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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Yearbook: Mayor Harold Washington's GL Committee
Activists and pols shaping the future in 1985!
by Amy Wooten and Andrew Davis

This article shared 9775 times since Wed Sep 21, 2005
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Pictured #1 Gary Chichester, Richard Gray, Joel Hall and Vernita Gray, mid 1990s. #2 Mayor Byrne and Mayor Harold Washington. #3 Linda Rodgers of Paris Dance ( second from right ) at the bar, late 1980s. #4 Larry Rolla. Photo by Lisa Ebright. #5 Dr. Ron Sable running for alderman, late 1980s. Photo by Lisa Ebright. #5 Dr. Ron Sable running for alderman, late 1980s. Photo by Lisa Ebright. # 6 Dr. Ron Sable with Jay Jackson in 1987, and with the late Joe Alongi at a campaign press conference. #7 Rep. Ellis Levin, Sable, and Carol Moseley Braun. #8 Sable with Cathy Halligan, the late Sen. Paul Simon and the late Bob Adams. #9 David Orr, Sable, and Helen Shiller at a Lakefront rally for Harold Washington. # 10 and 11: Jon Simmons ( left ) and a street named in his honor, at the corner of Cornelia and Broadway ( the sign has since come down ) . #12 Caryn Berman and Armando Smith present at a Horizons forum, 1988. Photos by Tracy Baim and Rex Wockner. #13 Meeting on March 3, 1988, between Acting Mayor Eugene Sawyer and the Mayor's Committee on Gay & Lesbian Issues ( COGLI ) , to discuss the Human Rights Ordinance ( which passed in December of that year ) . From left: Luz Martinez ( Mayor's Office ) ; James Eldridge, Jr. ( Director, Commission on Human Relations ) ; Peggy Baker ( Community Liaison, Gay & Lesbian Issues ) ; Kari Moe ( Administrative Assistant to the Mayor ) ; T. Chris Cothran, Chairman of COGLI; Caryn Berman; Ted Hoerl; Linda Henderson; Larry Rolla; Acting Mayor Sawyer; Dr. Ron Sable; Ann Christophersen; Dr. Art Brewer; Richard Pfeiffer; Linda Rodgers; Jon Simmons; Achy Obejas.

The first edition of Windy City Times, Sept. 26, 1985, had a cover story on the first appointments to Mayor Harold Washington's new Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues. His gay and lesbian liaison, Kit Duffy, made tha nnouncement.

The COGLI members were:

Carolyn Bay

Caryn Berman

Art Brewer

Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon in a shared position

Chris Cothran

Rhonda Craven

Ted Hoerl

Marie J. Kuda

Achy Obejas

Rich Pfeiffer

Linda Rodgers

Larry Rolla

Ron Sable

Jon Simmons

Bill Young

Symbolic position to represented closeted gays and lesbians.

Some COGLI members have since died, others have moved away, and several are still active in GLBT community issues. We tracked down some news about most of them for this anniversary issue.

Ann Christophersen/Linda Bubon

'In the fall of 1985 we were getting settled in our second location at 1967 N. Halsted and were computerizing the store, a task that I had to be pulled into kicking and screaming. Ann and I were sharing a committee position on the new Mayor's Committee on Gay & Lesbian Issues, which made us feel important, a gift of Mayor Harold Washington. We were busily planning the store's 5th anniversary party. In the spring we would host Maya Angelou and not long after, Alice Walker. We had several employees at the time plus a pool of volunteers that helped out. Although we were all concerned by the continuing conservatism of the Reagan administration, the store was on its feet and well-supported by the lesbian and feminist communities as well as young families in the neighborhood.' — Linda Bubon

Rhonda Craven

'I was a founding member of Cravolinajong, a lesbian of color production company, ( led by Florencia Carolina, Lola Lai Jong and me ) . We hosted our first program—Heart of the Moon—on the solstice in June 1985 at Mountain Moving Coffeehouse, featuring local lesbians of color expressing themselves through music, dance ( my thing ) and poetry. Cravolinajong was dedicated to giving visibility and performance opportunities specifically to lesbians of color, and our programs were laid out Chinese style to help demonstrate the different viewpoints we had on life.

'It was a privilege to be selected as one of the first members of the Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues ( COGLI ) . I was one of a small group of out Black lesbians during that time. As we brainstormed about our name, we decided that calling ourselves the Committee on Gay and Lesbian Affairs would not allow us to be taken seriously. We did some good work that opened the doors for what has happened since through ACGLI and ACLGBTI. COGLI met with then-Mayor Harold Washington, who helped us to understand the importance of gaining the power to punish when votes didn't go our way in the City Council.'

Ted Hoerl

'Tim Drake and I had been delegate candidates for John Anderson in the Republican Presidential primary in 1980. As a result we founded the Chicago Area Republican Gay Organization ( CARGO ) ; I was the first president. Mayor Harold Washington appointed me to his Committee On Gay and Lesbian Issues ( COGLI ) , which is the reason that I was on the cover of [ Windy City Times' ] first edition. From 1983-1987, I owned a gay and lesbian entertainment bar and restaurant in Rogers Park called Opal Station. Life was an endless round of AIDS fundraisers.

'The deaths of most of my friends from AIDS led me to disappear from the community. I cocooned with my partner, Steve Scott ( the Associate Producer of the Goodman Theatre ) and changed careers. I was a commercial casting director from 1987 to 1996. In 1993 I started re-training as an actor, my original career path. My first production was the About Face Theatre's inaugural production, Dreamboy. The next was the Chicago production of Love! Valour! Compassion! Since then I have appeared at The Goodman, Bailiwick, Eclipse, and others. I am an artistic associate with About Face and I teach acting at The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and at ActOne Studios.

'On Nov. 1, Steve and I will celebrate our 25th Anniversary. I am a recovering Republican and haven't voted for one since the '80s.'

T. Chris Cothran ( deceased )

T. Chris Cothran's social service involvement included terms from 1985 to 1988 as a founding board member of the Kupona Network and from 1985 to 1986 as a youth volunteer with Horizons Community Services. In 1990, he was a member of Team Chicago's silver-medal bowling team at the Gay Games in Vancouver. He was a veteran member of PRIDEChicago ( the current name of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Pride Month planning committee ) ; he first became involved with the group in 1983. He died in 1996.

Caryn Berman

'Being on the committee was so exciting because it was brand new and because it was started by Harold Washington; everyone was excited to have him as mayor. It was so historic to be on this committee. That such a big city appointed such a group was groundbreaking. There was also a staff position on the committee; having paid staff was a first. It felt like we had a seat at the table; we were actually part of City Hall. So [ there ] we were—we were unable to get a gay-rights ordinance but yet the mayor created an advisory group. It also helped us get access to many offices in the city, such as the health department.

'Things are definitely taken for granted now. ( I'm sure people who were older than I at the time felt the same thing. ) At the time, we were invisible so there was a lot of credibility gained through the creation of the committee. When I look at what's going on now, I wonder if anyone remembers how we didn't have any of this. I remember that it was a big deal to be out. Now, when I see gay high school graduations or even an out teacher, I remember how dangerous it was to be out on the job. I remember the kiss in the movie Personal Best and, oh, Mariel Hemingway! Even advertising in the gay community was a [ huge ] deal. It was all about pushing your way in.

'A lot of activists talk about the whole civil-rights issue; there was more than the issue of HIV. I remember that language and racial issues came up—saying that being gay was more than a white issue was big. There were lots of questions [ regarding ] if we were proactive in the Black community and what the approach would be with African Americans. So it was that we were one community but we were many communities.

'Things have certainly gotten better for the gay community since then. I used to be in the non-profit world but now I'm in the corporate one. It makes a huge difference to a person's quality of life that many companies offer domestic-partner benefits and that they include sexual orientation in their diversity [ policy ] .'

William Young

Twenty years ago, in addition to being a member of COGLI, William Young of the Irving Harris Foundation co-founded the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) with Dr. Ron Sable, Renslow Sherer and Judy Carter.

'I knew him as a trusted operative, if you will, for the Harris trust for Joan and Irving Harris,' said Sherer, now an AFC board member. 'And he seemed to have … a great deal of independence. He really brought—you know, he was responsible for the very first fiscal support for the AIDS foundation of Chicago. So, Ron Sable and I had the vision of the service system for the Chicago mayor and the service provider's council and the policy issues and bringing that to the floor. But in terms of making it happen within the philanthropic community, that was really Bill Young's work, and I'm sorry to say that beyond that responsibility and his commitment to making it happen—it would not have happened without Bill Young—I know very little about him. I know he lived in Chicago in Rogers Park and he was committed throughout the course of the early years of the AIDS Foundation that there was continuous support that we got onto our feet and launched, and he was involved in the early selections of the executive members, so he was very actively involved. And like I said, it wouldn't have happened without him.'

According to the Harris Foundation, Young passed away a few ago.

Larry Rolla

Larry Rolla looks back to 1985 as a time of both hope and horror. 'In those days, it was a time of nearly unbounded possibility tempered by the ever-growing horror of the AIDS crisis,' Rolla said. He is a practicing lawyer and an educator working with violent and severely emotionally disturbed inner-city youth.

Despite the crisis, the upside was that former Mayor Harold Washington welcomed vigorous debate, Rolla said. In 1985, the committee worked to form alliances within and outside the LGBT community and convince the political structure that the community could wield political power, he added. There was little effort to 'control' the committee or create an agenda of acceptable political gains for the larger LGBT community. 'Thus, groups like ACT UP and lions of the community such as Danny Sotomayor were able to effect significant changes both in public policy and in private hearts,' Rolla said.

Rolla explained that today, the community seems more homogenized, and seeks acceptance, even if that requires some conformity. He said, ' [ T ] he community is now increasingly reactive, than proactive in nature.' This 'phenomenon' is not limited to the LGBT community, but many minority communities, he added.

Jon Simmons ( deceased )

In 1985, Jon Simmons was the executive director of Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre, a non-profit arts organization.

Simmons had been in Chicago for six years, but was active in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. He also served as a commissioner with the Illinois State Scholarship Commission.

Mayor Richard Daley appointed Simmons executive director of the Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues.

At age 39, Simmons was fatally shot to death while visiting his brother in Beverly Hills, Calif., October of 1994. His rental car was found destroyed by fire, and his nude body was found in an alley. He had just graduated from Kent Law School in the summer.

Linda Rodgers

In 1985, Rodgers' bar and restaurant, Paris Dance, had been open for a year. The North Side bar was host to fundraising and strategizing efforts, and a popular spot for entertainment.

'It was an interesting time,' said Rodgers of the political climate in 1985. The mayor, for the first time in history, actively tried to reach queers and Hispanics, she added.

'In about 18 months, it went from bar raids and people being arrested on the streets for wearing the 'wrong' sex clothing to having a mayor that had a committee at that point,' Rodgers said. 'That was a pretty exciting time.'

However, this was coupled with the reality of AIDS, she added. 'So, you had this political climate that appeared to be very open to accepting homosexuals at a time when AIDS was killing so many of us. So, that was a time of anguish and promise at the same time.'

Now living in Tampa, Fla., Rodgers is encountering issues that were resolved in Chicago 20 years ago, and active in the community 'in a different kind of way.' Rodgers is currently the general manager of a yacht club and working with a group called the Earth Charter.

Achy Obejas

Although Achy Obejas describes being on COGLI in 1985 an 'amazing experience,' it was often painful. 'We were in the midst of the AIDS crisis—everything was urgent and wrenching—and we didn't even have a human-rights ordinance,' she said.

Exhausted by infighting, Obejas is no longer active in the community, although she promotes queer issues and strives to be a role model, she said.

Being active in the community is very different compared to 20 years ago. 'I think back then urgency was the byword, and so there was a lot of paranoia—some merited, believe me—and a certain lack of perspective,' Obejas said. 'Now I suspect complacency might be a real monster, both in terms of AIDS and of rights gained.'

Dr. Ron Sable ( deceased )

A physician as well as a health and civil-rights activist, Dr. Ron Sable served on Mayor Harold Washington's Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues in 1985.

As a physician during this time, he handled some of Chicago's first AIDS cases. He also was a founding member of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and co-founded the Sable/Sherer Clinic for people with AIDS at Cook County Hospital.

In the late '80s, Sable became increasingly involved in his political aspirations, and helped found IMPACT, the city's first gay and lesbian political action committee. He ran for alderman of the 44th Ward two times—coming very close to defeating incumbent Ald. Bernie Hansen in 1987, but finishing further away from victory four years later.

Until his death, he remained very active in advocating national healthcare.

Sable died in 1993 of AIDS complications.

It was not until 2003 when Chicago would elect its first openly gay alderman—Tom Tunney, taking over for retiring 44th Ward Ald. Bernie Hansen.

Richard Pfeiffer

According to Richard Pfeiffer, the formation of COGLI helped open the much-needed doors to communication between the city and the community.

'Back in that era, there was not always a lot of communication between the city and the gay community,' Pfeiffer said. ' [ COGLI ] was the first time where you really felt like you had your foot in the door,' Pfeiffer said. He was reappointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley to serve on the reconstituted Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues. He was a member for about 11 years.

During 1985, much of the committee members' energy was spent dealing with the AIDS crisis.

Today, the 'radical difference' in the political climate is the amount of dialogue, Pfeiffer said. The mayor is no longer the only one involved. Now, state representatives will come to events such as Equality Illinois dinners.

This article shared 9775 times since Wed Sep 21, 2005
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