Thirty (30) years. I can’t believe it!
I will never forget the two-story brick house at 2322 E. 7th St. in Charlotte. This office space housed Grassroots Leadership. Queen City Quordinators (QCQ) met there at least once a month.
It was 1986 and Robert Sheets, president of QCQ, asked me to take the treasurer position on the board of directors. I did. I did not know what to do, but I figured it out rather quickly.
At one of my first meetings, Robert talked about reviving the qnotes newsletter which had ceased publication into a monthly newspaper. The board liked the idea and we got the ball rolling by hiring Don King as our first editor. Don worked at The Charlotte Observer as did one of our board members, Dean Gaskey. The two of them took charge of editorial content, production, delivery and helped with ad sales. I handled the finances billing and collecting for the ads and paying all the expenses. We had to do fundraisers to make it work. That is because we had no seed money. What we did have was a group of hard-working, dedicated people who worked as a team and got the job done.
Our first big story was on the Carolina Drummer 86 regional contest that took place at Park Center (now the Grady Cole Center). The event, a fundraiser for and produced by QCQ, was a huge undertaking and received national attention.
There has been so much covered in the pages of over 600 issues of qnotes. We have covered stories of joy and sadness, beauty and horror, progress and setbacks, new beginnings and deaths. All have their place in the LGBT history of Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina and the nation.
We have had some great people on staff. The longest serving staff person, other than myself, is Lainey Millen, our graphic designer and associate editor. She has been a rock with a work ethic like no one I have ever seen. Thank you, Lainey!
We have had some great editors, too. David Stout was the longest serving over eight years. The next longest serving was Matt Comer and next was David Moore. In order of service was Don King, Dean Gaskey, Craig Epson-Nelms, Joel Smith, Jim Yarbrough, Dan Kirsch, David Stout, Clay Ollis, Leah Sepenwol, David Moore, Matt Comer and O Neale Atkinson. I thank them for their hard work and dedication to the paper and our community.
Additionally, we have had lots of support staff over the years. There is no way to name all of them, however, some of them are Dean Gaskey, Joel Smith, Arlene Robbins, David Prybylo, Dan Van Mourik, Gordon Rankin, Connie Vetter, Tony Tattoo, Brian Myers, Monika Simpson, Gordon (Marcelo) Roque, Brad Ward, Bob Ballentine, Kat Read, Jack Kirven, Jeff Habberstaff, Bill Gordon and many more. All of our staff volunteered in the first few years. Then we were able to pay staff once we got ourselves stabilized. Many staff members could have found work somewhere else making more money than they made at qnotes. They did it for our community, sometimes at great hardship for themselves.
Speaking of all the people who have been a part of our team, there are a number of them who have passed away. I will always remember Don King, Mark Drum, Curtis Johnson, John Green (Divinity), Richard Epson-Nelms and Jeff Habberstaff. Rest in peace and I hope you know how much a part of this paper you were.
qnotes has gone through a few significant transformations, both in management, physical looks and in financial viability.
qnotes started out under QCQ, a not-for-profit organization. We then were owned and operated by Charlotte Advocacy Network (CAN), a corporation set up so we could issue political views and make political endorsements. We wanted to do whatever we could to fight people like Sen. Jesse Helms. We could not do that as well if we had stayed a not-for-profit. When the management structure of CAN failed to work, I bought the paper and started running it like a business. With the only revenue coming from advertising, it has been a struggle, but we have made it.
The paper has gone through periods of time when we did not know if we would survive. It was a very challenging time in 2000 and 2001. We bounced back and by 2007 had the largest staff ever. Things were moving along. Then the economy tanked in early 2008 and again in early 2009 and 2010. For the first time, we had to lay people off. But again we made it.
Lots of newspapers and magazines were looking at ways to cut costs. One was to move to a smaller size paper. We did that and most people liked the new look. Later we stopped folding the paper and left it flat. We have had lots of different columns, lots of interviews and covered lots of Pride events, as well as politics.
Some of the most difficult times in my life with this paper were when we have had to cover so many people’s passing. Six who have worked for qnotes, some leaders and entertainers, like Grand Prix, Rick Wilds and Brandy Alexander and so many people we lost to HIV/AIDS. I can’t even count the people I know who are gone.
Some of the best moments in my life with this paper have been times when others recognized our contributions to the LGBT community. I was elated to receive a U.S. flag in the mail one day in February 2006. The soldier who sent it was a gay man serving in Iraq under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He wrote a column for us about his thoughts as he served our country at war. He flew the flag in Iraq in honor of qnotes and our staff. Another time is when editor Matt Comer and I got to attend President Barack Obama’s Pride Reception at the White House in June 2013.
In 2015, we gave our entire archive of qnotes to the King-Henry-Brockington Archive at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In the near future the thousands of pages of qnotes will be digitized and searchable for easy research and reflections for generations to come.
Other great times have been when qnotes helped new organizations get started or made a positive change that led to a better organization. Whether it was with our coverage of these organizations/events or our direct involvement from Pride picnics in the park to the Don King awards to major changes in our organizations like One Voice, Time Out Youth, Metrolina AIDS Project and Pride Charlotte.
From the beginnings at a table on the first floor of that house on 7th St., we have been here to serve our LGBTA community. We have done a very good job at times and not as good a job at other times. The difference always came down to financial ability. qnotes has never made a profit. We get by. We serve you, our readers and advertisers. We need advertising support to be sustained. Every little bit helps. A business card, a display ad or a web ad turns into arts, entertainment, news and views coverage.
Thank you to all the advertisers over the years who keep us going, to all our readers who support those advertisers and to all the people who have been a part of this newspaper, qnotes, and therefore been a part of my life. It has been challenging at times, however, it has been a pleasure to serve our community.