Noted California activist in the LBGTQ world community, author Kathleen Archambeau facilitated a thoughtful and insightful discussion at the home of Callahan McDonough on October 6, 2017. Sponsored by the ART+ACTIVISM initiative within the Women’s Caucus for Art- GA chapter (WCAGA), approximately 30 people listened, spoke, and learned from Kathleen and from each other. Perhaps there was a smaller audience than the previously planned event at GA Tech that was canceled due to the unanticipated death of Scott Schultz, president of the Georgia Tech Pride Alliance where he had been killed by a campus police officer during a confrontation. Schultz had been the lead coordinator to bring the author to the GA Tech campus. Those of us in Callahan’s living room – representing a wide spectrum of ages and gender identities, felt a spirit of warm camaraderie and friendship, with a sincere appreciation for each other, although saddened by why this event could not be held as originally planned on the GA Tech campus.
|Author Kathleen Archambeau reading excerpts from her book, “Pride & Joy”. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)|
|Some of those who attended the event joyfully sharing their own stories. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)|
In an excerpt in the “Pride & Joy” book foreword by Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award, Best Original Screenplay, Milk, 2009 – he writes, “This book……….empowers queer youth to do more than survive, but to thrive, whatever the challenges, whatever the losses, whatever the risks, wherever you find yourself. It encourages LBGQT citizens of the world to live open, happy, fulfilling, strong and successful lives and utilizes the power of true stories to demonstrate that a freer, brighter future is possible even with what feel like impossible circumstances.”
|Author Kathleen Archambeau tells some of the stories about those depicted on the cover of her book, “Pride & Joy”. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)|
Before Archambeau read excerpts from her book, she opened the floor for questions and comments. As someone who missed the Feminist Movement by six or seven years, growing up in the very conservative Eisenhower era in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when those with different gender identities hid in what was called “the closet” or practiced “kiss but don’t tell” behavior, I asked those present how they felt about hearing the word “queer” being used today. In the past, it had a more negative connotation. The vast majority of hands that went up felt the word “queer” had been reclaimed – that it was perfectly fine to use that term as an umbrella word where one’s gender may not be as mainstream as the general public. One person said, “queer is our word…it has a jazziness of its own.” There is a renewed pride in how one feels about oneself, with more support groups from all spectrums, but more support is still needed. One person said “We’re all in the human struggle…..we are works in progress.” That rings true no matter how one identifies their gender, for as human beings we are not perfect, yet in the best of times, we can aspire to do good deeds of kindness, compassion to make this world a better place – a thought reiterated by Doug Thayer.
|Callahan with Patrice, sales representative from Charis Books of Atlanta, selling copies of “Pride & Joy”. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)|
At the core of Cuban American Richard Blanco’s poem, “One Today”, which was the Inaugural poem presented to President Barak Obama in 2013, is his message that “we are all one”. Blanco is one of several people interviewed for Archambeau’s book. This theme of “oneness” manifests itself in Judaism and other religions, where we, as human beings, are created “in the image of God” – a meaningful belief that promotes and instills inclusiveness. Another person interviewed, Peggy Moore, felt it is not religion that is the most important relationship to have with as a person, but rather one’s personal relationship with God. People of all faiths can find comfort in that simple, yet powerful philosophy of total acceptance and love. I liked what Oscar Wilde had to say. “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
On a personal note, like so many others in Atlanta and around our world, I send my deepest sympathy to the parents and family of Scout Schultz. As a tribute to Scout’s memory and good deeds, Scout somehow brought author Kathleen Archambeau, and what she had to say, into the lives of many of us who attended the event at Callahan’s home on a beautiful Atlanta fall evening, where a full harvest moon lit up the sky – signifying God’s presence; this magical mystery of the universe is something all human beings, no matter where they live, no matter their gender identity, religious belief, color of their skin….. even if only for a short moment in time – as Blanco the poet said, we are “one today”.
|Photo by Flora Rosefsky|