From AIDS service organizations and LGBT youth groups to the highest levels of South Carolina state government, no one was able to hide from their share of controversy this year.
Of all the stories and news covered and reported by Q-Notes in 2008, six stories stick out in our minds as the biggest, most high-profile and most controversial LGBT Carolinas news of the year.
“MAP loses gay fundraiser support”
In February, Q-Notes reported on the abrupt closure of Carolina Celebration, the group that annually donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Metrolina AIDS Project’s (MAP) Dennis Thaw Fund. Primarily gay in focus, Carolina Celebration cited changing demographics as one of their reasons for cutting ties.
Ed DePasquale, a Carolina Celebration founder and board member, related in the Feb. 23 article how the gay and lesbian community rallied in those early years to confront the AIDS epidemic and combat its spread. He said he hasn’t seen the same level of commitment from communities of color. “Why should the gay community give their money to something when it isn’t going to help the gay community?” he asked.
MAP Executive Director Ann White took issue with DePasquale’s comments and lamented the decision to fold Carolina Celebration. “How can you put a color on somebody’s pain?
“Whereas the white gay community has the means and wherewithal to jump-start [prevention efforts] again — because it is affecting them — pretty much challenging them to wake up, I also understand the white gay community’s concern about African-American involvement.”
She pointed to decreased financial resources and an assortment of cultural issues as some of the reasons why involvement from communities of color has been less visible and less urgent compared to the militant AIDS activism of the LGBT community during the 1980s and 1990s.
“I remember when ACT-UP was really vocal about HIV/AIDS and how it affected the gay community,” she said. “One thing to remember is that a lot of people in the gay white community had a lot of resources [to facilitate that level of involvement.]”
Bob Oltz, MAP’s associate director, said, “The closure of Carolina Celebration isn’t going to hurt MAP; it will hurt our clients.” He noted that the Dennis Fund helps to cover vital needs like emergency housing and heating costs, hearing aids (a common necessity for people with HIV) and burial expenses for clients who die with no savings and no insurance.
Oltz added that criticism over MAP’s focus cuts both ways. “Ironically, the African-American community accuses us of being nothing but a gay organization.”
A victim speaks
“Male rape victim shares his story”
Part 1, May 31; Part 2, June 14
Q-Notes was proud to publish a two-part series exploring the pain and emotional, legal and medical aftermath of rape. “Brian,” who asked that we not use his real name in the story, came to us wanting to share his experiences with the hope that his story might help other gay and bisexual men who are victims of male-on-male sexual assault.
The treatment Brian received at the hospital, the almost unresponsive detective work by the local police department and repeated failed attempts to contact the local district attorney all added up to create a situation no rape victim should ever have to face.
Brian told Q-Notes on June 14 that he knows that part of the problem is simple inexperience. Because male victims so often don’t report the crimes committed against them, local, state and national agencies find themselves at a loss when victims do come forward.
“They don’t have much experience, but I also think some of the national organizations I’ve talked to don’t seem to have the resources either.”
It’s all a matter of getting out there and speaking out, Brian said. The more victims who speak out and bring attention to their experiences, the more knowledge and awareness will be created. In turn, more resources will be available when future victims seek help.
“I believe the way I can resolve this is by speaking out and being the voice to help another person come forward,” he said.
Non-profit leader arrested
“Former ART leader arrested for embezzlement”
Community members were shocked to learn of former Greensboro community leader John Johnson’s May arrest in Myrtle Beach. Charged with embezzlement of North Carolina and Guilford County sales tax, questions immediately surfaced as community members wondered about the financial welfare of the organization he and his partner Eric Hinson once led.
Alternative Resources of the Triad, a Greensboro stalwart since the 1980s, looked into any improprieties. In the May 31 issue, the then-president of the group gave Q-Notes a statement detailing their steps in looking into any potential fraud.
“In regard to ART’s financial status, any improprieties brought about by the actions of Mr. Johnson and/or Mr. Hinson are being reviewed by our legal counsel. If and when any impropriety is discovered and if any legal action is to be taken, ART will make that known at a later date at the advisement of our counsel.”
The statement added, “ART is financially sound, thanks in part, from grants from local organizations like Guilford Green Foundation as well as public donations. We continue to encourage people to donate to ART so we may continue to grow into becoming an even better, more visible and positive support organization for the LGBT community in the Triad.”