The 13th Annual Jon Henri Damski Award will be presented to Katherine "Kit" Duffy Sunday, November 7, 4p-6p, Gerber-Hart Library, 1127 W. Granville, Chicago. Refreshments compliments of Gerber-Hart. Dramatic readings by the Theo Ubique Theatre/Fred Anzevino- Artistic Director
It's hard not to wonder what columnist and ranconteur Jon-Henri Damski would think, in the midst of this climate of closeted gay teens killing themselves and so many other hot-button gay issues at hand.
We can no longer read the prolific, insightful words of Damski, ( who would have been 74 on November 1 ) but Lori Cannon, program manager at Groceryland ( Vital Bridges ) has seen to it that Damksi's memory stays alive and well by honoring a member of the community who shares his drive and spirit.
Katherine ( Kit ) Duffy, 64, is the recipient of the 13th Annual Jon-Henri award, a longtime civil rights advocate for the LGBT community. This includes her 1984 appointment by Mayor Harold Washington as the first mayoral liaison to Chicago's LGBT communities, as well as Damski's favorite co-conspirator.
In 1985, she convened Mayor Washington's Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues, the precursor to today's Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. Also in 1985, she became the first executive director of the newly-formed AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
After Washington's untimely death in November 1987, instead of giving up, Duffy increased her efforts as a vocal advocate for equal rights. She worked in tandem with the Gang Of Four - Jon-Henri Damski, Rick Garcia, Laurie Dittman and Art Johnston securing the 1988 passage of the historic gay rights ordinance which bans discrimination. Not stopping there, Duffy co-founded the Illinois Federation for Human Rights ( forerunner of today's Equality Illinois ) .
Kit penned a "It Gets Better" column for the Windy City Times, weighing in on the rash of gay teen suicides. "At all costs, we have to protect our kids," Duffy writes. "It's clear that unless we shepherd them safely through the years during which they are most vulnerable emotionally and even neurologically, we are in danger of losing them, either when they are young or later in their lives when their unhealed wounds are re-opened by hatred and derision."
Damski would be right at her side.