Almost 400 people gathered at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts Dec. 15 to celebrate and support the Kalamazoo Gay & Lesbian Resource Center. Aside from the sheer size of the crowd and amount of money raised, what was notable was how many allies were there, easily mingling with the LGBT youth, volunteers and board members.
Incoming board chair Carol Anderson welcomed the standing room only crowd and emceed the awards ceremony. Six awards were given out; Tammy Collins received the Retail Award for her donations of graphics work, Jen Hsu received the Terry Kuseke Education Award for her work at the Western Michigan University Office of LGBT Student Services, Nicole Ogrin from PNC Bank received the Ally Award, the entire group of 20 Triangle Mentors got the Community Award, and Joe and Nancy Calme received the Faith Award for their work within the Unitarian Universalist Church of Portage.
Susan Horowitz and I received the Jim Knox Humanitarian Award for our activist work and as the co-publishers of Pride Source Media Group. For me, it was especially meaningful because I relate so much to James Knox story. He was inspired to help found KGLRC by the stories and needs he saw before him. I, like him, am an accidental activist. In the 1980s my career in corporate banking was rocketing up. Then I met and joined a small group of volunteers who wanted to start a gay and lesbian helpline in Detroit. The voices on the other end of that phone line tore my heart out, and compelled me and the others to change the course of our lives. That core group became the nucleus of Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale, and I its first executive director.
Later I used my financial chops to help start the HOPE Fund at the Community Foundation For Southeast Michigan. And then when Susan and I had the chance to become BTL’s publishers we jumped at it – because we know that the power of this movement for equal rights lies in the telling of these extraordinary stories of everyday people.
We’ve learned that writing about activism is easier than doing it. We’ve learned that as an activist newspaper we have an obligation to be part of the movement, not simply a disinterested critic. We are intrinsically aware that we are all in this thing together.
And we’ve learned over the past 20 years of publishing Between The Lines that the gay rights movement does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a much larger American movement to create a more perfect union. We’ve learned that the American Dream is not about a few people getting rich while the rest live in poverty. It’s not about telling women they are not capable of making decisions about their own bodies. It’s not about some people being allowed to marry and others can’t. We certainly know that the right to bear arms does not include the right to mow down school children with automatic weapons.
And perhaps the most important thing we have learned is that there is a radical un-American movement in this country that sees all these issues interconnected, and last week in the Michigan legislature we saw it played out in full form in the final week of the lame duck session.
Although we in the gay rights movement can herald something of a victory because the conscience objection bills died before coming to a final vote, bills did pass that attacked Michigan’s labor movement with passage of so-called right to work legislation, abortion rights were curtailed, and a bill passed that eases gun laws in Michigan. These are our issues too, and at Between The Lines we pledge to continue to connect the dots, to make it clear that we are not alone in the movement toward justice and equality.
Thanks to KGLRC and its director Zach Bauer for this award.