By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
DETROIT – Mildred Gaddis, host of WCHB-AM’s “Inside Detroit,” will be receiving a Freedom and Justice award from the Detroit NAACP at the organization’s Fight for Freedom Fund dinner May 1.
Detroit’s LGBT community has been outraged since the day that Gaddis announced the award.
Johnnie Jenkins, Detroit Black Gay Pride’s president, was angered but unsurprised.
“I’m not surprised because the NAACP still needs to be educated about same-gender loving people of color’s issues in Detroit. It’s not something they’re sensitive about,” Jenkins said.
“I think it’s a smack in the face because she is patently homophobic,” he continued. “It takes away from the credibility of the organization and from the credibility of the award. From their silence on Proposal 2, it seems like it’s just the status quo for the NAACP. They aren’t interested in working for social justice – not for everyone.”
“We’ve reached out to them, but all you can do is reach out. It takes two to build a bridge,” he added.
“She was a featured speaker at an HTJ (Hotter Than July) event, which makes it worse,” Jenkins said. Gaddis was the keynote speaker at the 1997 event. Gaddis was reportedly a vocal supporter of the anti-marriage Proposal 2, which banned equal marriage rights and civil unions for same-sex partners. Calls to Gaddis and repeated calls to the NAACP weren’t returned by press time.
“She acts like you’re lower, just because you’re gay,” said Yvonne Roundtree, a member of the Board of Directors of the Ruth Ellis Center. “She’s not crazy about gay people and she will tear them up if she can, any time.”
Kofi Adoma, the founder of Karibu House, said she was appalled by news of the award.
“I’m sorry but that sends a message, a poor message, that the NAACP either is unaware of Gaddis’ blatant and unadulterated homo-prejudice/homo-negativity – even against our own youth – or that they overlook the fact that she doesn’t believe that gay and lesbian people are entitled to civil rights,” she responded via email.
“I’m sorry, but ‘freedom and justice’ just doesn’t fit the description of anyone who feels free to tell her audiences that she doesn’t agree with gay marriage, domestic partnership, or civil rights for the gay/lesbian people of America,” Adoma continued.
Imani Williams, a SPICE and Detroit Black Gay Pride board member, called news of the award, “shameful and disheartening.”
“Mildred Gaddis uses the microphone and the voice that she has through her radio program almost to create mass hysteria among her African-American listeners to anything that relates to the LGBT community,” Williams said. “Her homophobia is rampant.”
Williams said that Gaddis was invited to each of the three Town Hall meetings on homophobia in Detroit last year, but declined each time.
“This would have given her a chance to respond in her own words to what the LGBT community sees as a slight toward us,” Williams said. “She owed us that much after accepting a slot as a keynote speaker at Hotter Than July.”
Grace A. McClelland, executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center, also said that she found news of the award “appalling.”
In an email to Gaddis, McClelland said, “Anyone that can promote the homo-negativity and prejudice that you do, does not deserve even a listening ear, let alone an award. It is people like you that created the reason to start the Ruth Ellis Center, an agency that serves the gay, lesbian, bi-attractional and transgender youth in the city of Detroit.” McClelland also said that, as a result of the award, she plans to withdraw her support from the NAACP.
Let the NAACP know how you feel about their decision to give a Freedom and Justice award to anti-gay radio personality Mildred Gaddis: Detroit Branch NAACP, 2990 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48202; 313-871-2087.