Six trailblazers in the LGBT community were honored today by the Harris County Democratic Party at a brunch held at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Houston. Emceed by activist Fiona Dawson, the brunch also served as a family reunion of sorts bringing together a diversity of activists from allied constituencies.
Throughout the morning it was difficult to ignore that 2012 is just around the corner as incumbent Democratic judges were working the room and meeting with Democratic loyalists who also serve as the first signers of their candidate petitions. As each trailblazer was honored, there was little doubt that victory in 2012 will occur through a united front which looked like the diversity in the hall.
Serving as keynote speaker for the event was Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, a nonpartisan organization which lobbied the Texas Legislature on various issues affecting the LGBT community. Coleman asked the question: Are you a participant? Or a Spectator? He stated the honorees were obviously participants who did not stand by and just let things happen, and that they have given hope to a new generation of LGBT youth to become someone. Stating that his own activism was not planned out for him, he got involved because, “if you only take and not give, you waste talent.”
“Just because we have these trailblazers,” said Coleman, “does not mean there are not more trails to blaze.” Ending his speech by telling those in attendance to do three things: (1) Visit your legislators and find out where they stand on GLBT rights; (2) Join Equality Texas; and (3) VOTE!
The honorees included Mayor Annise Parker, who accepted the honor by video as she was serving the public at various events today. Mayor Parker stated that if we engage young people, giving them the opportunity to campaign, that they will remain active in the community. Of those being honored, the Mayor stated that none had lost their commitment, and in her case, it began as a volunteer on a local city council campaign. The Mayor’s son accepted the award stating of his Mayor Mom, “The best is yet to come.”
Judge Steven Kirkland took his time to honor his 2008 (and 2012) teammates, the Democratic judges who were in the room. “You see the face of Harris County,” in our judges, Judge Kirkland Stated. City Councilmember Sue Lovell stated that the community has somewhat gotten to the “equality” level as the community has elected a mayor of a major city, many have started families, and that the community must move from equality to victory–looking at the victories, figuring out how to sustain them.
Judge Phyllis Frye is the first out transgendered person to serve as a judge. While crediting many others in the community, she thanked people of color for embracing her in her legal career as they knew more about being judged than most other people.
Linda Morales was honored for her work in the community, as well as in the labor movement. An activist in the Chicana/0 movement, one particular point which made me proud was her leadership and involvement in the Mexican American Democrats. Her work in AIDS activism was also recognized. Finally, Judge John Paul Barnich was recognized posthumously and emcee Dawson referenced a statement Judge Frye made of Barnich after his passing, “John Paul broke the glass ceiling for out-of-the-closet GLBT judges in Harris County, and he was a sweet person to know.”
There was also a special recognition of “Everyday Trailblazers,” who live lives everyday, working and raising families. Kendall Scudder read a resolution honoring Paul and Nash and their daughter Jenay (photo below).
It definitely was a memorable brunch which served as an unofficial kick-off for the political season. From now on, we’ve got the 2011 elections to finish, and a 2012 for which to plan. And I’m pretty sure all of us can use the hard work performed by the honorees as an example of what we must do to accomplish victory.
Thanks to Robert Shipman and Brad Pritchett for organizing such a great event, to all the sponsors and hosts, and especially all those who attended.
(Photos by Francisco Valle)