Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spring Dash into Summer Sizzle

Let the whining begin. "It's hot out here!! Yes, I've already heard folks acknowledging that they are totally uncomfortable with temps, even though it's not officially summer as yet. But never mind any of this yearly ritual where the grumbling and mumbling escalates to a fever pitch, because this forum is heating up it's coverage of local event, news makers, hot topics and issues effecting Arkansas' LGBTQ community and beyond. Are you ready? Let's do this.

Rodeoing OKC Style

I was on the road this past weekend with the Diamond State Rodeo Association attending the Oklahoma Gay Rodeo Association's 26th edition of the 2011 Great Plains Rodeo in Oklahoma City. The event featured contestants from all regions of the nation as a sanctioned charity event of the International Gay Rodeo Association. From the initial "howdy's" during the registration mixer on Friday evening, my co-participation with Mr. DSRA Candidate Nathan James in the Royalty Review in front of a standing room only crowd at the FinishLine that same evening to the actual rodeo competition at the OKC Fairgrounds, the weekend moved in a barnstorming fashion. Members Evan, Lisa, Allen and Steve registered to compete in barrel racing to wild drag during the two day event. DSRA members including my counterpart, Mr. DSRA, J. Lum led the "Grand Entry" on Saturday, walking the arena after the national royalty and trustees while greeting onlookers and supporters. Co-carrying the organizational banner with fellow member Josh for the first time was a interesting mix of intrigue as well as history. As we paraded, I'm sure the attendees probably had varying thoughts to my presence not to mention my royalty designation within the association network. Especially since I am the first African-American to assume the title in DSRA history and most likely one of, if any throughout the IGRA system. I thought to myself here was yet another memorable moment that I can catalog in my life time of experiences that has added to my life's journey while trying to promote diversity and multi-cultural acceptance in the GLBTQ community and beyond. Recently I was asked a legacy question about what work made me most proud and I replied, "always seeking to be myself while advocating on behalf of those who have not found their voice to do so. Meanwhile promoting personal responsibility, empowerment and vision through my individual actions and pursuits." So far I believe that I've done just that.       

The Lucie's Place Project

Homelessness among gay adolescents and teens in big meccas such as Los Angeles and New York City has been highlighted in numerous high profile publications such as The Advocate and Philadelphia's Gay News. But the plight of young gay adult homelessness and shelter accessibility also has roots in Little Rock and a continuing project under the LA Corp umbrella of services called Lucie's Place is striving to be the first facility of it's type in the state. According to program coordinator, Penelope P., "the goal is to offer a space, free of charge where LGBTQ young adults can live their lives to their fullest while developing the skills necessary for independence. " The project is in a fundraising cycle with just over $1300.00 collected toward a goal of $20,000.00 as a target for summer 2011. Unfortunately, there has been no data gathering on this dilemma within Arkansas or the south, despite recent census profiles spotlighting an influx of gay families in the region. The center will be designed to offer residents 2 years to acquire employment skills, savings platforms and access to social services including legal assistance from co-collaborators, Bowen Lambda. Regularly schedules meeting have begun with June 13, at 5 p.m. at 1417 Main Street as the next. For more information, contact them at 501.912.3780, click it to LuciesplaceAR@gmail.com  or www.luciesplace.org

Locking Up all the Right People

The Arkansas Department of Human Services and it's sub-agency, Arkansas State Hospital have been embroiled in some controversial incidents involving both employees and patients. In Sunday's, (5.29.11) Arkansas Democrat- Gazette matter's surrounding ASH handling jailed criminal defendants ruled mentally incompetent to stand trail was explored amidst opposing viewpoints and refusal policies of policing agencies. The case of K.H. Heinzman was the focal point of the article citing the difficulties of whether his subsequent death was affected by his incarceration at the Pulaski County jail after a suicide attempt. The Heinzman case continues to raise concerns about policy interpretations, court orders and federal lawsuits dealing with deadlines on how Human Services should receive mentally ill criminal defendants and deal with them otherwise. The State Hospital contends that its not a "medical facility" therefore it doesn't  provide psychiatric care in lieu of individuals brought to the agency. As evidence continue to unfold, it calls into question the entire scheme of mental health in Arkansas and its impact on the criminal justice apparatus which Sheriff Doc Holladay called a "ongoing problem." With this current glaring ongoing situation being reported, this forum has been monitoring the case of" Carl"  who has been ensnared in the mental health system under nebulous rulings and sketchy outcomes that have caused him personal angst and difficulties. His story was the subject of a 2008, 4 part series in the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette again demonstrating the struggles of those under the grip of Arkansas's mental health system. Advocates including the Living Affected Corporation have decried "Carl's" treatment as "HIV criminalization" and have outreached to national activist, Rev. Al Sharpton for review and assistance. COP/24/7 will update readers as to whether Rev. Sharpton responds and further developments with his case.   His memoir entitled, "The Set Up," is available at www.lacorponline.org     

Local Host Committee Sought

The Fall Midland meeting of NABWMT will take place October 14-16, 2011 in Little Rock. Local organizers are seeking host committee members interested in assisting with programming and serving as host for the group. Only serious responses will be considered and will be invited to an upcoming planning meeting. If you are interested sponsorships, mini-grants or other financial support please forward your information to nealix101@comcast.net  for more information on NABWMT, check out their website at www.nabwmt.org  We want to show our guest our special brand of southern hospitality, so come show us your pride!!

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