Monday, February 21, 2011

High LGBT Culture for Black History Month

Marvin K. White, Jewelle Gomez, and Brian Freeman

Three masters of this era’s Black LGBT culture appeared at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center for a Black History Month event on Feb. 18. Jewelle Gomez, Marvin K. White, and Brian Freeman are accomplished writers and performers who were on stage for a full house of mostly African Americans on a rainy night. Over 100 people from local groups enjoyed “Generations: Black LGBT Experiences” to celebrate those who came before and paved the way for our present society and the ads promised “food, art, entertainment, and much more.” There was artwork that featured popular Black LGBT icons such as Sylvester and Angela Davis along the wall where a buffet at such events is usually provided. Instead of a buffet there was a sparse food offering for people who depend on such meals and for others who work hard and sometimes forget to eat lunch.

Jewelle Gomez performed a scene from her book “The Gilda Stories” that entranced the audience. The book is celebrating its 20th anniversary in print and is the only black lesbian vampire character in the world of literature. Gomez is a writer and activist and was a litigant with her wife Diane Sabin, who attended the reading, in the Proposition 8 court case that ended successfully in marriage equality. Gomez has also taken on the enormous tasks of President of the San Francisco Library Commission and dispersing much-needed grants at the Horizons Foundation.

Marvin K. White is a playwright, poet, visual artist, performer, and community arts coordinator. He is a former member of Pomo Afro Homos troupe, who performed at the Castro’s Josie’s Cabaret and Juice Joint and all over the U.S. He powerfully read from his spine tingling and affirming spoken word poem “I Want to Make Black History with You” and it drew resounding yells of approval from the audience.

Brian Freeman is a co-founder and director of Pomo Afro Homos. His work “Civil Sex” is based on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s openly-gay strategist Bayard Rustin and is highly regarded. He assumed the voice of Rustin’s event piano accompanist to tell a hilarious story about Coretta Scott King’s attempt to sing at a rally.

All three of the evening’s performers are fine actors and they convincingly portrayed the characters from their work and mesmerized the crowd, drawing rounds of applause.

Free rapid HIV and STD tests were available and the event was sponsored by Black Brothers Esteem of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, African American Health Disparities Project, AfroSolo Theatre Company, Black Coalition on AIDS, HIV Prevention and HIV Research Sections of the SFDPH, Our Love of the Stop AIDS Project, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, Shanti, Trans:Thrive of the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, and Walden House.

Activist Steve Ibarra, who works at City College battling HIV/AIDS and STDs, said that he was at the party to represent Blatinos. It was an extremely successful event and next year’s Generations is bound to be even bigger.

The Mr. Powerhouse Contest: Raw Male Sexuality on Parade

[name and image deleted by request]
The Powerhouse Bar is known as a center of raw male sexuality, especially during a big event. The Mr. Powerhouse Contest on Feb. 18 was one of those prime events. It coincided with the International Bear Rendezvous ensuring that there was a crush and lots of sweaty guys got to be up against their favorite studs.

Aaron Baldwin (left) and friends

Stunning Aaron Baldwin was posed behind the bar — irresistible and shirtless and being worshiped by a large friendly blond. Baldwin is a fundraiser for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence charities. He spoke passionately at a memorial for Matthew Shepard telling the heartbreaking story about a deer that sat at Shepard’s feet as he was dying while tied to a fence.

Richie Lillard and Adam Musgrave

A title holder murmured that his leather jacket had to be lowered into a bag with his name on it, like at sex parties, by coat check guy Albert Cromedy of the SOMA Guardians, because the coatroom was as packed as the bar. Tag team lovers Sean Kline and Philip Beers checked out the cruising guests while emperor candidate Ray McKenzie campaigned at the bar choke point. Charming Richie Lillard and Adam Musgrave served José Cuervo shots with a smile to promote the popular tequila.

Mr. Powerhouse 2003 Troy Anicete with Mr. Powerhouse 2010 Lance Holman

Bar manager Scott Peterson moved through the party, being eyed by regulars who like to see him in a jockstrap at special events. Friendly bartender José Guevara worked the back bar and redheaded bar back Charles was a tantalizing moving target for his admirers.

Judges Lance Holman, Brandon Clark, Ron Balos, Matt Johnson, and Troy Anicete

The attentive and good-natured contest judges included Brandon Clark, Ron Balos, Matt Johnson, Troy Anicete, and Lance Holman. Balos described himself as “eye candy” and he did resemble a sexy, handsome porn star in his harness and low-cut jeans. Anicete was a big hit at a SF Pride benefit where his custom made jeans raised big money from Deputy Vince Calvarese. Holman is the impressive 2010 Mr. Powerhouse who then won the Mr. San Francisco Leather Contest and beat out dozens of men to be Mr. International Leather runner-up in Chicago.

Contestants Hanz Bustamante and [name and likeness deleted by request] with MC Travis Creston

Travis Creston MC’ed. He is not only a primal bartop go-go dancer, but he also starred in the gay Egyptian film "All My Life" by filmmaker Maher Sabry.

[name and image deleted by request]
The 2011 winner was [name deleted by request] who spoke with emotion that his favorite kinky sex involved a vacuum cleaner. A high point of the evening was when a judge asked [name deleted by request] if his inhumanly bulging leather jockstrap was padded and photographer Rich Stadtmiller rose to the occasion to reach up to jock-squeeze for everyone’s clarification. Runner-up Hanz Bustamante spoke through cute sign language interpreter Kevin to make it clear that he is versatile and enjoys butt sex with cherries.

Runner-up Hanz Bustamante with his ASL interpreter Kevin

The event ended with resounding applause and with good wishes for [name deleted by request] for when he runs for Mr. San Francisco Leather.

[name and image deleted by request]

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Female Condom Re-Introduction on Valentine’s Day: Women and Gay Men Try a Better Condom

Christopher Carz Adams and Vincent Fuqua of the SFDPH

While a sit-in at City Hall by Marriage Equality protesting
the continued second-class citizenship of lesbians and gays was happening, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) held a press conference on Valentine’s Day Feb.14 at the Civic Center. The department’s gunmetal gray education school bus was parked directly across from the seat of government and the health workers were dispensing the newly designed female condom for women and gay men. Some media members mistook the bus for a sheriff’s department vehicle and gazed into the windows expecting to see recently arrested Molly McKay, Davina Kotulski, Frank Capley, and Joe Alfano with their faces pressed up against the windows, holding up their bound wrists, and with pitiful expressions on their faces.

The earlier female condom was not as popular as expected because there were complaints about its comfort level. Like the redesigned Avanti plastic condom, the new FC2 female plastic condom has a reformulated consistency that is thinner and it does not bunch up. There is an expectation that it will find its way into the bedrooms of women and gay men who would like to use oil lubricants like Vasoline — and the sexual penetrators will be quietly celebrating that they do not have to wear a condom. It is a turnaround that the person being penetrated wears the new condom.

Alert Christopher Carz Adams, who is an SFDPH HIV Research Section outreach worker, joined SFDPH health educator Vincent Fuqua and others to ride to four locations besides Civic Center to engage people and hand out the new condoms in a gift bag. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Sharin’ Dippity Revealed, Pat N Leather, and a novice were in on the educational campaign, and two smiling women in Islamic dress greeted them at Civic Center. Stores in the Castro have the new condoms on their counters, and now is the time for the curious and the sexual avant-garde to try them out.

The SFDPH's "the fc2 for When He's Into You" female condom campaign can be reached at 415.355.2040 and

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Castro Fire Benefit at the Lookout Bar: The Community Pulls Together During a Tragedy

Organizer Kate Ryken, host Rebecca Prozan, and friend of the victims Elissa Berger

There was a community fundraiser to benefit the victims of the fires in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood at the Lookout bar on Feb. 15. The event drew a cross section of local LGBT neighbors and friends to the trendy hot spot. Guests got a cold chill that was not from the cool drizzle when they spotted the horrific fire damage on a building’s façade just one home over from the Lookout on 16th Street. Activists Eileen Hanson and Denise Wells live in the building next to the damaged building, and Wells attended the benefit.

Thirteen people were displaced by the fire and they were thankful to the San Francisco Fire Department for their fast attention to a tragedy that could have been much worse. The arsonist set a fire that engulfed the front of the building and it could have caused injuries and deaths.

Victorian building in the Castro damaged by an arson fire

Friends of the victims Kate Ryken and Elissa Berger sold raffle tickets for prime goods and services from Café Flore, Nancy Boy, restaurants Home and Chow, and Beach Blanket Babylon. The donors and the raffle ticket buyers were thanked for their generosity. Hostess Rebecca Prozan joined San Francisco City Supervisor Scott Wiener, Rafael Mandelman, Andrea Shorter, and Charles Sheehan and dozens of others to try to alleviate the pain of a forced evacuation.

Fine sounds from the Lookout’s DJ APC (Andrew Gibbons) made it clear that he does not have Bieber Fever. His striking, wholesome, good looks rival those of DJ Christopher B who plays at the bar’s Pledge party.

A sleek, classy, seven-foot-tall drag queen in a clinging royal-blue dress sashayed through the benefit and revealed herself to be Patty McGroin, owner of the new drag clothing store Cocomo’s on Castro Street. It is the kind of business that will be of considerable help to cross-dressing neophytes and McGroin’s blue ensemble could be a fine choice for Supervisor Wiener on Halloween.

The protection group Castro Community on Patrol was represented by Greg Carey and Rick Holte. They handed out arson warning flyers with phone numbers to call and what to watch or listen for on one side and fire safety tips on the other side.

Victorian building in the Castro damaged by an arson fire

There is increased tension in the neighborhood, but there is also a new bonding and alertness that has caused an awareness that future fires can be deterred or at least spotted before they become serious. Increased police patrols possibly saved lives when a non-arson related fire broke out days after the Castro fires on Clayton Street and officers were passing by at 3:00AM. The police department suspects that the evil-doer being hunted has prior arson arrests, Neighbors who are agitated by the chronic vandalism in the Castro think that those destructive perpetrators may be linked to the fires.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Equality California Dinner at San Francisco City Hall: A Proud Thank You, Honors, and a Farewell

Civil rights pioneer Phyllis Lyon, NCLR executive director Kate Kendell, and Kate's partner Sandy Holmes

Equality California (EQCA)'s 2011 San Francisco Equality Awards at City Hall on Feb. 12 was a resounding success, where more than 600 community leaders, activists, elected officials, labor and corporate leaders packed into multiple spaces where they could see the evocative festivities or view them on wide-screen televisions. It was also the triumphant farewell for executive director Geoff Kors, who is stepping down after nine years to spend more time with his handsome lover James Williamson. It was a marvelous love story that the audience appreciated just two days before Valentine’s Day.

Geoff Kors

Chris Carnes and Jim Hammer

Kors was praised throughout the evening, during the cocktail reception, dinner, and dessert after-party, and especially by National Center for Lesbian Right (NCLR) executive director Kate Kendell on stage, who said that he was like a brother to her and that he was a master tactician for LGBT rights. California State Senator Mark Leno complimented Kors for initiating most of the breakthrough legal advances for California’s LGBT citizens and there were 71 of them for elected officials like Leno to develop and get passed through the legislature to the governor’s desk, thanks to Kors. Author Helen Zia and her lover Lia Shigemura cornered Kors at the dessert after-party to thank him for his passion for civil rights work. EQCA’s Deb Kinney joined filmmaker Jenni Olson and her lover Julie Dorf to also praise Kors.

Deb Kinney, Julie Dorf, and Jenni Olson

Shannon Minter and Victoria Kolakowski

Alameda County Judge Victoria Kolakowski was presented with the Equality and Justice Award by NCLR attorney Shannon Minter for being elected the first openly-transgender U.S. Judge and for advocating for full LGBT rights through her board positions at EQCA and the Transgender Law Center. The other honoree, newly-elected California Attorney General Kamala Harris was to receive the Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon Marriage Equality Award, named for the lesbian and women’s rights pioneers. Harris could not attend the gala and Lyon was there to receive the award for Harris from presenter Senator Leno, and she received a sustained applause. Harris was honored for refusing to defend Proposition 8 in the ongoing federal case in her new state office and for setting up hate crime and same-sex sexual assault and domestic programs when she was San Francisco District Attorney.

Guests enjoyed the excellent wine and beef or vegetarian dinners and viewing the passing cavalcade of gowns, tuxedos, and suits on women and men.

Malia Cohen and Jimmer Cassiol

Matthew Denckla and David Ortmann

There was a quick frenzy at some tables as charming District 10 City Supervisor Malia Cohen worked the room with Jimmer Cassiol, a former Mayor Gavin Newsom co-worker. Cohen met with San Francisco City Treasurer Jose Cisneros and his lover Mark Kelleher, former City Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and the male fashion statements for the evening — psychotherapist David Ortmann in a bright coral sport jacket and Magnet board member Matthew Denckla in a showy pink sport jacket.

Alex Randolph and Trevor Nguyen

Civil rights attorney and EQCA board member Linda Scaparotti’s white-ruffled Tadashi blouse blew away all possible fashion competition from the design conscious women at the event. Pride board members Lisa Williams and Alex Randolph met and mingled as did party planner Jason Chan and GAPA’s Trevor Nguyen.

Publicist Chris Carnes came down from the Sacramento River delta with her entourage Heather Findlay, Alice Hill, and Gretchen Fleischmann, and she hosted wine donor Wine Tasting Network.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and his wife Anne

Alfredo Casuso and David Perry of the DP&A public relations firm

Whole tables of men and some women had to remove their jackets because of the heat, especially on the gala’s upper floors, and many asked why Mayor Willie Brown had chosen not to air condition the building when it was renovated for $250 million after the 1989 earthquake.

EQCA’s deputy development director Michelle Ortiz and dozens of volunteers presented a well-coordinated gala and a fine send-off for executive director Kors.

The rotunda in San Francisco City Hall

Mike Shriver’s Photography Show Opening: An Artistic Event for a Good Cause

Activist and photographer Mike Shriver

HIV/AIDS activist Mike Shriver has expanded his creativity into nature and sports photography, and his fans and passersby were able to see his hummingbird images show opening at the Castro Country Club on Feb. 11.

Shriver is a beloved former San Francisco AIDS Czar who has battled the police at peaceful rallies, hospital bureaucrats, and politicians to stay alive and to assure a future for people impacted by AIDS and HIV. He has overcome multiple obstacles, and observing his heavily shielded camera reveals that because of his health problems it has been dropped and smacked against walls.

Shriver chose one of nature’s most difficult subjects when he decided to photograph the magical, high-speed birds in the Golden Gate and Dolores Parks. He took on the elusive photographic prey as he has taken on some of the most insurmountable tasks in our society — and he was successful. The beautifully framed photographs are for sale, and the Country Club has received 100% of the $1,500.00 in purchase prices.

Shriver was a major part of the coordination of this year’s National AIDS Memorial Grove anniversary, and Grove board member Gina Gatto was joined by supporters Marge Boric and Marsha Raulston to congratulate Shriver at the show. He also photographs the new sport of bike polo, and some of the young people who dare to charge into each other on bicycles were there to encourage their photographer.

The Castro Country Club is a living-sober refuge that saves lives, and it is involved in a fund raising campaign to buy their building. Sources have made it clear that a new obstacle may make that goal more difficult. They say that more than $250,000 will be needed to re-build the structure and its foundation.

For more information, visit

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Harvey Milk Academy Benefit Drag Show: Over-the-Top Drag Queens for a Good Cause

Grand Duchess Cookie Dough with Harvey Milk Academy Principal Christine Velasco

Some of San Francisco’s most over-the-top drag queens performed at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood to benefit the academy’s Parent Faculty Club on Feb. 11. The “adults only” designation on the show's promotional postcards and underground Muni signs were an accurate warning that the show was more of a fun, trashy, Trannyshack type of entertainment than a classy show like Donna Sachet’s Sunday's a Drag brunch at the Starlight Room.

More than 260 people crammed into the academy’s auditorium. There was a grand aisle down the middle of the room with two huge spotlights in a crossfire that MC and co-producer Ivy Drip craved and exulted in as she wildly vamped back and forth. Exuberant Drip explained Drag Queen Appreciation 101, with a primer on how to tip with thrown rolled-up dollar bills and how to react when a performer suddenly leaps onto a surprised lap. Then Drip laughed and repeatedly leaped onto laps and spoke about the beneficiary, which drew the first of many waves of applause.

Ivy Drip and Ana Mae Coxx

MC Drip has two children in the school and the much-needed funds will help with the Healthy Food Program, before- and after-school programs, and arts education. Drip and restrained co-producer Ana Mae Coxx described the raffle prizes and then they warmed up the runway for the dozen-plus performers including always fantastic Grand Duchess Cookie Dough.

Attentive school principal Christine Velasco greeted guests, and event coordinators Susan Tramontana and Shawn Maceiro joined Liz Torres and Whitney Berry to serve the food and drinks and arrange the seating. There were Harvey Milk T-shirts for sale — and they were not the brightly colored tops with a gun aimed at Milk’s head which have disgusted the gay supervisor’s friends.

Liz Torres and Whitney Berry

Children and teenagers checked in with their parents at the door and then went to the lively alternative party upstairs at the Milk Academy, away from the loud music and suggestive repartee.

It was a well-organized event that even had superior security from Ken Craig and the Castro Community on Patrol on duty.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Mostly British Film Festival: A Unique Festival to Save a Theater

Festival director Ruthe Stein with board members Jack Bair and Andrew Woodley

The Mostly British Film Festival surpassed their three previous years and dozens of other film festivals with two superb films at the historic Vogue Theatre in San Francisco on Feb. 8 when "Glorious 39" and "Dorian Gray" were screened for large turn-outs of film fans.

Festival director Ruthe Stein joined festival board members Jack Bair and Andrew Woodley and superb volunteer coordinator Ninfa Dawson to present a quality event in the restored 1910 theater in Presidio Heights. Stein is a popular film critic and Bair promotes the preservation of older single-screen theaters. Woodley is a refreshing young Englishman who gave a colorful and descriptive outline of "Dorian Gray" and its inventive director Olive Parker. The intriguing festival is presented by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation and the California Film Institute.

The opening night party was at British Motors where guests indulged in drinks and hors d'oeuvres and wandered among the spectacular new Jaguar XJ luxury sedans.

The award-winning film"The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls," a documentary about amazing yodeling lesbian sisters from New Zealand, was popular and also a big hit at the 2010 San Francisco LGBT Film Festival.

Murderous aristocratic ruling class Nazi collaborators in the pre-World War II British government? That was a big surprise in the film "Glorious 39," with the stunning, freckled Eddie Redmayne and iconic Julie Christie.

Sexwork palace orgies and opium pipes were on display in rich, glorious color in "Dorian Gray." Everything that was suggested in an earlier black-and-white film version and Oscar Wilde’s notorious book is intensely blatant in this new celluloid treat starring Colin Firth from "The King’s Speech" and overwhelmingly handsome Ben Barnes from the "Narnia" movies. Outstanding 19th century paneled interiors were the backgrounds for the Dorian Gray character played by sultry Barnes to hunt and debauch Victorian girls, women, boys, and men, all in extravagant suits and gowns that were yanked off for Gray’s pleasure and ruin. The Egyptian cat god that Gray prayed to for his miraculously ageless face was missing from this film, but the notorious painting disintegration sequences were modern and spellbinding with their high-tech computerizations.

The Mostly British Film Festival is a well-regarded addition to the dozens of such festivals in San Francisco and hopefully funds raised during the event will help to save the Vogue Theatre for future generations of film-lovers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The AEF/BCEF Volunteer Appreciation Party: Volunteers, Competitive Bowling, and Awards

Honoree Joanie Juster with Volunteer Manager Sean Greene

The AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF) and the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund (BCEF) presented a volunteer appreciation party at Yerba Buena Bowl on Feb. 7 for a couple dozen people who dedicated themselves to the charities throughout the year. The AEF and BCEF provide life-saving financial support and measurably improve their clients’ quality of life.

Yerba Buena Bowl has some of the few bowling lanes left in San Francisco. It is modern and well-maintained, like the ice skating center next door. A treasure of the bowling center is the attentive catering by Tammy Cessna of Mo’s Grill, which is also located in the Yerba Buena complex. While much of the cuisine in America that is in close proximity to bowling balls is an abomination, that is not the case at Yerba Buena where three varieties of fluffy gourmet pizza and wonderful roast beef and ham sandwiches were eagerly loaded onto party plates by the hungry volunteers.

Guests were greeted by BCEF Client Services Associate Suzy Goldsmith and hardworking double-jobbed BCEF Communication Manager and Volunteer Manager Sean Greene, and between them they knew everyone entering the party.

The party’s excitement level was noticeably lower than last year’s because Suzan Revah and her energetic crew were on an Atlantis cruise. Revah hosts the monthly Nasty party that benefits the AEF at the Powerhouse bar. Her party has brought electro-torture and unusually primal go-go dancers in jockstraps out into the SOMA mainstream.

Board VP Neil Figurelli, Volunteer Manager Sean Greene, and Board President Cynthia Hester

AEF/BCEF Board President Cynthia Hester, who is a Senior Marketing Director at Hewlett-Packard, graciously thanked the volunteers for being the “heart and soul” of the organizations, and BCEF manager Sean Greene announced several awards, including a well-deserved award to the "Every Penny Counts" program coordinator, Kelly Rivera Hart.

Executive Director Mike Smith

AEF/BCEF Executive Director Mike Smith revealed that the popular annual AEF County Fair would not be happening in 2011, but board president Hester said that another big spring event would take its place.

Board VP Neil Figurelli, who is the charities’ Senior Event Planner, is employed at Winslow & Associates public relations and the board is lucky to have secured his talents. He has been successful at providing superior entertainment at the County Fair and the charities’ annual December holiday dinner.

Volunteer Manager Sean Greene interrupted the bowling to introduce former volunteer manager Joanie Juster, and gave her a floral bouquet, saying that she is the reason that most of the attendees were at the event. Jester thanked him and said that the volunteers are now in good hands. Jester is touring the country promoting her award-winning documentary "Alaska Far Away: The New Deal Pioneers of Matanuska Colony."

Then the bowling started up again and Troy Brunet outscored his team and partner John Kiltinen. Paul Soto (who is Mr. Golden State Gay Rodeo Association) and Chris Benson furiously competed against each other as did a lot of the other volunteers with their partners.

Volunteer appreciation parties are a terrific way for charities to say “thank you” and it has worked well for the AEF and BCEF to retain the people who make the organizations’ work possible.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

IndieFest Week One: Extreme Obsession and a Standing Ovation

Filmmaker Gregg Araki

The San Francisco Independent Film Fest continued to shock and surprise audiences with well-chosen, remarkable films during its first week at the Roxie Theatre.

"Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires)," shown on Feb. 6, is an tale of extreme obsession that seems subtle at first, but then it causes some movie watchers to yell out in disgust and shock. A gay man and his best friend, a straight woman, become obsessed with a younger, curly-headed blond man who somewhat resembles Michelangelo’s David statue. They project their assumptions onto him and desperately compete for his attention. Audience outrage came pouring out at the ending, after the two had been spurned by him and seemed to have escaped his mind twisting grasp. The horrible, anguished scream that comes out of the gay man when the blond approaches at a party has only been heard previously in horror films when an alien masquerading as a human is exposed and is killed. And then the best friends do something that shocked and surprised the audience and caused outcries heard throughout the theater.

Opening night film "Kaboom" received a standing ovation on Feb. 3, which greatly pleased director Gregg Araki. He told the audience how shocked he was at the Cannes Film Festival when the film received an unprecedented 15-minute standing ovation. He and his cast were prepared for the opposite reaction. This was inconceivable for the filmerati who feel that he is irresponsible and just into making movies for his own sadistic shock values. His fans in the audience yelled out and laughed loudly at scenes that are unseen elsewhere and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A pungent odor engulfed the tight group around Araki later in the lobby, and when the door was opened a cute boy with his hot dog and onion stand was revealed. This is a manifestation of the unique culture of the Mission that condo-ization and other gentrification could end.

The National Black HIV/AIDS March: Activists March for Awareness

Jonathan Bent and Tony Bradford from Black Brothers Esteem

More than a hundred people rallied at San Francisco City Hall and marched to the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Fillmore District for a program to commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7.

Vincent Fuqua addressing the crowd on City Hall steps

Coordinated by Vincent Fuqua, Health Educator with the HIV Prevention Section of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), there was a series of inspirational speeches and meeting-and-greeting of AIDS activists.

Susan Phillip, the SFDPH Medical Director of the STD Prevention and Control Services, was the first speaker. She was followed by Jonathan Bent, who is involved with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s (SFAF) Black Brothers Esteem (BBE). Bent said that after he became ill with AIDS he paid attention to his health and diet. He told the audience that he had learned from BBE that everyone should be tested and if infected, to be treated as soon as possible. The most important thing he said that he had learned was to love himself. BBE Program Director Tony Bradford looked on smiling, as did Michael Huff, Jonathan Batiste, Alfred McGugin, Frances Broome, and Derrick Mapp. Bent was given a floral tribute and thanked for his helpful comments.

San Francisco City Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi spoke about Black History Month and AIDS in the African American community. Marsha Herring, the SFDPH’s Contract Compliance Officer, spoke about prejudice against people with HIV/AIDS. Then a list of important African American activists who had died while battling AIDS was read, including Brandy Moore, who had helped to found the Black Coalition on AIDS while he worked for San Francisco City Supervisor Doris Ward and consulted with California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown on AIDS issues and funding.

Kyriell Noon with his sons Ziad and Junaid

Positive Resource Center Executive Director Brett Andrews and SFAF Executive Director Neil Giuliano were there and Stop AIDS Project Executive Director Kyriell Noon brought his sons Junaid and Ziad.

The rally ended after coordinator Fuqua thanked everyone for coming and supporting each other, and said that people positive and negative for HIV are not separate, but they are together in fighting AIDS. Then candles were distributed and the march set off in the fading light toward the Fillmore.

Kyriell Noon and his sons Junaid and Ziad

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

"Riding While Black 1955, Walking While Black 1999": An Historic Moment in Civil Rights Remembered

Civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin

Small children and teenagers dressed for church joined their families, political activists, and academics to see and hear civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin at San Francisco’s Main Public Library on Feb. 6 as part of Black History Month.

Colvin was a 15-year-old student on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955 who refused to give up her seat to a white person, and she was kicked and dragged off the bus by police. A local law demanded that African Americans vacate their bus seats when a white person wanted them, but when she was arrested, handcuffed, and jailed there was a furious groundswell of outrage that ended up in the courts. Nine months later activist Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her bus seat and eventually the case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned discriminatory bus riding laws nationwide.

Colvin was transformed from a schoolgirl, whose teachers told her that she had a constitutional right to sit on the bus seat she chose, into a civil rights activist who yelled that fact to the police as they arrested her. She still is assertive and knowing about some of the more disguised racism that occurs now. She smiled and said that she objects to the overly polite and lavish attention that she encounters from some Southern white people, and that drew nervous laughter from the audience.

Civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin, moderator Enid Lee, and performer Bryonn Bain

Storyteller Awele Makeba performed a striking scene from her show "I’m Not Getting On Until Jim Crow Gets Off" which told of the abuse faced by Colvin. Performer Bryonn Bain was so overwhelmed by Colvin’s presence that he canceled his show sequence and sat at a table with her and moderator Enid Lee to interact with the civil rights legend and discuss the prison experience. Bain spoke about prison for African American men and how it fits into the five categories of slavery, which noticeably shocked many audience members.

It was an historic afternoon that commemorated the turbulence and eventual victories of the civil rights movement that inspired the later LGBT, women’s, and anti-war movements.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Bay Area Rainbow Symphony January Performance: A Tenor and a Symphony Together for a Good Cause

Tenor Brian Thorsett performing with the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony

The Bay Area Rainbow Symphony's inspirational performance "A Tenor in Winter: Benefit Concert & World Premiere" on Jan. 30 was a collaboration with the Calvary Presbyterian Church’s ConcertConnect program to benefit Larkin Street Youth Services and the Symphony's drum drive for timpani and percussion.

Almost every seat at the Upper Fillmore church was filled, and the acoustics and sound equipment were finely tuned. The musicians are paid at these concerts, but on Sunday night they generously volunteered their earnings to raise money.

The evening’s featured performer was extraordinary tenor Brian Thorsett, who was given quite a workout as he sang almost continuously with different configurations of the musicians. Thorsett’s carefully enunciated and vivid singing in English and German is in great demand all over the U.S. and in Europe, and he will be on stage in the near future at San Francisco’s Davies Hall.

The Rainbow Symphony’s prime directive is to challenge stereotypes about LGBT performing artists, composers, and instrumentalists, and to increase visibility. The Rainbow Symphony is also open to non-LGBT members who seek to express themselves musically, and like the players of the Gay Softball League, a sizable number of the musicians are bisexual or straight.

A leading composer of the evening was Franz Schubert, whose music is the height of Germanic Romanticism. Recent research suggests that he was gay and that he dedicated romantic songs to male musician friends. One of the most beautiful moments of the evening occurred when a lyrical text of Schubert’s music was read by flutist David Latulippe:
Oh Lovely Art, in how many grey hours,
When life’s fierce orbit ensnared me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Carried me away into a better world!
How often has a sigh escaping from your harp,
A sweet, sacred chord of yours
Opened up for me the heaven of better times,
Oh lovely Art, for that I thank you!

The other leading composer was David Conte, who was at the concert to receive appreciative applause and a floral tribute for the world premiere of his "Yeats Songs" — a musical setting of three W.B. Yeats poems for tenor and string quartet.

Tenor Brian Thorsett and composer David Conte

The evening’s music was dominated by the violins and a viola, but the marvelous cellos and wind instruments also made strong tonal statements.

Larkin Street’s Alexandra Horton spoke eloquently about how her agency’s youth service programs get at-risk and homeless youth off the streets, and she thanked the audience for their help.

The Rainbow Symphony’s next concert is on March 26 and their website is

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Two-Spirits Native American Tribute to Two Worthy Leaders

Ruth Villaseñor, Miko Thomas, Dakota Kyber, and Derek Smith

Two worthy leaders of the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) group received tributes from their fellow members on Jan. 29 at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. Chickasaw Indian Miko Thomas, who performs in drag as the outrageous Landa Lakes, and Chippewa Indian Derek Smith were stepping aside as group co-chairs after four years so that an intergenerational duo could take over the coordination of social and political activities. Thomas and Smith were given lavish, well-deserved praise and luxurious ceremonial blankets at a meeting that included a spiritual greeting, a craft class, and welcome refreshments.

Miko Thomas receives his ceremonial blanket

Thomas’ partner was there, and he performs as Miso Hornay when in drag in the Native American drag troupe The Brush Arbor Gurlz. The troupe has given much-needed visibility to LGBT Native Americans and funds have been raised when they perform at the Powerhouse bar and other venues.

Derek Smith

Smith’s partner of ten years, Lucius Bishop, was there and joined in when the group constructed drum sticks to encourage future drumming at events.

Ruth Villaseñor leads the group in making drum sticks

Two-Spirits are described in the BAAITS brochure and website as a balancing of both genders, but then there are the ultra-masculine brute men and feminine women who favor pink clothing that are not featured in that brochure. BAAITS was inspired by Gay American Indians, which was founded by activists Barbara Cameron and Randy Burns in 1975. Gatherings are sponsored throughout the year and they draw large crowds of LGBT Native Americans and their friends.

The event began with a passing around of burning sage in an oyster shell, meant to reach out to a higher power, and as a bonding ritual. New co-chairs Apache Indian/Mexican Ruth Villaseñor and Choctaw/Cherokee Indian Dakota Kyber were introduced and they thanked Thomas and Smith throughout the afternoon for their attention to detail and time while coordinating the group. Villaseñor was the greeter and Kyber was a server at the Native American AIDS Project Thanksgiving Dinner, which is just blocks from the LGBT Center. Both of the new chairs are high energy and resourceful, which is a good sign for the group in the years ahead.

Ruth Villaseñor (right) and friend

Ruth Villaseñor, Dakota Kyber, Miko Thomas, and Derek Smith