Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Lee encourages LGBTs to 'stay woke'


Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Congresswoman Barbara Lee told attendees at the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club's Pride breakfast that while the Oakland Pride festivities were "celebratory," there are many things going on in the country that are harmful.

"I want to encourage you to stay woke," Lee said, drawing applause from the crowd.

Nearly 200 people attended the September 10 Pride breakfast at SPUR's Oakland office, including many LGBT politicos and straight allies. It was the first time that Lee, a Democrat who has long represented Oakland and other East Bay cities in Washington, addressed the gathering.

She recalled growing up in El Paso, Texas, where her mother's best friend was a lesbian. Lee said that her mother instilled in her a deep sense of acceptance for everyone, no matter how they identified.

"It was how she raised us," Lee said.

Lee, a straight ally, has been a forceful critic of President Donald Trump and his administration. Lee is a founding member and vice chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, former chair and current whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.

"Each day is another day on a terrible merry-go-round," she said, "whether it's transgender people in the military or trans students."

The president, she said, has "appointed Cabinet officials who express ideas rooted in hatred and bigotry. This administration makes it clear" where it stands.

"But we will continue to fight. We do rise with Pride," she said. "We have to remind people that there is a better way.

"It's inspiring seeing people come together to resist," she said. "It's not going to be easy and we will face some gloomy days, but we will win."

State Treasurer John Chiang, a candidate for governor, was in attendance at the breakfast. In a brief interview with the Bay Area Reporter, he said that the state's diversity is its strength.

"California is a number one economic power in large part because of its diversity," he said.

The club honored several people and two organizations.

Juniperangelica Cordova, a brown, queer, trans femme from Azusa, California, is a student at UC Berkeley, where she is involved in student government. Cordova received the Emerging Leader Award.

"I think Pride is rooted in riots against police brutality," Cordova said, referring to the 1969 uprising at New York City's Stonewall Inn that sparked the modern LGBT rights movement.

She said that she was appreciative of all the elected officials present, but that the community "needs everyone to stand up."

Bishop Yvette Flunder of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ received a Trailblazer Award. A longtime leader in the faith community, Flunder said, "I am one of those people who embodies Selma to Stonewall. It's an incredible parallel and I lived through it."

"We had problems with blacks using the bathroom" during the civil rights movement "just as trans people do in some states. We had problems with the police," she said, and that continues today.

"Let's not let them steal the spirit from us," Flunder said. "If you have to get your God back, go get your God back."

Nenna Joiner, owner of Feelmore510 Adult Gallery in Oakland, received the LGBTQI Small Business Owner Award.

"I just used what I had," Joiner said of starting the adult store after a career at Clorox. "Thank you for your inclusion."

Gay El Cerrito City Councilman Gabriel Quinto was recognized with a Trailblazer Award. He made history by becoming the first HIV-positive elected official in the Bay Area in 2014. He talked about how it was "dark and depressing" in the years before new HIV medications were developed that really started to help people like him. And, he wanted those in attendance to know that access to health care and housing are two issues that are important to him.

"I am so proud to be with my colleagues," he added.

Comcast/NBC Universal representative Ken Maxey accepted the club's Corporate Leader Award.

"I'm very proud of Comcast – it's one of the champions of this community," he said.

The Pacific Center for Human Growth was the recipient of the Community Service Award. Executive Director Leslie Ewing said that the center, one of the oldest LGBT community centers in the country, has expanded its mental health services to several East Bay cities.

"Pacific Center is thriving," she said.

Stonewall President Brendalynn Goodall reminded the audience that the LGBT community must continue to fight for rights.

"As an Oakland native and a 66-year-old African-American lesbian, I came here because I am part of this community," she said. "The fight for justice is not over. We add our voices to the Resistance."


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