicolemrsd@aol.com.
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