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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



2023 Leppen Leadership Awards announced, event May 14
--From a press release

This article shared 2520 times since Thu May 4, 2023
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About Face Theatre has announced the return of the Leppen Leadership Awards.

Now in the 28th season, About Face has been honoring community luminaries since 2001 with the Leppen Leadership Award, named for founding supporter and consultant Michael Leppen. Recipients of the Leppen Leadership Award are people and organizations that lead with creativity and purpose to advance LGBTQ+ equity. They each demonstrate their leadership in different ways, but they all embody the values of About Face Theatre:- Collaboration, Care, Equity, Courage, Sustainability, and Joy.

Traditionally, About Face has given out two Leppen Leadership Awards annually at its gala events. Past Leppen Leadership Award recipients have included Affinity Community Services, Emmanuel Garcia, Precious Brady Davis, Jane M. Saks, and Windy City Media Group among others.

With such events not possible during the pandemic, About Face is thrilled to be honoring eight awardees this year. This year's recipients are being recognized for breakthroughs in inclusive education initiatives, for innovative artmaking, for the ways they consistently give back, and for providing essential spaces for LGBTQ+ people to gather and organize.

"Now feels like an important moment to be honoring and remembering the hard work that so many people in our community have been doing to advance and support LGBTQ+ rights," says AFT Artistic Director Megan Carney. "Each of these awardees is modeling a more just world and we are grateful for their contributions to a better Chicago and Illinois."

This year's Leppen Leadership Award recipients are activists and owners of Sidetrack Bar Art Johnston and Pepe Peña, multidisciplinary artist Sam Kirk, activist and co-Founder/executive director of The Legacy Project Victor Salvo, theatre educator and storyteller Willa Taylor, owners of Nobody's Darling Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle, and transgender activist Gloria "Mama Gloria" Allen (in memoriam).

The Leppen Leadership Award recipients will be honored at a public gathering on Sunday, May 14th, at The Den Theatre. The ceremony will immediately follow a matinee performance of About Face Theatre's world premiere production of Gender Play, or what you Will by Will Wilhelm and Erin Murray. The ceremony will be followed by a reception in the theatre lobby.


Gloria AllenGloria "Mama Gloria" Allen

Transgender rights activist

Gloria Allen was a transgender icon and activist who founded and ran a charm school for homeless trans youth. She grew up in Chicago amid the legendary drag balls on the city's South Side and transitioned before Stonewall with the love and support of her mother Alma, a showgirl and former Jet magazine centerfold, and her grandmother Mildred, a seamstress for crossdressers and strippers. Allen overcame traumatic violence in high school to become an out and proud leader in her community. She earned an LPN and worked at the University of Chicago Hospital and in private homes as a nurse's aide. In her later years, she pioneered a charm school for young transgender people at Chicago's Center on Halsted, offering lessons on love, makeup, and manners that she received from her mother and grandmother. The young people affectionately nicknamed her "Mama Gloria." For her work with the charm school, Allen was awarded the Living Legend Award by Janet Mock and Precious Brady-Davis at the 2014 Trans 100 Awards. She famously appeared on the cover of the book To Survive on This Shore, with photographs and interviews of trans and non-binary elders by Jess T. Dugan.

Her life and activism were featured in the Chicago Tribune and served as inspiration for the hit play Charm, written by Philip Dawkins. The play premiered at Steppenwolf Garage Theater in Chicago before traveling to Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York. In 2020, she became the subject of the acclaimed documentary feature Mama Gloria, directed by Luchina Fisher. The documentary brought Allen new audiences and new fame. Her story was featured in People magazine, the 19th News, the BBC, and NowThisNews. In 2021, she received SAGE's Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues at the National LGBTQ Task Force's annual Creating Change Conference.

Allen died in 2022 at the age of 76.

Sam KirkSam Kirk (she/her)

Multidisciplinary artist

Sam Kirk is a Chicago-based, multidisciplinary artist who explores culture and identity politics. Her artwork focuses on a variety of intersections which encompass a call to celebrate differences and enact change. Vivid and powerful images of women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and those who have historically been underrepresented are celebrated in narratives that share the journeys that have made them who they are. Kirk's public murals often address social issues, as she intentionally uses the public space to spark dialogue around topics of equality and visibility for women, communities of color, and the LGBTQIA community. She is the first woman and American to participate in the Annual CASAMOUJA Street Art Festival in Casablanca, Morocco. A commission by World Business Chicago and the City of Casablanca, Kirk created the "Sister Cities" mural as a celebration of 35 years of programming between Chicago and Casablanca. Her work has been featured in top publications such as O Magazine, Forbes, and recently was listed as one of the top 50 Artists of 2020 in Chicago by New City Magazine. Her collaborations include global brands and US-based non-profit organizations such as Houghton Mifflin, Xfinity/Comcast, World Business Chicago, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and WBEZ. In 2021, Kirk was a recipient of the 2021 Human First Award hosted by the Center on Halsted. This annual award recognizes the contributions of individuals, businesses, and other organizations to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in Chicago.

Pepe Pena and Art JohnstonPepe Peña (he/him) and Art Johnston (he/him)

Activists and owners of Sidetrack Bar

Art Johnston and Pepe Peña are civil rights leaders whose lives are a force for LGBTQ+ equality in the heart of the country. Their iconic bar, Sidetrack, has helped fuel movements and create community for decades in Chicago's queer enclave. Sidetrack opened in 1982 and, with Art and Pep at the lead, it went from a 900-square-foot windowless watering hole to a pillar of Chicago's gay business district, spanning over eight storefronts and multiple levels. Art and Pep have watched as the politicians who once would have them jailed now court the community for votes. The space has become a source of political and financial support for LGBTQ+ rights. Proceeds from the bar have helped fund Equality Illinois, the midwest's largest LGBTQ+ organization, and created a place where patrons young and old can sing show tunes on a Sunday and help elect progressives on a Tuesday. Sidetrack's success paved the way for many other businesses to thrive, turning the area into the first city-designated gay neighborhood in the country.

Renauda Riddle and Angela BarnesRenauda Riddle (she/her) and Angela Barnes (she/her)

Owners of Nobody's Darling

Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle are the creators and owners of Nobody's Darling, a bar in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood that has quickly become a central location for celebrating LGBTQ+ culture, inclusivity, and community. Named after Alice Walker's poem, "Be Nobody's Darling," the bar isn't a lesbian bar — it's a women-centered, women-forward cocktail bar that welcomes everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. As Black queer women, Barnes and Riddle wanted to make sure their bar was inclusive and welcoming to everyone in the LGBTQ+ & BIPOC community. They understand the importance of representation and the challenges faced by Black LGBTQ+ bar-goers. Nobody's Darling is one of only two Black queer-owned bars in Chicago — joining Jeffery Pub, owned by Jamal Junior, which has been serving the community since the mid-'60s. In a time when lesbian and queer women's bars are becoming increasingly rare, Barnes and Riddle's Nobody's Darling is a beacon of hope. Their welcoming approach and commitment to inclusivity represent a shift towards a more accepting and diverse LGBTQ+ community.

Victor SalvoVictor Salvo (he/him)

Activist and co-Founder/executive director of The Legacy Project

A native Chicagoan, Victor Salvo has been an activist for four decades. He's helped establish several political advocacy groups, two charitable service-provider agencies, worked on numerous electoral campaigns, co-founded two professional associations, and serves on several boards. As co-founder and executive director of the award-winning The Legacy Project, Victor works to educate the general public about the many roles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) people have played in the advancement of world history and culture. Through "The Legacy Walk" in Chicago (the world's only outdoor LGBTQ History Museum and Chicago's newest Historic Landmark); "The Legacy Project Education Initiative" (the foundation of Illinois's new LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum); and "The Legacy Wall" (digitally interactive traveling installation) — Victor and the Legacy Project are committed to challenging the social and cultural marginalization that leads to bullying LGBTQ youth. He was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 1998.

Willa J. TaylorWilla J. Taylor (she/her)

Educator and storyteller

Willa J. Taylor is the Walter Director of Education and Community Engagement at Goodman Theatre, where she collaborates with educators and community partners to transform learning and support equitable systemic change using arts-based strategies. She has created education and community programs for Lincoln Center, New Victory, and Arena Stage. Taylor is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University and has guest lectured on theater and social change at Yale, NYU, Spelman, Columbia College, Arizona State, and Northern Illinois University. Her work has been published in Amazon All-Stars: Thirteen Lesbian Plays, published by Applause Books; in Arts Integration in Education: Teachers and Teaching Artists as Agents of Change, published by Intellect Ltd; and in the forthcoming Applied Theater With Youth: Education, Engagement, Activism, to be published by Routledge in May. As a storyteller, she has performed for OUTSPOKEN, This Much is True, Serving the Sentence, and Do Not Submit.

This article shared 2520 times since Thu May 4, 2023
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