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Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse, arises from the ashes, with 49 Angels

Pulse families ask for these to be the take-away of the new memorial: a feeling of love, hope, community, courage, strength and acceptance



Barbara Poma outside of PULSE in Orlando, Florida (Courtesy of Barbara Poma)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Her story…. We never know about life’s path. We never know how following our loves and our passion can lead to heartbreak, and we don’t know how our heartbreaks can then be transformed into new hope.

No one can attest to this truth more than Barbara Poma. Barbara is the owner of Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida. On the night of June 12th, 2016, a man named Omar Mateen walked into her life and her vision and not only demolished it, but left her grieving for 49 of her cherished patrons.

It was not the first time in her life where her path made of a glorious rainbow had been shattered. Barbara had known grief before.

Barbara’s venture into the fabulous life started with her big brother, John. 

John was gay and came out at 18. Barbara was 14 at the time. “John was everything I’m not. He was very witty and funny and he was not serious. He was a rule breaker, and I was a rule follower. I was check all the boxes, follow all the rules. For John, none of that was happening. He was my first very best friend in life, I loved being with him. It was really though him that I connected into the LGBTQ+ community and grew up in it,” she told me during our conversation on the podcast Rated LGBT Radio.

John’s coming out was harsh in their Italian catholic family. He found ways to embrace it however. He would take his kid sister to “the beach”, but not a beach his mother imagined. It was the gay beach and T dances on the Fort Lauderdale strip. “So I grew up with drag queens and gay men. It was my normal. It was everything I knew and loved. I thought everyone had a fabulous older gay brother. I was extraordinarily lucky. That was my connection to the community.”

On February 13th, 1991 Barbara lost that lifeline to the community she fell in love with. John, her brother and best friend, died of AIDS. Life would go on, as it did for many of us at that time, until Barbara found a way to channel the celebration of John into a new entity, a nightclub. A friend brought her a proposition and a business plan for a gay bar, and her husband agreed to fund it… if she would run it.

She embraced it even though it had never been her intention to be an owner of a gay business.  She wanted to create the neighborhood’s safe space. “It was a blast. It was to me though, going back to a time warp, the club filled with people dancing, and having their friends with them, their straight friends, because that was really important to us when we first started Pulse. We wanted it to be a beautiful clean space where you would be proud to bring your mom. It was really important to us, and it was,” she recalls. “We started off with that mission that everyone who walks in that door is welcome, everyone who walks in is family.  That’s how we were.

That’s how the staff was. We were a place unlike other bars where it’s just ‘twinks’ or ‘girls’ or ‘bears’ or just ‘the most gorgeous men with their shirts off’. That is not what Pulse was, it was where everyone who walked in could see people just like them. Girls and boys alike. We had girls on the bar, boys on the bar—which everyone told us would never work, but it did. Everyone of different races, gender and sizes, was represented every night. That was something we worked hard to build.”

Barbara’s new rainbow connection had emerged.

On that June night, she was in Cancun Mexico on a mother/daughter trip celebrating her daughter’s high school graduation. At 2am her time, she got a call she will never forget. It was her manager shouting “He’s shooting! He’s shooting! He’s shooting!” Everything was noisy where she was and she had trouble grasping what he was saying. It did not make sense to her. There had been a shooting elsewhere in Orlando the night before, but they had never had any trouble at Pulse. She asked if he meant the previous shooting. “NO, he is inside Pulse shooting inside right NOW,” was the answer. 

“I was completely in a state of shock. I can only explain it as the darkest scariest moments of your life, all I kept saying to my manager was “please tell me no one is dead, please tell me that everyone is OK.”  I could not grasp what he was saying.  We did not know this was a terrorist attack, we didn’t know – he had gotten out so fast. I started doing a roll call of the staff. Where’s Bobbie? Where’s Kate… just going through everybody. Where’s Brian? Made him try to contact people, find out whether they were still inside or whether they had gotten out,” she says.

She was on a plane back the next morning. “It took me a while to grasp the reaction of the city and of the world. I did not know if one day had passed or five days had passed. I did not have any concept of time. I could not sleep, I could not eat. I was just trying to wrap my brain around what was happening. I was not allowed to leave the house—the people who surrounded me, kept me home.

The press was allowed to be at Pulse, but I wasn’t allowed to be at Pulse. I tried not to watch too much TV because it was too hard. I just wanted to be down there and be with everyone but I was isolated here at home.  When it started to click in, it was really hard to digest and understand.”

Four weeks and two days later, when she finally was given possession of Pulse back by the FBI, she walked into her club. “I entered the building and experienced what I can only describe is what happens when a soul leaves a human body. I experienced it when my brother took his last breath, all of a sudden, he was a shell of himself. Pulse was completely a shell of itself. It was gone. The spirit of it was gone. It was not what it was, you could feel it. And I knew instantly that we could not dance in there again.”

If the Universe had not learned anything, it needed to learn this: it could burn Barbara Poma’s fabulousness down, but she will always rise with the next new hope. That new hope is the onePULSE foundation. The foundation is creating a monument of wonder in the spot where the worst LGBTQ massacre occurred. President Biden has already signed the bill with the national monument designation. It will consist of a permanent museum, a permanent memorial, and a “Survivor’s Walk” which is a walkway from Pulse to the trauma unit that saved so many lives.

onePULSE also features an education program based on intersectionality. “96 percent of our victims that night were black and brown. It is a large consideration to incorporate that fact,” Barbara states. It includes a tribute program to the fallen 49 called Think, Relate and Influence. It trains organizations on inclusivity. They have a safe space education for religious pastors on turning churches to be more affirming.

Barbara has also laid down the gauntlet of making the 49 more than victims, she has opened the door for them to be angels. She has given the means for each of them to find a sense of immortality by sending off into the world others who will carry on their individual inspiration.

“We have our 49 Legacy Scholarship, which we have a scholarship in each one of the victim’s names, that was designated by their family members in that victims career aspirations or career where they achieved it, for example, Alcamenda Alverez wanted to become a nurse but had not achieved it yet, so her family set up a scholarship for people seeking a nursing career. We are in our third cycle. These range from EMT, to cosmetology to medical. These are national scholarships opened to everyone. The criteria for recipients is how can you move forward the legacy of that one of the 49 angels.”

Working with the commissions for Oklahoma City and 9/11, Barbara gained guidance. Each surveyed their communities on how people should feel visiting the memorial site for each horror.  Oklahoma City and New York designed theirs to capture “grief, anger, sorrow, loss, sadness.” They succeeded. Those are the feelings you experience in visiting those sites.

Pulse families ask for these to be the take-away of the new memorial: a feeling of love, hope, community, courage, strength and acceptance. “Our families want this to be a beautiful space that people want to come to. We want people to know the joy of Pulse where people were having the time of their lives. Our goal, when you visit the memorial and museum when they are ready, is that you take the spirit with you and impart it then wherever you live, “ Barbara explains.

Barbara Poma has a vision. She is on a mission to make the Pulse memorial a reality, she won’t quit until it is done, and she WILL succeed. She will stand yet again in a rainbow of hope.

She still talks to her brother John, looking skyward she asks, “Really, is this what this was all meant to be about?”

 She does not get a reply. I ended our conversation with this: Barbara, I did not know your brother, but as a gay man with a kid sister myself, I know, I KNOW he is looking down at you right now.

And he is very, very proud.


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Rob Watson is the host of RATED LGBT RADIO, a national podcast and he’s one of the founders of the

A gay dad, business man, community activist and a blogger/writer, Watson is a contributor to the Los Angeles Blade covering entertainment, film, television, and culture with occasional politics tossed in.




Cecilia Gentili’s funeral service held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. Her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels



Actor, singer, & playwright Billy Porter spoke & performed at the memorial services for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (Screenshot/YouTube Trans Equity NY)

NEW YORK – The funeral services both somber and celebratory for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, were held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral Thursday. It is believed that Gentili is the first out transgender person and outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick’s, which has historically not been a friendly institution to the LGBTQ+ community.

Over 1400 mourners came to memorialize and honor Gentili at St. Patrick’s in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. It is the seat of the Archbishop of New York as well as a parish church.

Gentili tragically died on February 6th, just a week after her 52nd birthday. Her funeral service was both somber and celebratory of Gentili’s lasting impact on the community in New York City and across the country, with mourners chanting “Cecilia” in her honor.

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. As the founder of Transgender Equity consulting and a beloved mother to countless queer, trans, and immigrant individuals in New York City, her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels.

The vibrant ceremony included a performance from actor Billy Porter and speeches from chosen family, including trans activists Ceyenne Doroshow, Liaam Winslet, and Gentili’s partner, Peter Scotto. Notably, celebrities in attendance included, Sara Ramirez, Indya Moore, Peppermint, Raquel Willis, Ryan McGinley, and more.

“She was an angel,” said her partner, Peter Scotto. “Seeing all the people at the funeral services, and all the love I’ve received from people in her community all over the world, is a testament of how awesome Cecilia was. I’m so grateful for them all. She was an angel, an icon, a mother, an educator, a leader, and so much to so many people. Her children from AIPACHA, I’d hear all the stories of trans kids getting hormones for the first time. Our phone would ring all the time in the middle of the night and she’d jump into action to help people in crisis. She’d always be there and answer that call. But to me, she was my partner. We woke every day next to each other with so much laughter and love. I’m going to take that with me forever.” 


Gentili came to New York as an undocumented immigrant from Argentina in 2004 and received citizenship via asylum in 2012. Her social justice efforts, which included advocacy for immigrant, HIV/AIDs, trans, and sex worker rights. Gentili changed the landscape in New York City and State and had ramifications across the country, including as the main plaintiff on a lawsuit against the Trump Adminstration’s attempt to eliminate healthcare protections for trans people. She had the ears of politicians at every level of government, as shown by the numerous elected officials’ public statements, including Governor Kathy Hochul, and a speech from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on the house floor, in the aftermath of her death. 

“Cecilia Gentili leaves a blazing legacy of love, kinship, and an infinite fire to uplift the liberation of trans people, sex workers, immigrants, and those pushed to the margins,” read a statement from Trans Equity Consulting, the organization founded by Cecilia Gentili. “Her mission to fully decriminalize and honor sex work continues through her namesake program Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network (C.O.I.N.) Clinic, which provides free healthcare to sex workers in NYC, and the Stop Violence in The Sex Trades Act (SVSTA) in NY State –– a crucial piece of legislation that Governor Hochul could herald to truly honor Cecilia’s legacy. Cecilia, a fervent believer in action and impact over thoughts and prayers, prompts us all to carry her life’s work forward in providing material support to marginalized communities and fighting for a more just world.”

Despite recent statements of trans inclusion from Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has not historically been affirming of the LGBTQ+ Community. On December 10, 1988, ACT UP NY members alongside members of Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM!) disrupted a mass by Cardinal John O’Connor at St. Patricks Cathedral resulting in 111 arrests, 53 of whom were arrested inside the church, known as “Stop the Church”. This historic demonstration met two movements—one of which was protesting the O’Connor’s opposition of teaching safe sex practices in public schools and the general distribution of condoms, and the other being the Catholic church’s position on abortion rights. 

“Cecilia’s immaculate work and the way she touched so many hearts and lives made her worthy of sainthood. Cecilia deserved this historic honor of the monumental funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and to be cemented in history as a mother of multiple movements––of sex worker, immmigration, trans, and affirming healthcare movements,” said Oscar Diaz, Director of Communications at Trans Equity Consulting, and Gentili’s daughter. “Her wit, creativity, humor, and grace will be missed by the generations she mothered.”

During a time of increased anti-trans legislation and rhetoric across the country, Gentili receiving this outpouring of grief and celebration of her life signals her impact and the diginity of trans, immigrant, and sex worker lives writ-large. Her legacy of radical inclusion and revolutionary politics live on through her organization Trans Equity Consulting, as well as her namesake program C.O.I.N. at Callen-Lorde, which provides free healthcare for sex workers, and through the sustainable funding she secured for trans and sex worker communities in New York and beyond. 

Gentili leaves behind immediate and chosen family, her partner Peter Scotto, her sister Ceyenne Doroshow, LaLa Zanell, Victoria Von Blaque, Cristina Herrera, and Tabytha Gonzalez, and her children, Rio Sofia, Cyd Nova, Maya Margarita, Katia Perea, Oscar Diaz, Qween Jean, Gia Love, Liaam Winslet, Chiquitita, Joshua Allen, Bianca Cerna, Gogo Graham, Amarilla Diosa, Mateo Belen, Krzysztof Pastuszka, and more. In remembrance of Cecilia’s work and legacy, the family has established a fund to support with funeral costs and to establish a donor advisory fund to continue her fight for trans liberation. 

Gentili changed the material realities of countless queer and trans people, sex workers, and immigrants across the world. Access to hormones, bail money, immigration lawyers, surgeons, HIV meds, HASA vouchers, gender-affirming identification, and healthcare have been tenants of Cecilia’s organizing since she started in New York City.

Gentili’s impact:

  • Gentili was instrumental in the development of two statewide bills to provide survivors of trafficking with record relief, and to end the criminalization of ‘loitering’ for the purpose of prostitution — the “Walking While Trans” Ban — a charge overwhelmingly leveled against transgender women, regardless of their involvement in the sex trade.
  • She has a healthcare clinic at Callen Lorde named after her ongoing legacy of advocating for sex workers (COIN Clinic: Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network)
  • She’s raised over $15 million in city/state funding for the trans community and defended trans healthcare in the US. Supreme Court against Trump’s administration
  • Her memoir, FALTAS, won the Stonewall Book Award and is set to be translated and published in Spanish by Editorial Caja Negra this year
  • Her one-woman show RED INK had its off-Broadway debut last year to sold-out crowds and was picked up by Killer Films (May-December, Boy’s Don’t Cry) to be produced this year
  • She spearheaded TRANSMISSION, NYC’s first trans music festival at Marsha P. Johnson State Park, and was a board member for Queer Art, Stonewall Foundation, and Alianza Trans Latinx



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Cecilia Gentili, trans Latina activist, advocate & actress dies at 52

“In the art she created, in the stories shared, in the community uplifted, in the people served, her talent & love will never be forgotten”



Cecilia Gentili/Instagram

NEW YORK – A towering presence in New York’s transgender community has died. In a post to her Instagram account on February 6, it was announced that the 52-year-old Argentina-born Cecilia Gentili had passed away.

“Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit,” the tribute read. “Please be gentle with each other and love one another with ferocity. We will be sharing more updates about services and what is to come in the following days. At this time, we’re asking for privacy, time, and space to grieve.”

An undocumented immigrant and then asylum seeker from Argentina, Gentili came to the United States pursuing a safer life to live authentically as a transgender woman. She lived undocumented for 10 years, hustling doing sex work which came with drug use. After surviving arrests and an immigration detention, she accessed recovery services and won asylum.

Among Gentili’s accomplishments was her work as a co-founder of her namesake COIN Clinic (Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network ) at Callen-Lorde, a New York City-based leader in LGBTQ+ healthcare. She later was the managing director of policy for the world-renowned GMHC (originally the Gay Men’s Health Crisis). 

With her background in the sex industry, she was a founding member of Decrim NY, a coalition working toward decriminalization, decarceration, and destigmatization of people in the sex trade. Gentili’s work focused on reducing coercion and promoting safety.

Decrim’s mission statement notes that decriminalization empowers sex workers to screen clients, negotiate condom use, and work collaboratively without the fear of criminalization, thereby reducing coercion and promoting safety.

She founded Trans Equity Consulting and collaborated with many major organizations on transgender and gender nonbinary rights. In addition to her advocacy and activist work, Gentili was an actress of note starring in the Netflix/FX hit series Pose as Ms. Orlando, the groundbreaking drama about the experiences of trans women of color set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York City.

GLAAD notes that Gentili’s memoir, Faltas, was published in late 2022 by Little Puss Press, Inc, and won an American Library Association’s 2023 Stonewall Book Award for nonfiction. Her one-woman show Red Ink was slated to make a comeback at the Public Theater this April. 

Gentili was also a leading voice among the hundreds of New York Times contributors speaking out against the Times’ biased and inaccurate coverage of transgender people and their essential mainstream health care.

Cecilia Gentili’s death is such a huge loss. She impacted so many, especially those in the trans community in New York City and beyond. This is the power of one person who used her identity and gifts to help more people be seen and heard. In the art she created, in the stories she shared, in the community she uplifted, in the people she served, Cecilia’s talent and love will never be forgotten,” GLAAD

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis reacted to news of Gentili’s death posting to X/Twitter:

“Cecilia Gentili’s death is such a huge loss. She impacted so many, especially those in the trans community in New York City and beyond. This is the power of one person who used her identity and gifts to help more people be seen and heard. In the art she created, in the stories she shared, in the community she uplifted, in the people she served, Cecilia’s talent and love will never be forgotten.”

Chase Strangio, the Deputy Director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU National’s LGBT & HIV Project commented:

“15 years of deep trans love and storytelling. I am forever grateful. We grieved so many losses together. It feels impossible to grieve your loss. I will carry you always. I love you.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul with Cecilia Gentili in this undated photo posted to the governor’s Instagram account.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul posted a picture of the two of them on Instagram and stated: “New York’s LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion in trans icon Cecilia Gentili. As an artist and steadfast activist in the trans rights movement, she helped countless people find love, joy, and acceptance. Our hearts are with her loved ones in this difficult time.”

Callen-Lorde released the following statement from CEO Patrick McGovern: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili. Cecilia was a fierce, fearless advocate and a leader, who spoke candidly about her own experiences as a trans woman of color. In doing so, she inspired countless others and truly paved the way for our communities — especially, sex workers and trans women of color — to access high quality and judgment free healthcare. Her legacy will live on through our work at Callen-Lorde and beyond.” 

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman issued a statement describing the work and impact Cecilia Gentili delivered: “I’m devastated to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili, a pathbreaking civil rights activist, healthcare advocate, author and actress. I was honored to work with Cecilia on many issues in Albany as we passed legislation enshrining the civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers into law, including the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA), ending the so-called ban on “walking while trans,” eliminating the gay and trans panic defense in our criminal statutes, making New York a safe haven for transgender youth and their parents seeking gender-affirming care, and the creation of the New York State Lorena Borjas TGNB Wellness & Equity Fund. We could not have passed the multitude of bills improving the lives of transgender New Yorkers without her help and guidance. Cecilia was a force of nature who leaves a long trailblazing legacy behind. l will miss her deeply.” 

Details of circumstances surrounding her death were unavailable and announcement of services will be shared at a later date according to the Instagram post.

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Retail king

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette on coming out, AIDS, retirement — and what’s next



Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette retires effective Feb. 2 after seven years as one of America’s few openly gay CEOs of a publicly traded company. (Photo by Michael Avedon; courtesy Macy’s)

NEW YORK – Jeff Gennette’s personal and professional journey is a unique one. 

Coming out in 1983 to supportive parents. Finding community as an openly gay man in ‘80s San Francisco, watching scores of friends die but ultimately surviving the AIDS plague. Embracing his sexual orientation professionally and excelling as a result. Cultivating a 33-year relationship, marrying, and having a child when adoption and surrogacy were nearly impossible for gay couples. Spending an entire career with the same company and retiring 40 years later as one of the few openly LGBTQ CEOs of a Fortune 500 company.

And not just any company making widgets, but Macy’s Inc., an iconic brand perhaps best known for bringing all of America — red and blue — together each Thanksgiving morning for 97 years at its spectacular parade kicking off the holiday season.

Now, after 40 years at Macy’s, including seven as CEO, that began with a management training program in 1983, Gennette, 62, is sitting down exclusively with the Washington Blade in a conference room in New York and reflecting on all the progress he’s seen the country make on LGBTQ rights and insisting he wants to stay involved in the fight.

“LGBTQ rights are under attack now and I want to be in that arena — and not as a leader of a public company,” he said when asked about his future plans. “Department store retail is not for the faint of heart and my husband and I have been so fortunate. We know our experience is not everyone’s experience and we’re in a position to be able to do something.”

When pressed, Gennette said he’s not yet sure what that looks like but, “I want to be in the fight,” perhaps in the philanthropic and donor space. He and husband Geoff Welch plan to take a few months to think through what’s next and how they might play a role in the LGBTQ movement. “That’s a clear passion of mine,” he said.

Gennette cites two professional accomplishments of which he’s most proud: leading Macy’s out of the retail-killing pandemic with a stronger balance sheet than before COVID; and helping to create the various DEI programs that foster an inclusive, healthy culture at the sprawling company. 

“I get a lot of energy from that and will take that into my next chapter.”

His last day at Macy’s will be Friday, Feb. 2 and it’s fitting that his final appointment on his final week is to attend the Human Rights Campaign’s Greater New York Dinner on Saturday where he will be honored with the HRC Corporate Visibility Award for his “unwavering dedication to bolstering LGBTQ+ inclusivity in business.” 

“As the LGBTQ+ community navigates a national state of emergency and faces an onslaught of targeted attacks, having the representation, leadership and support of such dedicated LGBTQ+ advocates fortifies our strength in this fight for freedom and equality,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson in a statement announcing Gennette’s award.

Despite the accolade, Gennette seems uncomfortable with the term “activist” and never would have predicted that he would become an important figure for LGBTQ visibility in corporate America.

 “I’m an introvert,” he said, “I never saw myself as a visible role model. My husband was more of an activist than I was; my head was down doing my work at Macy’s.”

Figures like Gennette have become accidental activists, helping to open minds — and board rooms — to future LGBTQ workers and executives who may never fully understand the challenges faced by previous generations. Chief among those challenges, perhaps, was AIDS. Gennette talks solemnly about those years in ‘80s San Francisco.

“When you lived in the Castro through the ‘80s, it was difficult; you had a community that was just being decimated by the scourge of AIDS and losing friends,” he recalls. “My husband lost his first two lovers to AIDS. Many people I worked with at Macy’s were lost to AIDS, you just couldn’t get away from it. It was a difficult time for all of us.”

Gennette added that living through the worst of AIDS in one of the hardest-hit cities ultimately proved cathartic because of the activism that resulted. 

“AIDS shaped my perspective on how a community can come together and influence local, state, and national lawmakers,” he said. “It ushered in a lot of political activity.” 

That activity triggered a wave of progress, from affirming state legislation, to out political leaders and celebrities, and ultimately to our first federal legal protections and eventually marriage equality. But the last two years have demonstrated the fragility of all that progress as state legislators across the country have introduced hundreds of bills aimed at rolling back our progress. Our right-wing enemies have tried everything from banning drag shows and LGBTQ-themed books to barring affirming healthcare for trans youth. There’s even a draconian “Don’t Say Gay” law now on the books in Florida that’s reminiscent of Vladimir Putin’s ban on “promoting homosexuality.” Not content with attacking only the LGBTQ community, Florida in January banned all DEI activities at state-funded colleges and universities. Welcome to 2024 America.

How does Gennette view these attacks and setbacks, especially given his own legacy of expanding DEI programs at Macy’s?

“Forward momentum always has consequences and the pendulum always swings back,” he warns. Gennette cites the overturning of Roe v. Wade as an alarming development in efforts to roll back settled law. “This idea about equality I don’t think we’re ever done with it,” he said. “What’s happening with the trans community is a testament to that. We need to stay organized and young people have to be vigilant about that.” 

His advice to young people embarking on their careers and applying for their first corporate jobs is to be out and authentic. “You’re never going to show up in your full potential if you don’t. … It’s going to take courage.”

Gennette found the courage to come out in the early 1980s when such pronouncements could mean the end of your career and estrangement from family. He was 19 years old and a sophomore in college with conservative but supportive parents. “I had a lot of anxiety about it, I said, ‘I‘m gay,’ — and my mom said, ‘You don’t mean happy.’” His parents were accepting but lamented the presumed loss of grandchildren. Years later, Gennette’s mother would assist in locating a surrogacy program that was open to gay couples, leading to the birth of daughter Judith in 2000. 

His mother passed away last October and he describes her as his hero and “most seminal figure in my life — she was a kick-ass pioneer” who carried the PFLAG banner along with Gennette’s father in the San Francisco Pride parade.

Meanwhile, back at Macy’s, Gennette came out to colleagues in his training program. One assistant buyer warned him that “people are talking” and that identifying as openly gay could be a “career killer.” But Gennette ignored the warnings and came out to his boss. 

“It was a big relief to acknowledge that to my boss,” he said. “It was like a weight lifted off my proverbial shoulders. I didn’t see senior executives that were gay, but I did see myself in the culture [of Macy’s] … It was a company that did right by disadvantaged communities even then in 1984.”

Gennette’s experience wasn’t the norm for corporate workers in the 1980s (or even today) and he acknowledges that the retail sector was more accepting. And Macy’s, in particular, proved a progressive home and played a key role in shaping the kind of executive he would later become.

“I don’t know that I would be a CEO today if not for that formative experience,” he said. “You’re on the pulse of pop culture and fashion and being gay was a part of my identity, but it wasn’t my full identity and I give Macy’s a lot of credit. I don’t know that I would be where I am if I’d been at a different company.”

Indeed different companies are responding to the recent attacks on the LGBTQ community in different ways. Bud Light faced a boycott last year after a promotional stunt with transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney caught the intolerant eye of Kid Rock. Sales plummeted and parent company AB InBev’s stock fell 20 percent. The company responded by distancing itself from Mulvaney, which led to a boycott call from the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, retailer Target faced a boycott over its wide selection of Pride month merchandise. The company responded by moving Pride merchandise from displays at the front of stores to less prominent locations in the back, which triggered criticism from LGBTQ advocates. 

Gennette said the Target incident had no impact on Macy’s, which offered its own Pride merchandise despite the boycott risk.

“It’s when you flip and succumb to pressure that you get yourself sideways,” he said, noting that, “It always comes back to your core values. We had Pride merchandise at the front of our stores and we were participants in Pride parades around the country.”

Further, Macy’s executives are always paying attention to what’s happening politically and culturally in case they need to respond. When the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked, Macy’s decided it would support any employees who had to travel out of state for abortion care. Other recent events have prompted internal discussion and response.

“George Floyd put us on notice about being vocal about our internal programs and how you use your CEO voice to be true to what you’re doing internally,” Gennette said. “With respect to Macy’s, our core values of inclusion and giving back, we’re always looking for a more inclusive future for all. We do a good job of taking the pulse of where things are — conservative and liberal voices — and anticipate what could be coming that we need to react to.”

That commitment manifests in several marquee DEI programs at Macy’s, including S.P.U.R. Pathways: Shared Purpose, Unlimited Reach, which the company describes as a “multiyear funding program to advance entrepreneurial growth, close wealth gaps, and shatter systemic barriers faced by diverse-owned and underrepresented businesses.” The program, created in partnership with Momentus Capital, has invested $30 million in underrepresented businesses and entrepreneurs, Gennette said. “We’re not taking our foot off the gas.”

The proactively progressive approach of Macy’s begs the question: Do we need more CEOs from underrepresented communities? And why aren’t there more openly LGBTQ CEOs of Fortune 500 companies?

Gennette is confident that the future will bring much more diversity to America’s board rooms and C-suites.

“We’re at the beginning of our journey still,” he said. “There will be more [out CEOs] in the coming years. I have a lot of interest in increasing LGBTQ presence in board rooms. There’s so much talent out there ready to become the next CEOs, it’s something I think about — how can I contribute in retirement to help on this question?” 

Before he jumps into a role in LGBTQ advocacy, Gennette plans to take some time off with husband Geoff. The two met at Gennette’s 30th birthday party in California.

“He showed up at the party and maybe it was the blue Speedo or the sonorous voice but we started dating from that point.” 

The two committed to each other in a 1995 ceremony, long before the advent of marriage equality. They’ve been together ever since, living in five states and nine cities. 

At the end of our conversation, Gennette agreed to a game of rapid fire.

• On the future of American malls, Gennette predicts there will be fewer of them but that they will be vibrant and offer a different mix of hospitality, eateries, and retail. “They will stand the test of time.”

• On Macy’s collaborator Martha Stewart, Gennette describes her as “a huge talent … authentically a purveyor and tastemaker on so many subjects. It comes across in all her work and programming. She’s an inspiration … Macy’s had a rocky relationship with her over the years but she has been an icon.”

• On Cher, who performed at last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Gennette said “she’s awesome, lovely, friendly, open to her fans and is authentically herself. She was aces.”

• On what keeps him up at night, Gennette cited his 24-year-old daughter’s wellbeing. “She was interning in a company and got a job offer so I’m resting easier now. She’s ready to strike out on her own, she’s on her way.” 

• And on his successor as Macy’s CEO, Tony Spring, Gennette calls him “a fantastic leader; he’s ready and has the right intelligence, experience, judgment, and temperament to take Macy’s to the next series of growth. He has the chance to do what he did for Bloomingdale’s to Macy’s.” He noted that Spring has spent 10 month transitioning into the new role and that he has “the team and strategy and support of the board.”  

The Macy’s board recently rejected a $5.8 billion takeover bid after laying off more than 2,300 employees and closing five stores. Shares of Macy’s closed last week up 4 percent after a report that private equity firm Sycamore Partners is interested in taking Macy’s private. Gennette declined to comment on those recent developments but he remains bullish on the future for Macy’s.

“Macy’s serves a big tent — red states, blue states — everyone in America has been touched by someone who’s gay and that activism is changing hearts and minds,” he said. “We serve a diverse nation and standing for that is good for profitable business.”

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Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor dies at 93

O’Connor was a trailblazer as the first woman nominated and then confirmed to have a seat on the High Court



Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Sandra Day O’Connor. ( Screenshot of C-SPAN 2009 Interview with O’Connor)

“Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.” ~ Sandra Day O’Connor

PHOENIX, Az. – Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sandra Day O’Connor died this morning in Phoenix, Arizona, of complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness. She was 93 years old.

Justice O’Connor was appointed to the Court by President Ronald Reagan during his first term in office in 1981 and retired in 2006, after serving more than 24 years on the nation’s highest court. 

A widely respected jurist, O’Connor was also a trailblazer as the first woman nominated and then confirmed by the Senate to have a seat on the Court. Her judicial record showed progressive support on issues ranging from LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, affirmative action and campaign finance.

In a statement released by the Court Friday morning, Chief Justice John Roberts said: “A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice. She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor. We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education. And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot.”

A lifelong Republican, O’Connor’s early judicial record mirrored conservative values on most cultural legal issues. In 1986, O’Connor joined with Justice Byron White’s five-member majority in Bowers v. Hardwick, in a case out of Georgia regarding the state’s statute that criminalized sodomy.

According to court documents, Michael Hardwick was observed by a Georgia police officer while engaging in the act of consensual homosexual sodomy with another adult in the bedroom of his home. After being charged with violating a Georgia statute that criminalized sodomy, Hardwick challenged the statute’s constitutionality in Federal District Court. Following a ruling that Hardwick failed to state a claim, the court dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Georgia’s statute was unconstitutional. Georgia’s Attorney General, Michael J. Bowers, appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted certiorari.

The majority, including Chief Justice Warren Burger, Justices Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist, O’Connor with White writing the opinion, ruled that there was no particular constitutional protection against states prohibiting specific sex acts between consenting adults.

White argued that the Court has acted to protect rights not easily identifiable in the Constitution only when those rights are “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” (Palko v. Connecticut, 1937) or when they are “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition” (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The Court held that the right to commit sodomy did not meet either of these standards. White feared that guaranteeing a right to sodomy would be the product of “judge-made constitutional law” and send the Court down the road of illegitimacy.

Seventeen years later however, O’Connor reversed her position in a later case, in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), voting with Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy who wrote for the majority overturning a Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law, which criminalized sexual intimacy by same-sex couples, reversing the Court’s ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick.

According to court documents, responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence, Houston police entered John Lawrence’s apartment and saw him and another adult man, Tyron Garner, engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas statute forbidding two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct. In affirming, the State Court of Appeals held that the statute was not unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, with Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), controlling.

Justice Kennedy wrote in the 6-3 opinion, after explaining what the Court deemed the doubtful and overstated premises of Bowers, the Court reasoned that the case turned on whether Lawrence and Garner were free as adults to engage in the private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause.

“Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government,” wrote Justice Kennedy. “The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual,” continued Justice Kennedy. Accordingly, the Court overruled Bowers.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, with whom Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist joined, filed dissents.

Interestingly enough though, Justice O’Connor weighed in on LGBTQ+ rights in a case prior to Lawrence v. Texas, seven years earlier when she joined with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer and Justice Kennedy, again writing for the majority, in Romer v. Evans.

Colorado voters had adopted Amendment 2 to their State Constitution precluding any judicial, legislative, or executive action designed to protect persons from discrimination based on their “homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships.”

Following a legal challenge by members of the state’s LGBTQ community and other aggrieved parties, the state trial court entered a permanent injunction enjoining Amendment 2’s enforcement. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed on appeal.

The high court was weighing in on the question of did Amendment 2 of Colorado’s State Constitution, forbidding the extension of official protections to those who suffer discrimination due to their sexual orientation, violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause?

In the ruling, the Court said Yes. In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that Amendment 2 of the Colorado State Constitution violated the equal protection clause. Amendment 2 singled out homosexual and bisexual persons, imposing on them a broad disability by denying them the right to seek and receive specific legal protection from discrimination.

In his opinion for the Court, Justice Kennedy noted that oftentimes a law will be sustained under the equal protection clause, even if it seems to disadvantage a specific group, so long as it can be shown to “advance a legitimate government interest.” Amendment 2, by depriving persons of equal protection under the law due to their sexual orientation failed to advance such a legitimate interest.

He concluded: “If the constitutional conception of ‘equal protection of the laws’ means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest.”

In 2006, she retired from the bench. In its 2019 eleven part profile of O’Connor, the Arizona Republic highlighted her record writing:

Sandra Day O’Connor disliked the term “swing vote” because “it suggests something that’s not thoughtful,” according to Ruth McGregor, a former Arizona Supreme Court chief justice and a longtime friend to O’Connor.

And because O’Connor saw herself as an old-school conservative, the opinions she wrote on controversial matters — such as abortion and gay rights — didn’t come out of liberal leanings, but rather out of a firm belief in the rights of individuals to decide crucial issues in their own lives, free of government interference,” the Republic noted.

On other issues such as women’s reproductive rights, in the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade, which arose during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1981, because as the Republic noted, O’Connor was a woman who had presided over the Arizona Senate when it decriminalized abortion in that state, she was suspect, even though she declared her personal abhorrence for abortion.

However during the course of that confirmation hearing, she maintained that she had respect for opinions handed down by the Supreme Court, and she believed there needed to be good reason to overturn them.

In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, then Justice O’Connor joined with fellow Justices Blackmun, Stevens, Kennedy and Souter, in upholding Roe v. Wade.

In a bitter 5-to-4 decision, the Court again reaffirmed Roe, but it upheld most of the Pennsylvania provisions. For the first time, the justices imposed a new standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The new standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden,” which is defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” Under this standard, the only provision to fail the undue-burden test was the husband notification requirement.

In a rare step, the opinion for the Court was crafted and authored by three justices: O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter.

Retired Justice O’Connor received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009 in a White House ceremony. The nation’s highest civilian honor, the award is given to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Washington D.C. based lawyer, journalist, and LGBTQ+ rights activist Mark Joseph Stern writing in a Slate magazine article dated Oct. 30, 2013, about O’Connor’s stance on same-sex marriages noted:

“On Tuesday, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor officiated a same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court, the first gay wedding to take place in the court’s halls. (It wasn’t the first officiated by a justice, though; Ruth Bader Ginsburg beat O’Connor to that honor.) The event serves as a heartwarming confirmation that O’Connor’s shift to the left has continued through retirement—but it’s also a poignant reminder that the justice’s early retirement cut short what might have been an evolution from Reagan conservative to gay-rights luminary.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement on the passing of O’Connor Friday:

“Jennifer and I are saddened by the passing of Justice O’Connor, an American icon who left a profound mark on history as the first woman to serve on our nation’s highest court.

“Surmounting countless barriers, Justice O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School near the top of her class, rose to prominence in the Arizona statehouse as the first woman in the nation to serve as a majority leader, and served on the bench in Arizona before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Reagan – with widespread support on both sides of the aisle.

“A strong voice for judicial independence and the rule of law, Justice O’Connor was known for her discerning and fair-minded approach and served a pivotal role at the center of the Court, including key votes reaffirming the right to abortion and upholding affirmative action in higher education.

“With deep Arizona roots, Justice O’Connor was also an important voice on the Court for the entire American West, championing states’ freedom to craft solutions that meet local needs across our diverse country.
“Justice O’Connor opened doors for generations of women in politics and public service, and her enduring legacy is an inspiration to all of us. Our thoughts are with her family, colleagues and friends during this time of loss.”

O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She married John Jay O’Connor III in 1952. She received her B.A. and LL.B. from Stanford University. She served as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California, from 1952 to 1953 and as a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt, Germany, from 1954 to 1957.

From 1958 to 1960, she practiced law in Maryvale, Arizona, before serving as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965 to 1969. She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969 and was subsequently reelected to two two-year terms, during which she was selected as Majority Leader. In 1975 she was elected Judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

O’Connor authored five books: Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest (2002); The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (2002); Chico (2005); Finding Susie (2009); and Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court (2013).

Following her tenure on the Supreme Court, she founded and led iCivics, the Nation’s leading civics education platform.

She is survived by her three sons, Scott (Joanie) O’Connor, Brian (Shawn) O’Connor, and Jay (Heather) O’Connor, six grandchildren: Courtney, Adam, Keely, Weston, Dylan and Luke, and her beloved brother and co-author, Alan Day, Sr. Her husband, John O’Connor, preceded her in death in 2009.

Additional research and legal records material provided by Oyez, the free law project from Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (LII), Justia, and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

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Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, LGBTQ ally & pastor dies at 70

In 2004, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress declared Pearson’s teaching about hell to be heretical



Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson/Facebook

TULSA, Okla. – Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, an influential voice in the international Christian world and a supportive LGBTQ affirming ally died Sunday night Nov. 19, in hospice care due to cancer in Tulsa at age 70.

Pearson began his career in ministry after moving to Tulsa in 1971, to become a student at Oral Roberts University, Carlton was invited by Oral Roberts himself to join the World Action Singers on his nationally-aired TV specials, eventually becoming an associate evangelist with the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association in 1975. In 1977, Pearson launched his own ministry, Higher Dimensions, Inc., traveling across the United States with a small ministry team.

In 1981, with the help of his college roommate, Gary L. McIntosh, who is now President of the Church Growth Network and Professor of Christian Ministry and Leadership at Talbot School of Theology, Pearson started Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center, with 75 people attending its first service in Jenks, Oklahoma.

Quickly outgrowing the small, storefront location in Jenks, the Center eventually settled at 8621 South Memorial Drive in Tulsa, becoming an integrated, multi-ethnic, cross-cultural congregation of more than 5,000 members.

A national television program launched in the mid-1980s, “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right,” expanded Pearson’s outreach to a national and international audience, becoming at that time one of only two African American preachers with a nationwide television ministry. Frequent appearances on the powerful Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network elevated his stature globally.

He gave counsel to multiple U. S. Presidents, as well as a number of international presidents, kings and other leaders, who were won over by his intelligence, charm, humor and kindness.

At the height of his popularity, Pearson had a shift in his theological beliefs, and began to preach that Jesus did not just die for and save Christians, but for all mankind, and that no one goes to hell as we’ve known it.

This became known as “The Gospel of Inclusion,” a form of Christian theology known as universalism. This shift in belief caused churches, upon whose stages he once frequented, to close their doors to him, shut down his annual conference and caused his church to dwindle from thousands to only dozens.

In 2004, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress declared Pearson’s teaching about hell to be heretical. The finding came a year after Pearson defended his views at a doctrinal forum, the Associated Press reported.

“Because of our concern for the many people that could be influenced to adopt this heresy and in so doing put at risk the eternal destiny of their souls, we are compelled to declare Bishop Carlton Pearson a heretic,” wrote Bishop Clifford Leon Frazier, chairman of the joint college’s doctrinal commission, according to Religion News Service.

His theological shift was dramatized in a major motion picture, Netflix’s “Come Sunday,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon), LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah, Atlanta) and Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing).

In 2007, Pearson helped lead hundreds of clergy members from across the nation in urging Congress to pass the Equality Act to even the playing field ending job discrimination measures against LGBTQ people and also a landmark federal hate crimes bill.

Openly queer Rev. Brandan Robertson, who serves as the Pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church in Queens, New York and is also known as the “TikTok Pastor” noted:

Rev. Brandan Robertson with Rev. Carlton Pearson/Instagram

“I first met Carlton Pearson when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and was beginning to wrestle with the idea that a loving God could damn a majority of humanity to hell.

Bishop Pearson was kicked out of his denomination for declaring that God’s love would win in the end, and he sat with me in a Whole Foods in downtown Chicago, listened to my struggles, and showed me that there was a better and truer way to be Christian.

Over the last decade, I was honored to call Carlton a friend as I’ve made my journey towards a more inclusive Christianity, and his encouragement and witness was a continued source of inspiration.”

Bishop Gene Robinson, a prominent openly gay theologian from the Episcopal Church said in a statement:

“The struggle for LGBTQ rights and acceptance has many heroes and saints who have pushed the Church to love and welcome all of God’s beloved children. When our history is written, surely Bishop Pearson will be remembered and celebrated for his courageous and prophetic voice for inclusion, and I give thanks for his life and ministry.”

A family statement released by his agent Will Bogle read:

“Pearson’s message and example of unconditional love, though it gained him the moniker of “heretic” by some in the Christian church, had a whole new world opened to him as a result. Non-Christians, as well as Christians who had left the church as a result of church hurts, abuse, hypocrisy, etc., loved the new message of love, healing and restoration. He leaves a legacy of love through the multiplied thousands of lives he touched during his time on earth and the impartation of grace and mercy he preached and exhibited to everyone he encountered.”

He is survived by his mother, Lillie Ruth Pearson, his son Prince Julian Pearson and his daughter Majesté Pearson.

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Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 96, dies at home in Georgia

Carter is survived by the former president and their children Amy, Chip, Jack and Jeff; 11 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren



Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter addresses participants in the 2006 Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo Credit: The Carter Center)

PLAINS, Ga. – Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has died at the age of 96 at their home in Plains, Georgia on Sunday according to a spokesperson for the Carter Center.

In a statement the Carter Center wrote:

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a passionate champion of mental health, caregiving, and women’s rights, passed away Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:10 p.m. at her home in Plains, Georgia, at the age of 96. She died peacefully, with family by her side.

Mrs. Carter was married for 77 years to Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States and the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who is now 99 years old.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” President Carter said. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”

She is survived by her children — Jack, Chip, Jeff, and Amy — and 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. A grandson died in 2015.

“Besides being a loving mother and extraordinary First Lady, my mother was a great humanitarian in her own right,” said Chip Carter. “Her life of service and compassion was an example for all Americans. She will be sorely missed not only by our family but by the many people who have better mental health care and access to resources for caregiving today.”

The Carter Center had announced on Thursday that on behalf of Jason Carter, grandson of President and Mrs. Carter, the former First Lady had entered hospice care at home. The center previously announced this past May that she was suffering from dementia, three months after former President Carter entered hospice care at home in February of this year.

“She and President Carter are spending time with each other and their family. The Carter family continues to ask for privacy and remains grateful for the outpouring of love and support,” Thursday’s statement read.

Carter will be buried in front of the modest ranch house in Plains that she and the former president had built in 1961 and always returned to, and never really left save for their stints in what Jimmy Carter humorously termed “government housing.” It was the first home they’d ever owned after Carter’s peripatetic military career had taken them all over the country, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

After the news of her death was made public, The Carter Center announced that in lieu of flowers, the Carter family requests that folks consider a contribution to the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program or the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers.

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden
on the passing of the former First Lady:

First Lady Rosalynn Carter walked her own path, inspiring a nation and the world along the way.

Throughout her incredible life as First Lady of Georgia and the First Lady of the United States, Rosalynn did so much to address many of society’s greatest needs. She was a champion for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls; an advocate for mental health and wellness for every person; and a supporter of the often unseen and uncompensated caregivers of our children, aging loved ones, and people with disabilities. 

Above all, the deep love shared between Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter is the definition of partnership, and their humble leadership is the definition of patriotism.  She lived her life by her faith. 

Time and time again, during the more than four decades of our friendship – through rigors of campaigns, through the darkness of deep and profound loss – we always felt the hope, warmth, and optimism of Rosalynn Carter. She will always be in our hearts.

On behalf of a grateful nation, we send our love to President Carter, the entire Carter family, and the countless people across our nation and the world whose lives are better, fuller, and brighter because of the life and legacy of Rosalynn Carter.

May God bless our dear friend. May God bless a great American.

“Do what you can to show you care about others, and you will make our world a better place.” ~Rosalynn Carter

 Biography of Rosalynn Carter as provided by The Carter Center:

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s marriage to Jimmy Carter took her from a rural farming community to the White House. Showing the world a new vision of the First Lady, Mrs. Carter was a working partner and trusted advisor to the president, a participant in foreign and domestic affairs, and an astute political strategist. Widely recognized as the nation’s foremost advocate for mental health, she was actively devoted to building a more caring society.

The White House Years

Rosalynn Carter holds a baby at a camp for Cambodian refugees in Thailand, November 9, 1979.
(Photo: Jimmy Carter Library)

While assuming the traditional demands of presidential wife and official White House hostess, Mrs. Carter worked tirelessly to create what she described as “a more caring society.” She was the first presidential spouse to carry a briefcase to a White House office on a daily basis. As a result of her singular tenacity and southern gentleness, she was dubbed the “steel magnolia.”

Early in 1977, barred by statute from being chair of the newly established President’s Commission on Mental Health, Mrs. Carter became its honorary chair. In this capacity she held hearings across the country, testified before Congress, and spearheaded passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. She continued her work in the field of mental health throughout her life.

She traveled extensively overseas, promoting both her own projects and the president’s policies. In a history making trip to Latin America in 1977, she represented the U.S. Government and visited with heads of state from seven Latin American countries, sharing her husband’s position on human rights and helping to enhance democracy in our hemisphere. In Geneva, Switzerland, she became the first First Lady to address the World Health Organization.

Drawing from her own experiences as a working woman, wife, and mother, she spent many hours lobbying for support of the Equal Rights Amendment; she mobilized representatives from private voluntary relief organizations, labor, and the corporate world in an appeal that raised tens of millions of dollars for Cambodian refugees; and she brought together 23 leading organizations to develop solutions for problems of the elderly at a White House Roundtable Discussion on Aging. In choosing an unprecedented array of White House entertainment for American leaders and international officials, she showcased American culture, initiating public telecasts of White House performances featuring the world’s finest artists and musicians.

Immunizing children against preventable disease was a special focus of Mrs. Carter’s throughout her entire public service career. As governors’ spouses, Mrs. Carter and Betty Bumpers of Arkansas worked together in their respective states to promote vaccinations. Once President Carter was in office and in response to a measles outbreak, Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Bumpers again joined forces to make vaccinations a routine public health practice. By 1981, 95 percent of children entering school were immunized against measles and other diseases.

Throughout Jimmy Carter’s years in politics, Rosalynn Carter campaigned widely on his behalf and was considered his most fervent and effective supporter. Often lauded for possessing unique political skills, she admitted being more concerned about popularity and winning than her husband, though she noted, “…I have to say that he had the courage to tackle the important issues…”

The Early Years

She was born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia, daughter of Wilburn Edgar Smith, a farmer who also owned and operated the first auto shop in the county, and Frances Allethea Murray, a college graduate and homemaker. As a child, she was shaped by strong religious and family values and an early acceptance of hard work and responsibility.

When her father died of leukemia at age 44, Rosalynn’s mother had to go to work. Thirteen-year-old Rosalynn helped her mother with the housekeeping and caring for her siblings and grandfather. She graduated as valedictorian from Plains High School in 1944 and from Georgia Southwestern College in 1946.

In 1946, she married Jimmy Carter, who had just graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Mrs. Carter described her years as a Navy wife as a coming of age in which she developed the self-confidence to manage a household with three babies on her own while her husband worked and was often aboard ship.

Three sons were born in different Navy ports: John William “Jack” Carter, July 3, 1947, in Norfolk, Va.; James Earl “Chip” Carter III in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 12, 1950; and Donnel Jeffrey “Jeff” Carter on August 18, 1952, in New London, Conn. Amy Lynn Carter was born 15 years later on October 19, 1967, in Plains.

After Carter left the Navy and returned home to run the family business upon the death of his father, Rosalynn began working alongside her husband, keeping the books for the farms and the farm supply business. During Carter’s contentious 1962 race for the state Senate, which he won after exposing a stuffed ballot box, she received her first taste of politics.

Though shy and anxious about public speaking, she became fully engaged in subsequent campaigns for his re-election and his bids for governor in 1966 and 1970. She campaigned full time on a separate schedule in the 1976 and 1980 presidential races.

As Georgia’s First Lady, Mrs. Carter led a passionate fight against the stigma of mental illnesses and worked to overhaul the state’s mental health care system. Her obligations in the governor’s mansion also called for entertaining visiting officials and diplomats, serving as liaison to civic groups, and using her influence as a public figure to advance immunizations of children and other charitable causes. She later observed that these experiences prepared her for the White House years.

The Carter Center and Beyond

After the White House, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter traveled worldwide to advance peace and health in the world’s poorest nations. Photo taken in Nigeria in 2007. 
(Photo: The Carter Center)

After what she called “involuntary retirement” to Plains in 1981, her working relationship with her husband expanded. In 1982, they together founded The Carter Center in Atlanta, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people at home and in the developing world through programs to alleviate suffering and advance human rights.

As emissaries for the Center, the Carters circled the globe many times on nonpolitical campaigns to eradicate Guinea worm disease and other neglected tropical diseases, increase agricultural production in Africa, monitor elections in nascent democracies, urge greater compliance with international human rights standards, and resolve conflicts. As a full partner providing direction and vision for the Center, Mrs. Carter accompanied the former president as an active participant, observant note-taker, and thoughtful advisor on high-profile peace missions, including in Bosnia, Cuba, Sudan, Ethiopia, and North Korea.

She established the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program to continue her work to combat stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses and promote improved mental health care in the United States and abroad. She chaired the Carter Center Mental Health Task Force, a group of individuals in a position to affect public policy; hosted an annual gathering of national mental health leaders to foster greater consensus on pivotal national policy issues; and established the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism to encourage accurate, in-depth reporting about mental health issues.

In 2000, The Carter Center and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health established the Rosalynn Carter Endowed Chair in Mental Health to honor Mrs. Carter’s lifelong commitment to mental health advocacy. It is the first endowed chair in mental health policy at a school of public health, and its focus is on prevention of mental disorders and promotion of mental health.

In addition, Mrs. Carter’s devotion to service extended to other complementary areas. She saw the toll that caring for a loved one with mental illness had on a family and knew firsthand the burden of caring for a critically ill or aging family member. In 1987, Mrs. Carter founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at Georgia Southwestern State University to support those who selflessly cared for others and build on her belief that “there are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” The Rosalynn Carter Institute began by helping caregivers in Georgia through direct service programs. Today it serves all family caregivers, which number over 40 million people in the United States. Under Mrs. Carter’s leadership, the RCI has increased public awareness of caregiver needs, advanced public and social policies to support caregivers, and become a catalyst for change.

In her unwavering dedication to others, Rosalynn Carter reunited with Betty Bumpers to form Vaccinate Your Family (founded as Every Child By Two) to campaign for timely infant immunizations. She was honorary chair of the call-to-action campaign, Last Acts: Care and Caring at the End of Life, a national coalition of individuals and organizations advocating more compassionate care for those who are dying, and distinguished fellow of the Emory University Department of Women’s Studies. And for more than 30 years during Habitat for Humanity’s annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, she would be found with her husband demonstrating advanced carpentry skills as they built homes for poor families.

As a lifelong resident of Plains, Mrs. Carter was an avid supporter of her hometown and a strong advocate for maintaining its historic integrity. She served on the boards of the Plains Historic Preservation Trust and the Friends of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park. Mrs. Carter was an active member of Maranatha Baptist Church, where she served as a deacon.

A young Nigerian girl presents Mrs. Carter with flowers of welcome during the Feb. 15, 2007, tour of health work in the community of Nasarawa. (Credit: The Carter Center)

Among her many honors were the “Into the Light” Award from the National Mental Health Association; the Award of Merit for Support of the Equal Rights Amendment from the National Organization for Women; the Notre Dame Award for International Service; the Foundation for Hospice and Homecare Lifetime Achievement Award; United Seniors Health Cooperative Senior Advocate Award; the U.S. Surgeon General’s Medallion; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian recognition. In 2001, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Rosalynn Carter was the author of five books: her autobiography First Lady from Plains; Everything To Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, a book co-authored with President Carter and inspired by their life after the White House; Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book For Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant); Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), which was selected as the winner of the 1999 American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award in the service category, and Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis (with Susan K. Golant and Kathryn E. Cade).

Asked once how she would like to be remembered, she said, “I would like for people to think that I took advantage of the opportunities I had and did the best I could.”

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter’s life and legacy, reactions to her death:

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Amber Hollibaugh, LGBTQ+ rights & HIV activist has died at 77

Amber Hollibaugh, who inspired generations of feminist and LGBTQ activists, died suddenly on October 20 in her Brooklyn home



Amber Hollibaugh/Facebook

By Duncan Osborne | BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Amber Hollibaugh, who inspired generations of feminist and LGBTQ activists, died suddenly on October 20 in her Brooklyn home due to complications from diabetes. She was 77.    

“I lost my great love, Amber Hollibaugh, on October 20th. It was a joy, a pain, and a privilege to be her partner in life for 26 years,” author Jenifer Levin, Hollibaugh’s partner, wrote in a Facebook post. “Amber was a radical political organizer, a sex radical, a charismatic public speaker, and a passionate advocate for the most vulnerable and excluded among us.”

Born in Bakersfield, California in 1946, Hollibaugh was raised in a home that was “chaotic and violent” and she left that home at 16, Levin wrote. Just as many of the activists in the post-Stonewall era had previously worked in the anti-war, women’s, civil rights, and other movements before joining the LGBTQ movement, Hollibaugh was an organizer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights group, in Mississippi, according to a brief bio that was released by Roberta Sklar, long time colleague.

In 1978, she was active in the campaign to defeat the Briggs initiative. State senator John Briggs had placed the statewide initiative on the ballot in California. Had it passed, it would have required that public school teachers, teacher’s aides, school administrators, and counselors be investigated and fired if they were found to have engaged in “public homosexual conduct,” which meant having sex with a person of the same sex or advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community. The initiative was soundly defeated with just over 58 percent of voters opposing it with widespread opposition from organized labor.  

“What we’re seeing is a real upsurge in political activity rather than people just running and hiding and saying ‘O God, they’ve got us,'” Hollibaugh said in a 1978 interview with The Longest Revolution, a progressive feminist publication, a month before the vote. “It’s mobilized a whole new sector of the gay community. People are pissed off. There’s a whole sector of the gay community that’s furious.”

In May 1979, rioting followed after Dan White, previously a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the lowest count he faced for the 1978 assassinations of Mayor George Moscone, and Harvey Milk, a member of the Board of Supervisors at the time and the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Cleve Jones, a longtime LGBTQ activist and labor organizer who knew Hollibaugh, heard her speak on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall during the rioting. Jones recalled Hollibaugh saying “I don’t know about you, but I think we ought to do this more often.”

Speaking of Hollibaugh, Jones said “She was passionate and quite charismatic…She was powerful and smart.”

Like many in the LGBTQ community in the post-Stonewall era, Hollibaugh was committed to forming a coalition that reached across gender, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other groups or what is called intersectionality today. She organized among sex workers and was a sex worker herself for a time. She understood that class affected members of the LGBTQ community as much as it affected anyone.  

In 2002, Hollibaugh was a founding member of Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), a progressive group that argued for an expansive view of the place of LGBTQ people in American society. During the few LGBTQ community debates about same sex marriage, QEJ was among those who argued that domestic partnerships and civil unions allowed any two people to gain the economic and legal benefits extended exclusively to married couples without requiring that those two people be intimate partners. QEJ closed in 2014.   

Hollibaugh was consistently a proponent of recognizing the role that sex and sexuality plays in the lives of LGBTQ people, but she would concede that discussions about sexuality went from being central to quiet to close to non-existent in the community over time.   

“But the absence I’m really talking about is something bigger than that left by those of us who, because of our erotic identities, must function at the political margins of our communities,” Hollibaugh wrote in a 2001 essay published in Deneuve: The Lesbian Magazine. “I mean a loss in the biggest sense of that word: what it means for a sexual people to dance with the devil and decide they will trade their passionate erotic voices and behaviors for the possibility of being granted a ‘place at the table.'”

Over time, Hollibaugh worked at multiple LGBTQ community and HIV organizations and published in The Nation, Socialist Review, the Village Voice, and other publications. She co-produced and co-directed “The Heart of the Matter,” a 1994 documentary on women’s sexuality and HIV that won the Freedom of Expression award at the Sundance Film Festival that year. A review of documents in The Archives of Sexuality and Gender shows Hollibaugh speaking across the nation and around the world with frequent appearances at Creating Change, an annual conference produced by the National LGBTQ Task Force since 1988. 

Her book, “My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home,” which was a collection of her writing that was published in 2000, won praise in a review by The Women’s Review of Books. Hollibaugh was described as a “powerful organizing speaker, a very fine, incisive writer and a brilliant theorist, committed to a feminist process of liberation that leaves nobody behind” in that review.

Hollibaugh addressing the first Sexual Freedom Summit convened by the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.
(Photo Credit: Ricci Levi/Woodhull Freedom Foundation)

Hollibaugh was the recipient of multiple awards including the Dr. Susan B. Love Award for Outstanding Achievement in Women’s Health and the Vicki Sexual Freedom Award from the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

“Amber understood that simply seeking a seat at the table was not sufficient and perhaps the table should be smashed to bits,” Jones said. “It’s more than just a few people making more money.”


Duncan Osborne is a New York City-based journalist and freelance writer and is the Associate Editor of Gay City News.

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Famed drag personality Momma, Worthie Paul Meacham, has died

Momma was widely known & loved in the WeHo community for hosting of shows in the Rainbow District & for participating in numerous fundraisers



Worthie Paul Meacham, Known as Drag Personality Momma. (Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES)

By Mike Pingel | WEST HOLLYWOOD – RIP Momma. WEHO TIMES has just received news that Worthie Paul Meacham, known as everyone’s favorite larger than life drag diva, MOMMA, has died, According to some his close friends, who received word from a family member. His time of death and cause are not yet known.

Momma was widely known and loved in the West Hollywood community for her hosting of shows in West Hollywood’s LGBT Rainbow District and for participating in numerous fundraisers benefiting various LGBT causes. According to a profile written by Billy Masters in the Los Angeles Blade, Momma was born in 1994 during a drag competition at Drag Strip 66.

Worthie Paul Meacham – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES
Worthie Paul Meacham – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

The tributes are already pouring in on Facebook:

I just now learned that my wonderful, creative and talented friend Worthie Paul Meacham , also known as Momma has passed away this morning,” wrote friend Kevin Alpert. “May you be at peace and no longer be in any kind of pain. I hope you give many drag and fun performances up in heaven. Thank you for always being so kind and sweet and loving towards me. You will would be missed by so many people. May you rest in power. You are loved and missed.”

“I learned that my dear friend Worthie Paul Meacham passed away this morning,” wrote Mark Haneke. “We were close friends for over 30 years and I will cherish our memories together. We first met at an ECWR conference at Chapman University in Orange, California. Worthie was loud and boisterous, but with a caring heart of gold. He loved Jesus and he loved people. He was able to minister to people in ways no one else could. His drag persona , Momma, was renowned throughout SoCal, across the country and internationally.
Worthie and I enjoyed many trips and adventurers together. Some of my fondest moments are of him leading a singalong at Disneyland’s Enchanted tiki Room “and down!” at the annual Gay Days Anaheim. We enjoyed sharing our mutual interests In Disney, going to movies and planning cruises. Worthie, you are loved and will forever be in our hearts!
Say hi to Walt for me! Love, Mark”

Worthie Paul Meacham, Known as Drag Personality Momma – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

“Worthie Paul Meacham has passed away today,” reports Chris Petty. “Momma you are a true LA legend! And you were instrumental in my coming out story. Such a wonderful friend. Hosting gay days at Disneyland. I’ll never forget hiking the Skeena river by terrace bc, turning the corner & seeing an 8′ tall drag queen fly fishing! RIP my dear. You definitely left your mark! I’ll be singing you Tainted Love one last time.

Meacham was wheelchair bound when he attended the memorial services of “Fairy Godmother of Fundraising,” Irene Soderberg last April at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Worthie Paul Meacham – WEHO TIMES
Worthie Paul Meacham – WEHO TIMES

According to Mamma’s facebook page, LA Times has called Momma a “SoCal Drag Icon.”

This story will update as we learn more about memorial services.


Mike Pingel

Mike Pingel has written six books, Channel Surfing: Charlie’s Angels & Angelic Heaven: A Fan’s Guide to Charlie’s Angels, Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman, The Brady Bunch: Super Groovy after all these years; Works of Pingel and most recently, Betty White: Rules the World.

Pingel owns and runs website and was Farrah Fawcett personal assistant. He also works as an actor and as a freelance publicist. His official website is


The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Preston Tisdale’s optimistic vision for Public Justice

“Racism or homophobia or anti-trans thinking — people don’t think deeply about these issues. They just go with what they know”



Public Justice President Preston Tisdale at Gala in July 2023 (Photo courtesy of Public Justice)

By Karen Ocamb | BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – For more than four decades, Preston Tisdale, a longtime attorney with Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, has practiced law, fought for civil rights and engaged in civic activism. But for the new Board President of Public Justice, one case stands out like a strobe light of injustice. 

While head of the Fairfield Judicial District Public Defender’s Office in Connecticut, Tisdale defended a man charged with murder. The man was acquitted —but at the last minute, the prosecutor added two lesser included offenses for manslaughter. The trial ended in a hung jury and mistrial — as did two subsequent trials for manslaughter. 

“The prosecutor told me that if it was hung a third time, he wasn’t going to try it again,” However, he changed his mind, Tisdale recalls, a strain of anger in his voice. “I was head of the Public Defender’s Office. He was the head of the State Attorneys. He handed it off to one of his underlings. But when I got up to Hartford [for his promotion to Connecticut’s first Director of Special Public Defenders], my successor called,” having just received “totally exculpatory” evidence. 

Tisdale testified at the fourth trial that he had never seen the new evidence. The prosecutor claimed he just didn’t realize it was exculpatory. The judge agreed with Tisdale and granted the motion to dismiss the case.

“We saved this person from life imprisonment,” Tisdale says. “But his life was smashed up. He lost jobs. He lost his fiancée. He was an emotional wreck after going through this terrible circumstance.

“I was involved with thousands of cases and I had well over 50 trials,” Tisdale continues. Every time a person with no record is accused of a serious crime and faces major jail time and a not guilty verdict comes back – “you realize the difference you make in an individual’s life.”

Now, Tisdale says, “I’m looking to make a broader difference. I’m looking for systemic change.”

Tisdale is bringing that core commitment to his new position as Board President. His vision for his year of service, however, is tempered by the departure next May of longtime executive director Paul Bland.  

“Those are huge shoes to fill so that will occupy a great portion of my energies,” Tisdale says. Public Justice does “such fabulous work, so, my vision is to strengthen its ability to deliver achievements.”

“It’s an honor to serve as President of the Public Justice Foundation,” Tisdale says. “It’s just an honor to work with so many fantastic attorneys, tremendously talented staff, and all of the supporters to achieve the mission of Public Justice.”

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Maria Lourdes Tisdale, Preston Tisdale, Debtors’ Prison Project Director Leslie Bailey, Public Justice Board member Gerson Smoger at Public Justice reception in Palm Desert, CA Feb. 14, 2022 (Photo by Karen Ocamb/Public Justice)

For example, Tisdale notes, “our Debtors’ Prison Project is doing fabulous work. When you look at it historically, it’s not a new phenomenon. You can go all the way back during the post-slavery days when the former Confederate states initially developed convict leasing.”

“Alabama was ground zero” for developing ways to “arrest as many formerly enslaved Blacks as they could find to work the mines, or in the fields. That idea has taken on a life of its own,” Tisdale says. “Our Debtors’ Prison Project is attacking one of the newest iterations of that same initiative.”

Public Justice’s collaboration with prominent trial attorneys throughout the country, Tisdale says, is also critical to “protect our ability to continue to undertake” projects such as the Class Action Preservation Project. 

Tisdale also wants to heighten the organization’s visibility in different states. “Public Justice can strengthen the work these attorneys do in a way that many of them don’t realize.”

Tisdale will continue the work of past presidents in increasing the organization’s internal diversity. “I want to take that to another level where attorneys from different walks of life in the legal field can come to Public Justice,” he says.

“These are deeply troubling times” for democracy, exasperated by an “astounding” level of ignorance that “becomes a fertile playground for those who have ill will or bad intentions,” Tisdale says.

“I think a lot of Americans thought we were immune to [autocracy] — that all of our democratic mechanisms operate autonomously, that you don’t have to do any work. They will self-correct. And that’s wrong,” he says. “When you can just press buttons and unleash bigotry or racism or homophobia or anti-trans thinking — people don’t think deeply about these issues. They just go with what they know.”

But Tisdale is encouraged by the angry awakening after George Floyd’s murder. When average Americans saw it, “they were outraged….So, pressing that button is not so easy now. That is one aspect that gives you hope and optimism.”

Born in New York in 1952 when his mother was visiting family, Tisdale was raised around Bridgeport, Connecticut. In school, he reveled in science while also training to be a concert pianist. In the fifth grade, he went to a young doctors program at Stamford Hospital. 

But “the civil rights movement just captivated me. It represented such hope at those times. People don’t remember, but even in a state like Connecticut, the degradation that was heaped upon African-Americans was constant, incessant and quite profound.”

Tisdale’s father and uncle headed the local NAACP Education Committee, his grandfather went to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and his activist hero parents — Loyse and James — shared the civil rights movement with him, including meeting Freedom Riders and bringing him to hear Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in Bridgeport, and other civil rights luminaries, such as NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall. 

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1966 Tisdale family photo: Loyse Tisdale, Joel Kent (Bpt. NAACP), William Chandler (Bpt. Youth Council President), Roy Wilkins (Executive Director, National NAACP), Preston Tisdale, James Tisdale and Maisa Tisdale.

Loyse Tisdale was a Korean War veteran who graduated from the University of Bridgeport with a degree in psychology. She became the first Black legal secretary in Bridgeport and was later hired by the law firm of attorney Sam Friedman who, along with (future Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall, became famous in the film “Marshall,” written by Tisdale’s friend and law colleague, the late Mike Koskoff and his son Jake. Friedman and Marshall successfully defended Black chauffeur Joseph Spell, accused in 1941 of raping his white female employer in Greenwich, Connecticut.  

“My parents were leading demonstrations and marches and people would get arrested so the lawyers at the ground level were critical to helping them to not be totally ground under by the criminal justice system,” Tisdale says. He realized: “that’s what I want to do. I want to make a difference.”

When Tisdale went to Brown University in 1969, his father James, also an educator, also went to Brown as their first Black development/admission officer. “They never had a Black person in that role before. And then he went on to become the assistant to the president years later,” Tisdale says.

Tisdale graduated from Brown in 1973, then went to NYU School of Law. Upon graduation he joined the Koskoff firm. He left to spend 28 years in the Public Defenders Office, returning to Koskoff in 2010.

Tisdale is also currently part of the team in a four year old lawsuit brought by Tamara K. Lanier against Harvard University “alleging that the University was in wrongful possession of daguerreotype images…depicting two enslaved individuals, Renty and Delia, who she claims are her ancestors,” according to the Harvard Crimson.

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The case is explained in the documentary “Free Renty.

It is just one example of Tisdale’s desire to impact the root causes of repetitive injustice and — as he hopes to also do while at the helm of Public Justice — create the “greatest level of transformative change.”

Public Justice Board President Preston Tisdale commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington:


Karen Ocamb, is the Senior Storytelling Strategist for the Washington D.C. based Public Justice.

Public Justice is a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization. They protect consumers, employees, civil rights & the environment.

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CBS reports: Robert Carter’s journey from foster child to father of 5

Gayle King stood up from her chair on LIVE TV this morning to give this man, the focus of our story, an ovation



CBS News' David Begnaud introduces us to Carter, who as a child aged out of the foster care system without ever being adopted. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

By David Begnaud | CINCINNATI, Ohio – (CBS News)  Robert Carter, 33, adopted three boys, Robert, Giovanni and Kiontae in 2020. After learning the boys had two sisters, Marionna and Makayla, he adopted them as well. All five siblings are now together.

Robert Carter is a phenomenal, self-made man with a hell of a human story.

CBS News’ David Begnaud introduces us to Carter, who as a child aged out of the foster care system without ever being adopted.


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