Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
For weeks, we at Between The Lines had planned to run an article updating our readers on all of the great things happening in Kalamazoo and all of West Michigan.
Within the past week, we’ve learned a few things: One, that the work going on there – often unnoticed by those of us not on the western side of the state – is tremendous and inspiring. They’re doing great, innovative things in LGBT Kalamazoo – and lots of them. Two, that successes are always tempered by losses.
In this case, the loss was not of a legal or political battle, but of a valued member of our state’s LGBT community. The death of Terry Kuseske – a lifelong gay rights activist and Kalamazoo’s first openly gay city commissioner – was sad in that he passed away from pancreatic cancer just as he entered a new chapter in his career. But it left those of us who knew him with a smile on our faces, because we knew that Terry had seen much of his endeavors come to fruition: his election, the passage of Kalamazoo’s non-discrimination ordinance and, just within the past month, the announcement of an LGBT Scholarship Fund in his name, which will be given to a local LGBT senior. Terry was, after all, an educator by trade, and the idea that he could continue his legacy of helping youth even beyond his own life thrilled him.
And as we say goodbye to one of our great leaders, we welcome in new programs, new staff and tremendous growth in Kalamazoo’s LGBT community. The Kalamazoo Gay/Lesbian Resource Center now has several new grants, 10 standing committees working on various issues, a new director of programming and plans for its first black-tie awards ceremony in December. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Programs to mentor LGBT youth, as well as to provide them with a drop-in center and, if need be, temporary housing, are all in the works as well.
And the most beautiful part of all of this is that these successes are gained collectively and thus, celebrated collectively by organizations, social groups and LGBT individuals throughout West Michigan.
“In Kalamazoo, we are a small community, but we are a strong community,” says Jan de la Torre, a prevention specialist at Community AIDS Resource and Education Services. “We work with each other, we play off of each other’s strengths, we enhance each other. If we didn’t work this way, I don’t think any of the advances made by gay and lesbian people in Kalamazoo would be possible.”
It’s a belief we should all remember and a mentality we should all embrace. And just as the KGLRC’s successes belong to the whole West Michigan gay community, Kalamazoo’s wins – and their losses – belong to all Michigan LGBT people.
If you are able, we encourage you to attend their LGBTA Fall Welcome Picnic, held 1-6 p.m. Sept. 11 at the KGLRC offices. Because whether we are from the area or not, we mourn together over our losses – be they people or legal and social battles – and thus, we should also celebrate together over our gains. And right now, there’s much to celebrate in Kalamazoo.