Vera Washington

Transcript of Interview: Date of interview: 2007-07-21 Interviewer: Tracy Baim

This transcript is from the interviews with both Pat McCombs and Vera Washington; see each of their videos for full interviews.

Tracy Baim: Okay, let’s start with, if you can tell me your name, and when and where you were born.

1:00:39 to 1:00:44
Vera Washington: I am Vera Lynn Washington and I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1952.

TB: Can you talk about your early years with your family, and what your family structure was like?

1:00:49 to 1:01:10
VW: Well, I grew up with my mom and my five siblings, and my mother had a hard time raising us, and then at the age of 14, I started working for … a youth organization for summer jobs. So I’ve been working since I was 14 years old.

TB: What were your teen-age years like? Give a perspective of what years we’re talking about in the mid-’60s.

1:01:17 to 1:01:36
VW: My teen-age life was very good. Like I said, we were a close-knit family. I was raised in [ the ] Stateway Gardens project, so we were one of the first families there until we left. Well, my mom left some 20 years later. So my growing-up years were real great with my siblings and friends.

TB: Talk about what Stateway Gardens is.

1:01:38 to 1:01:52
VW: Stateway Gardens is a project that was on 35th and Federal, which is now a torn-down building. … We had great times looking at Comiskey Park; we had [ a ] front-row seat of the fireworks.

TB: What was Chicago like in the 1960s for you, with Martin Luther King, with … the greater awareness? What was your greater understanding of the world?

1:02:02 to 1:02:35
VW: Well, … I actually believe I didn’t grow up knowing the difference between Black and white because my mother didn’t teach us that. She just told us that everybody was everybody.

And I remember growing up in the’60s—well, the late’50s—we used to go to Comiskey Park to ice skate behind there, and we had one pair of ice skates, and like six of us wanting to get into them. We got chased back and they were calling us niggers. And I went home and was like, “Mommy, what is that?” And she never told us the difference between white and Black.

TB: Were you starting to have a growing political awareness of maybe your own identity? What was going on in your teen years?

1:02:43 to 1:03:39
VW: Well, … you mean me as a lesbian? I fell in love with my second-grade teacher at Christopher School, and she left and moved to California, and I was devastated. I was devastated. Plus, they were transferring me from Christopher to Raymond School, which was a little bit further down, and I was just hurt. I had this mad crush on my second-grade teacher.

So then she stayed in contact with us for a while because my mom was on public assistance, and you know we couldn’t have phones, or we had to hide the phones. And she would call us and somehow our phone got disconnected, and we lost contact.

So at that age, I had to be what, six or seven years old? I had a fascination for women, and I didn’t know, but I just thought it was me, because I was different ... . I was raped by my uncle at an early age, so I really had this thing against men.

TB: Can you talk a little bit more about that, how you feel that impacted your life?

1:03:43 to 1:04:30
VW: Well, I just thought that, and believe it or not, I was three years old when I was molested, and I remember that just as well as I am sitting here talking to you, and I knew there was something wrong. He [ uncle ] used to baby-sit to help my mom out, and then finally—I can’t remember that part, how my mother ended up finding out—but I was irritated down there. And she took me, we went to a doctor, and then that’s how they found out that I was molested by my uncle.

So I grew [ up with ] this thing against men. I didn’t want anybody to touch me. At that time, my mom and dad were going through a divorce, and with my mother’s new boyfriend, I was mean. … I didn’t hate my brothers, but I hated when other people came into my space, especially men.

TB: How did your mother respond to that for you?

1:04:33 to 1:05:05
VW: Oh wow, my mother was angry, the family was angry. … one other time in later years when I must have been about12, one of my mother’s boyfriends tried to assault me, and I told my mother. My mother was very protective of us, so they had these like globes in the projects and she unscrewed one of the globes and bust him in the head. He went to the hospital, he couldn’t say anything, because he tried to molest me.

So, like I said, I grew up very angry. Very, very angry.

TB: And you grew up pretty quickly in terms of getting a job.

1:05:09 to 1:05:44
VW: Because my mother was a single parent raising five children that was knuckleheads most of the time, I would go to work in the summertime. I even had to put my age up to get a job because you had to be a certain age at that time. And I would help my mother out with my sisters and brothers going back to school. And I always had to because we had to. My grandmother would give us shoes at where she worked for white people, and I said, “Why you got to get the ugly ones?”

And I have a shoe fetish. You come to my house, I have a shoe fetish. I would never ever be without one pair of shoes.

TB: What were your early 20s like, in terms of what Chicago was like, and exploring the gay community and your own career?

1:05:52 to 1:07:21
VW: Well, actually I came out at the age of 25, and I’m 55 now. Once again, I was going through this identity, I knew, I went through the norm like the girls …. I have two children, and I knew you were supposed to have did the norm, whatever the norm was back then.

But I’ve always had a liking for women, even in high school. I couldn’t wait to go to gym. You know, you strippin’. I probably was a pervert then. But anyway, I made sure I was the last one there, so I could get sight of everybody. But I still didn’t come out until I was 25, and still going through it. And this one girl that lived in our building, she was different, and I always was attracted to the different. And later on, they would say, “She’s a dyke.” And I’m going, “Well, what is a dyke? I want to be a dyke.”

And the funniest thing about it, going back a little bit, is how I ended up interacting with a woman. My mom and the other ladies of the building would all go grocery shopping on Saturdays, so the oldest one would have to babysit us. And this one girl would always—I said, “Oh god, I got to go to her house”—but I’m looking forward to it. And my breasts were starting to grow, so I didn’t have anything but nipples. Flat-chested, just with nipples.

So she would pinch them, hit them, throw me down on the bed and get on top of me, and I felt wonderful. I looked forward to that, so I guess you could say I’m kind of sadistic.

TB: Talk about your children and how that came about.

1:07:25 to 1:09:10
VW: I was never married; I had children. My daughter was born in my senior year. Then, after me and my daughter’s father broke up, I was kind of heartbroken so I didn’t have sex with anybody for three years. Then I met my son’s father, slept with him one time, and got pregnant. So I said, “Uh-oh, can’t do this.”

Still, once again I’m going through this identity because I’m looking at women, and my best friends, they didn’t know anything but we were just real close. So after my children were born, I finally moved out. Actually, I kind of moved out on my own. My apartment got broken into and I moved back in with my mother, and I’ve been on my own really since I was17. Raising my children on my own, just working.

I was on public assistance maybe a year and a half. Then after one bad—I was with this guy and he started messing around with my sister, so I was just done. Just stick a fork in me. I was working downtown at a jewelry store, and I met these girls that were working at this clothing store, so I had a fetish for clothes as well as shoes. And I met her, and we just started hooking up and she told me one day her sister was getting ready to go away and they were giving her a going-away party. I said, “Oh good, I love parties.”

So I went there, and I got to the party, and I’m like, where are the guys? not knowing they were lesbians. So they were kind of bringing me out. So that’s how I end up, at 25, finding myself out.

TB: Let’s talk a little bit about raising your children.

1:09:14 to 1:09:43
VW: But once again, like I said, raising my kids. My kids were young when I came out in the life, because Vernon just made 38, and Christopher will be 35. They were young and so they didn’t know. My first love, I was with her briefly, and they just thought that she was a fun person, but they didn’t really get to live with me and a love until I moved to DC ... But they didn’t know.

TB: One of the things that other parents have talked about with raising children within the lesbian community, especially in the ‘70s and ‘80s, is that there was not necessarily a lot of acceptance. Or there were a lot of challenges in terms of women-only space. Did you ever experience any issues being a lesbian with children?

1:10:00 to 1:10:24
VW: Actually, no, I really didn’t because at that time my lovers were a little bit like myself, not totally like me but they were like myself, so there was no difference. They [ sons ] just thought they [ lovers ] were their aunts. I was with my one lover 14 years, and my son thought that was his aunt. She told … [ my sons’ ] friends that she was their aunt.

TB: What were you doing in DC, and when was that?

1:10:27 to 1:10:52
VW: I was in DC in 1979, that was right after I came out. And I moved for a girl that was in the military. Got there, and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, so I decided to stay in DC and make a life of it. But my mom didn’t want me there, she kept my kids for the summer, and she wouldn’t send them back. So I was forced to come back, else I would probably still be in DC. But it was… okay.

TB: What are some of the professions that you have done, in terms of working, and how that’s been for you as a lesbian?

TB: I want to bring it to the ‘80s, in terms of the community in Chicago and the lesbian community. What were kind of your first forays into the lesbian community of Chicago—bars, social parties?

1:11:17 to 1:12:17
VW: When I first came out, into the ‘80s, right after I came back from DC, once again I was still kind of green, even though I had one and a half lovers. I was still green, still trying to feel my way around, and I was hanging out with older women, and they were kind of protective of me. I was a young girl, and I started going to The Warehouse and still young, I was still standoffish.

And I noticed one girl … I sat on the steps of The Warehouse and would watch people putting acid in the punches, and I wasn’t into drugs at that time. But anyway, I’m clean and sober today though, 20 years. That girl used to call me Sunshine, and she would scare me to death.

Then I kind of, like, weaned away from the older [ women ] and started to hang out with the younger, …. So I was hanging out with younger people.

TB: Talk about the bars and what they were like in terms of segregation of women and men.

1:12:22 to 1:12:42
VW: To me, back then, the bars for women were hard because my lover that I ended coming back here with, which was the former Executive Sweet member, Pam, she would get carded. I don’t know why.

1:12:54 to 1:13:02
VW: … Pam was the original Executive Sweet member, and I had moved back to be with her, and that’s when Executive Sweet was forming.

1:13:18 to 1:14:14
VW: So, anyway, Pam , she had a hard time getting into CKs. They wouldn’t card me. Actually, I was always a little bit older than my lovers. But, for some reason, who was that? Carrie. She … wouldn’t let her [ Pam ] in, and she even showed her military ID. And just because she said she was out of the military, she [ Carrie ] said that was not a valid ID. ”Where’s your passport?”

At that time, how many Black people had passports? So they gave her a hard time, but they welcomed me in. I mean, I had my ID saying I was of age, but she caught hell. So I kind of backed away ... and stopped going there because they were just prejudiced against certain Blacks. You had your token Blacks, that was my thing of it. And, as far as partying with a guy, I had fun. I always partied with guys, there was no problem there.

TB: … what other social opportunities were there for you, in terms of festivals, or the coffeehouse, or other things that you were going to in the ‘80s?

1:14:23 to 1:14:42
VW: Well, I did a lot of house parties. … There were a lot of people doing house parties, so I would stay at the house parties because there was less drama than in the bars, and there was no discrimination. So for the most part, until I ended up hooking up with Patricia, I was doing house parties.

TB: Also, as AIDS was starting to come up, become aware in the gay community, what were you as a lesbian, were you becoming aware of it, and especially if you were partying with the guys?

1:14:54 to 1:15:14
VW: No. I didn’t get aware of AIDS until, or really what AIDS was all about—I knew it was a disease—oh god, I have to say early ’90ss. Because I didn’t know anything prior to that.

TB: And what was it that you knew?

1:15:16 to 1:15:37
VW: Well, I had friends, and they said that they were going into the package then. I didn’t know what the package was. Then they kind of simplified it for me a little bit more, and said AIDS is a disease that gay men had. But I didn’t discriminate against my gay guy friends, but I knew it was a bad thing.

TB: I asked you a little bit ago about work, and what you’ve done, and in terms of jobs if you’ve been out at work and had any experiences.

1:15:44 to 1:16:21
VW: Well, no. They outed me at work, I’ve been in several jobs. I used to work for, before Dr. Scholl’s moved, there was a girl there that knew me, so me and this girl were good friends, and she outed me to her, and the girl was kind of shocked and she kind of stayed away from me at first. I couldn’t understand why she stayed away from me, and then later on she came to me and told me why, and I told her I pick and choose my women like you pick and choose your men, not to say anything, but you’re just not my type. [ I worked ] There, and I worked construction for many years, and one of my ex’s brother-in-law, he outed me to the guys there, but it was never a problem.

TB: What were you doing in construction?

1:16:23 to 1:16:24
VW: I was a laborer.

TB: And women in trades is another thing. There’s a lot of lesbians that go into the trades. … what was it like being a woman and working in trades?

1:16:31 to 1:17:49
VW: It was really hard, it was really hard. Working in construction, when I first started out—I think it was…’91–’92—and my first day out, I didn’t know anything. Afriend of mine got me in, and I’m standing out on the Kennedy and I didn’t know anything, but I had common sense, so I was flagging starting out.

The men were treatingI had to go to the washroom, and they would say go beside a tree, you know, all of that; they were really nasty. Especially when women were on their periods. They didn’t care; they wanted you to go to the port-a-potties. I said no, I need to go where I can wash my hands. So it was really hard. They talked about women that were lesbians but I didn’t care; that didn’t bother me. Pretty much I was out; I didn’t walk around with a label on, but I didn’t tell anybody what I was.

Then later on, I used to work for [ a ] Foundation. And a lot of girls came through there, and guys. Then one of my clients found out, because he knew somebody who knew me. He pulled me to the side like he was my friend. “Vera are you gay? Do you like women?” I said, “I think women are beautiful,” and left it like that. But he knew what I was because he tried to hit on me, but that wasn’t happening.

TB: As your children grow older, and also with your mother, …what was their understanding and their acceptance of you?

1:17:56 to 1:18:24
VW: My mother, when she first found out that I was gay, she knew the difference with me. She knew I was around a lot of friends, girlfriends friends, and I hung out that way. And she never—she loved me for who I was, until I moved to DC. Then she went to tell my dad. Then my dad said, “You’re not ugly.”

They [ parents ] took my kids from me, but they gave them back. And they said, “You’re not ugly.” I said, “Me being gay, does that mean I have to be ugly?” It was a stereotype, I guess.

TB: When you say they took your kids though, you meant because of being in DC?

1:18:27 to 1:18:44
VW: … no. … my friend that I was moving to DC with, her brother was staying with the kids when I went to a concert. So when I came back, my mother and father came in and took the kids because I was leaving to go to DC. So that’s why they took the kids. But they gave them back to me the next day.

TB: But it wasn’t because you were gay; it was because you were leaving town?

1:18:46 to 1:19:04
VW: I think it was a combination of both. My father was hurt. But, today, both my parents are accepting. My mother used to work my door at Executive Sweet for many years, along with Pat’s grandmother. So my whole family is—they never—I was different from the family anyway, so.

TB: Part of this project is for the next generation to understand what it was like for folks growing up before them. Are there things you feel have changed for the better in the community, and things that need to be fixed still?

1:19:18 to 1:19:32
VW: Oh, there’s a lot of things that need to be fixed, but from the ‘70s, when I came out, I think we came a long way. A lot of us are more out, and proud of being out, but there’s still a lot of road to go to be fixed.

TB: What kind of dreams do you have for the next generation?

1:19:35 to 1:19:50
VW: And if I’m still around, that we can actually, not just up north, walk holding hand in hand, that we gain acceptance and marriage. And be accepted.

TB: What about the segregation of Chicago? Do you have hope that it will ever get better?

1:19:57 to 1:20:04
VW: I’ve always hated that we did have to separate ourselves from it, and I hope that we can still come in unity, in the end.

TB: Okay, is there anything else you want to get to in the separate [ interview ] , and we’ll get to Executive Sweet when we get you guys in together.

1:20:10 to 1:20:15
VW: The ginkgo ain’t kicked in yet.

TB: We can come back to it.

VW: Okay.

TB: Can you tell me your name, and when and where you were born?

1:20:34 to 1:20:42
Patricia McCombs: My name is Patricia McCombs, and I was born in the city of Chicago, Illinois, in the year 1949.

TB: Can you talk about where in Chicago you were born, and a little more about your early years with your family?

1:20:48 to 1:22:07
PM: I was born on the South Side of Chicago. Born at Cook County Hospital, believe it or not. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, in the projects … that’s where I remember living first.

I remember my mother telling me a story about—she was in a cab or something and a man tried to attack her … or something, and she left me … and ran, and the storekeeper picked me up. And I’ll never forget, his name was Mr. Wilson, he had a grocery store right at 37th at King Drive, right off King Drive … . And he picked me up, and I’ll never forget, I used to go to the store and get free candy because he would say, “That’s the baby I found.” So my mother, she was hysterical.

TB: You have your siblings, and what was your situation like there?

1:22:11 to 1:22:40
PM: Well, I’m the oldest out of seven. It was five girls and two boys … My youngest sister died of leukemia. I’m the oldest, and I was always the mother, because my mother and father had to work a lot, so I assumed the responsibility of being the mother. I think that’s why I don’t have children today.

TB: In your teenage years, when were you kind of getting an inkling that you may kind of be different?

1:22:45 to 1:24:06
PM: Well, I’ve always felt like I was different. I remember telling my friends, because I used to always love to play school, and I was always the teacher. If I played house, I was always the daddy, because the father never had to do anything beside sit down and just be waited on. That was my perception of the father.

I never wanted to do the dishes, the cooking, and stuff like that. I always wanted to be waited on and in charge, in control all of the time. I remember telling my friends when I taught school because I used to always teach math or reading. And I would say, “I’m never going to have children.” I remember doing this at eight years old. “I’m never going to have children, and I will take care of your children, and when I get tired, I’ll send them back to you.” I remember saying that at eight years old.

Then I noticed that I was always attracted to women. I always wanted to be around my aunts, my mother’s girlfriends, older women. I used to love to sit around older women and listen to them talk. And [ I was ] attracted to them, but I didn’t know it. Not in a sexual way at the time, but just I wanted to be around women more so than little boys.

TB: What age were you, and maybe what years we’re talking about in society that it really dawned on you, and had a name for it.

1:24:15 to 1:25:06
PM: When I first realized what I was in terms of my sexuality, I think I was maybe16, 17. Around that age, because I hung around a lot of—well, I was raised in a Baptist church, and in my church there was a lot of gay choir people, and so I hung around a lot of young gay men, who were very quite flamboyant, so you kind of knew they were [ gay ] , and I felt real comfortable being in their presence for some reason. As I got older, I realized, you know, I think this is the life I want to lead. I felt like that’s it.

TB: Can we talk about the 1960s a little bit, in terms of your growing political awareness about what society was going through at that time, and especially in Chicago.

1:25:16 to 1:29:14
PM: During the 1960s, I considered myself very militant. I wore natural hair, I started making all of my clothes African outfits, I joined various Black organizations, I remember the Southern Leadership Conference, or the NAACP [ National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ] because I started college.

And I was very active in the Black arts festivals and stuff like that. I tried to join the Panthers; I was a Panther for a week. As a matter of fact, I was over there on the West Side, and we’d go and listen to Fred Hampton and wore the blue jeans with the black turtleneck and the big Afro. I think I was a Panther for a week because I wasn’t into that violent aspect that they talked about, and I felt … uncomfortable because I was a lesbian, and it was so macho, so manly. And I knew they wouldn’t be comfortable with me in terms of being a lesbian.

I tried to be a Muslim for a month or so, but after I went to the temple and they sat the women in the back, I said, “Oh no, this is not for me either,” but I was supportive of some of the things they did. So I couldn’t do that.

I even tried to be a Buddhist, chasing after some woman, and I practiced … whatever that chant was, trying to get into her, so I got out of that. So it was an exploratory type of experience during that time of my life.

But I was always moving toward, and I would go to various gay activities. For instance, there was an organization, the Lesbian Community Center, which I volunteered at on the phone line, and I would go there and volunteer certain days of the week and talk to people on the phone. People would call and want information about what was going on in the lesbian community. The reason I decided to do that was because there were very few women of color involved at the Lesbian Community Center.

It used to be on Halsted, I forget exactly where, and then it was right off Clark. I forget the name of the building, on the second floor. There was another organization.

We used to have rap groups on Wells. It was like the early’70s. I would be involved with these different organizations—the Lesbian Community Center and—I forgot the name of the other organizations. But we would have—they say meetings—we called them rap sessions.

I remember one time we were meeting on Wells. … I was always in a minority; there were very few Black women coming to these rap sessions, which I can understand. Most of the times, some of the issues weren’t reflective on our particular culture. I went because it was one of the outlets, one way for me being around lesbians. People like myself, I felt like. It was quite interesting, and I met quite a few white women, who I still know today. That’s how I got more involved in the lesbian community in that respect.

TB: In terms of your career at that time, talk about what year you started teaching, and that you just retired.

1:29:22 to 1:30:21
PM: I started teaching in 1971. I always considered my profession separate from my lifestyle. But most people might not believe this, but I have always been in the closet for my job. I never felt like they needed to know who I went to bed with, but I was supportive of children who, I felt, … had that different personality.

You can always tell. I would always talk to them and be supportive when they were having trouble. You can always tell, even in younger years—children in 5th, 6th, 7th grade—you can tell who’s going to be gay. You know, and you kind of talk to them and make them feel good about themselves, try to encourage them to build up their self-esteem and stuff like that.

TB: When did your sister come out? Talk about your sister being a lesbian.

1:30:25 to 1:31:21
PM: Well, my sister—I’ll never forget—we lived together on the North Side, and I used to be involved with parties, my parties and stuff and the different activities. My sister, she would help me out sometimes, and every time someone would come around, I would say, “Oh, my sister, she’s straight so don’t talk to her.”

So one day she said, “Don’t tell anybody that.” I said, “You’re not straight?” “Well, I don’t know; I might decide [ I’m gay ] .”

So I was really surprised. But I moved away from my sister because my niece was—my sister had one girl and she was getting older—five, six. So I felt like she didn’t need my lifestyle, so I moved away from my sister. And, of course, what does she do? Come all the way out, so my niece was really exposed to her lifestyle.

TB: In terms of—let’s move through the’70s, and I’m not sure when you first went to Michigan Festival, but I know that’s been a very important part of what you [ are ] ./ Explain that to someone who’s never been.

1:31:32 to 1:32:57
PM: The Michigan Women’s Music Festival, I’ve been going now for 29 years. I think this is the 31st [ year ] , so you do the math. … I went in the early, I guess that’s ‘70s, and I read a brochure about some Michigan Women’s Music Festival, and I mentioned [ it ] to some friends. I said, “Well, let’s go to this camp, they say it’s going to be a lot of women.”

So we decided to drive up. One of my friends said, “Well, I’ve got a tent.” So we loaded all of our stuff, got to the campsite, and realized when we got there that you had to carry everything that you brought to a campsite, which we weren’t expecting. We set up the tent, which we thought was a big tent, but it happened to be a pup tent, and here we are—three women, three women of color, never camped before, all of this equipment, and a pup tent, and of course a storm that night, and the heavens opened up.

But it prepared us for the next years, I’ll tell you that. That was a good experience. That was a nice experience. Of course, it was mostly white women, which we weren’t expecting. But that was a learning experience too; that’s another story.

TB: … going 29 out of the 31 years of the festival, something is bringing you back. What is it that makes it special?

1:33:03 to 1:34:02
PM: I think what makes the Michigan Women’s Music Festival special to me, it’s the energy, it’s a woman’s energy and spirit. It’s kind of hard to explain, it’s the whole lesbian culture, it’s the experience of other women from different cultures and countries and different cities. It’s a whole educational-type explosion, if I can say that. It’s hard to explain unless you go. You’re exposed to so much of the lesbian culture in terms of educational, spiritual, psychological, the physical aspect of just the female being. It’s exciting, what can I tell you?

TB: Do you have any opinion on any of the controversy they’ve had about trans issues over the years?

1:34:07 to 1:34:47
PM: I’m kind of torn between the issue of the transsexual situation. In one aspect I can relate to it because I’ve been discriminated against. But in another aspect, it’s a women-born women space, and I think that that should be respected in terms of us needing that space in order to receive the needs that we need fulfilled in terms of our being togetherness and the issues that relate to women. So I’m kind of torn with that issue.

TB: Let’s talk about the 1970s in Chicago and the bar scene. Vera alluded a little bit to it, but let’s talk about when and what happened with CK’s, and which location they were at.

1:34:59 to 1:37:33
PM: Well, I was influential in boycotting the women’s bars, particularly CK’s, during the ‘70s, ‘80s, early ‘80s. What happened was, I never had a problem with getting in, but most of my friends did, and this particular weekend was like Easter weekend, I’ll never forget it. One of my girlfriends went, and she said, “Guess what happened to me?” I said, “What happened?” “I went to CK’s and they asked me for a green card.”

During that time, green cards were a form of identification for public aid recipients, people who were on public aid. So I said, “What?” And I was so angry about it, and I said, “We gotta do something about this.”

So I was sitting at home with a girlfriend of mine, and we were sitting at her house, drinking a little bit, and doing some other things which are illegal for me to mention, and I said, “You know, we need to do something about this, we need to boycott. Let’s march against that bar.”

So we sat down and said, “Well, what can we do?” I said, “Let’s form an organization called Black Lesbians Discriminate Investigative Committee.” It sounded real good. So we thought of this BL acronym, Black Lesbian Discriminate Investigative Committee. So we said, “Let’s get that together.” So I found out the telephone number to the liquor commission. I called a friend of mine, a lawyer, Renee Hanover. I spoke with some other white girlfriends of mine, and we made up posters, and I got some other Black women I knew. It was mostly white women friends of mine who were in the picket line. I couldn’t talk my girlfriends into it; they didn’t want to, but a few of them decided to come. Mainly, it was white women protesting against being discriminated against women of color at CK’s.

So I eventually took them to the liquor commission and we had a meeting, and decided exactly what identification would be used to enter the bar, and it would be everybody would have to present the same type of identification.

TB: And this impacted all gay bars because a lot of the gay men’s bars were also dealing with this at the time.T talk about, you know, in your mind what was really—well, racism obviously was the core of it, but what were the stereotypes that these gay bars had that they were outwardly saying to people? People don’t understand that racism is much more subtle now; it’s there but it’s subtle. That was blatant. How is it they got away with it, and everybody just kept it the norm?

1:37:59 to 1:38:55
PM: I think the way most bars got away with discriminating is, when you would enter the bar, and let’s say four people would come, it would always be something wrong with somebody’s identification. So they would say, “Oh, you don’t have such and such an ID, you can’t come. You can’t enter because you need such and such.”

And, of course, if you come with a group, everybody would leave. This would be during most of the later part of the evening, when they would reach a quota. I would say that they would rather for it to be less people of color in the bar than more. That way, I guess that made most of the white public more comfortable with being in the majority, rather than the minority. So they would pick their quota, per se.

TB: Did you feel that the change you made— talk about what impact you feel that that boycott had, long term. Do you feel that there’s been a change?

1:39:06 to 1:39:48
PM: During that time, I think the changes that came about because of that boycott, most bars kind of were a little apprehensive about discriminating because we did say that we would investigate constantly, and we would have white people come to the bar, and Black people with the same identification, and we would constantly be visible, but yet undercover where you wouldn’t know it, and we would report them to the liquor commission. Which is what you would do during that time. I think more bars were put on notice, saying, “Wait a minute, we better not do this because we never know who’s watching.”

TB: During that time—we’re going to get to Executive Sweet separately—but other cultural things that were going on, in terms of Mountain Moving Coffeehouse, and house parties, etc. What was the scene like?

1:40:00 to 1:40:58
PM: Well, I think a few bars for women—I remember His And Hers, of course. The Closet, The Cheetah—oh, there were so many different bars. Ms., I remember Ms. was a real popular bar because she would let anybody in, anybody. We would all party at that bar; it was nice.

And I forget—I don’t know if it was Peaches, there were so many different bars—but, like I said, they would have their quota, and sometimes, I think, as business decreased, business would get better for us. If less white women came, then the door was open wider for people of color; that’s usually what happened. So if the bar was full of us, then you know business was kind of bad. So that’s how it was.

TB: Can you talk a little bit about how the South Side bars were at that point, and then if you could say what years you’re talking about.

1:41:06 to 1:42:33
PM: During the’60s, there were very few bars. I remember the 411, I remember a bar called Betsy’s, Maxine’s, The Boulevard, The Jeffrey Pub. These were different bars that we could go to on the South Side. Maxine’s was a women’s bar on 79th Street. Valley of the Dolls. I forgot the rest of them, but they never stayed open long. Helen’s. Usually because most of the crowds would end up fighting, and the police would come and they’d close the bars down.

But what happened on the South Side were house parties. A lot of house parties, and people would charge a fee, and you would go to the house party. Or people would rent a home. But then you also had during that time, they had raids, they would raid the party and put everybody in the paddy wagon, and off you would go and you’d have to go and be bailed out, or something to that effect.

TB: Did you ever experience a raid?

1:42:34 to 1:43:02
PM: I’ll put it like this. I was outside, when I was on my way to the party, and I watched them. Oh, yes we did, one time. Executive Sweet had one raid. Oh, god, yes, one raid. And it just so happened that the policewoman was a friend of mine, who was also a closeted lesbian, and so we worked it out where she let mostly everybody go, and the person that was arrested, we got ‘em out of jail.

TB: We’ll get into Executive Sweet [ in ] a little bit. This is, I want to talk a little bit about some of the women of color organizing that started to happen, whether it was with Mona, or alliances that started to happen in the early ‘80s with other women of color, African- American with other women of color. Talk about some of the organizing that started happening, and why.

1:43:26 to 1:45:14
PM: Basically, for instance, there was Rumors. Awoman had a bar called Rumors, a social place where we would go and have functions and rap groups, and talk about different issues related to women of color. We had Yahimba, which was formed by Jackie Anderson. Women of African Descent.

Most of the organizations stem from a social-type organization, and from that, different committees and groups would network, and offshoots of other activities and other groups would form. Places like Affinity; I’m sure that came about because of that. But different organizations stem first from a social setting.

So that’s where a lot of it stemmed from. That’s the basis for a lot of [ it ] , and if there was some issue that would arise, then an organization would be formed. For instance, we were discriminated against, and so that’s how that organization came about. If there was abuse, a group would get together and they would be the group for abuse issues. If there was education—for example, The Literary Exchange was formed out of educating in terms of literature and women in prison. So that’s how groups would come about, from a certain need which would be quite prevalent in the community.

TB: What about Black Pride? What was your involvement in Black Pride?

1:45:17 to 1:46:21
PM: Black Pride came about because we felt that white pride didn’t address the issues of people of color. For instance, even though white pride is the parade, is a big thing, and you get a lot of the white-guy organizations supporting it, but we never felt a part of it.

What we would do is, after the parade, a group of us started—as a matter of fact, Robertson and I, we started setting up after the parade at The Rocks, Belmont Rocks. A group of us decided, hey we don’t want to go to Lincoln Park after the parade and listen to all of these politicians and white guys talk about white issues. So we decided to party, a whole different function, a big function, at Belmont Rocks, and it just grew out of that.

TB: Can you talk about when that started?

1:46:23 to 1:46:46
PM: The Belmont Rocks started, I’d say the early’70s. And, like I said earlier, it would be a place where people of color would go after the white parade.

TB: What’s the Rocks not, 30-some odd years later?

1:46:50 to 1:47:21
PM: The Rocks, it got so big we outgrew the Belmont area. I guess the yacht club decided that too many people of color were coming after the parade. They’d moved us to Montrose, which is a better location. And the Rocks committee now organizes that. Once again, a social environment grew out of a need, and a committee was formed.

TB: You’ve been one of those people who have really managed to work in both parts of the community. A lot of people choose one segment, but you’ve managed to work within that white gay community in many, many venues and events, but also then in the Black community. You’ve managed to keep integrity in both. How has that been for you, and how did you manage that?

1:47:42 to 1:48:33
PM: Well, you know, I always felt like—even though I felt discriminated against, my involvement in terms of the white and the African-American organization community— I’ve always felt like I have something to learn from each one. And whatever I can learn from the white organizations, I can take over into the African-American organizations.

Everything is a learning experience and, even though I felt that I was discriminated against at times, I always felt like I met a lot of good people in white organizations. And a lot of times, you can’t leave yourself closed; you have to open yourself up. Just because people might not like you for the color of your skin doesn’t mean everybody is the same way.

TB: And, we’ll close before we go to Executive Sweet, if you could talk about what you hope for the next generation, what you experienced, and learning from that. What would you hope for the next generation?

1:48:46 to 1:49:30
PM: What I hope for the next generation is that more people of color become more involved. And, hopefully, the Center on Halsted will be open to receive that, and not be the white island that I hope it doesn’t become, and that it is a place of welcoming for us people of color as well as the rest of the community, and realize that a lot of the issues that are prevalent in terms of their needs is also our needs.

Other Interviewer: About teaching, can you say a little bit about what you were teaching and what [ was ] your favorite part? I know that you had mentioned a little bit about working with kids … is there anything about teaching that you’re missing, or are going to miss from your career as a teacher?

1:50:08 to End
PM: Okay, I’ve been teaching for 36 years. I’ve always taught special education because I’ve always felt a strong desire to work with children who had learning problems. I always felt like, when I was in school, the teachers didn’t address certain issues, or weren’t comfortable with working with children with deficiencies, and so I decided at an early age that I wanted to really teach kids that had learning problems, as well as behavior problems. I felt that was more of a challenge for me, and it was never boring.

I’m sure that some of the things I’ve done during my teaching career, I’d be in jail now or arrested for. But I love the profession. I retired this year, June 15 of 2007. I will be subbing, to keep going back, giving back.

But it’s been an exceptionally rewarding career and I still have a passion for it, but I think that I needed to leave to just open myself up to do things with the LGBT youth community. So that’s what I’m looking to do in the future.

TB: So let’s give your names again.

2:00:38 to 2:00:42
PM & VW: My name is Pat McCombs. And I’m Vera Washington.

TB: Let’s talk a little bit about how you guys got together as business partners, and the creation of Executive Sweet.

2:00:51 to 2:01:20
VW: Oh, I love telling that part of the story. We got together … selling tickets for an event after Executive Sweet had took a rest for about a year. During that time, it was like 10 of us selling tickets, and I came out selling the most, because I baffled them with bullshit. “C’mon, you can be with me if you come to the party.” So Pat said, “Why should I need 10 people, if I got one person selling all these tickets?” I sold over a hundred tickets, just, “C’mon baby, I’ll be with you.”

2:01:21 to 2:02:42
PM: Executive Sweet was originally started by Pam Turrell and Sheron Webb. DJ Sheron Webb. They asked me to come on board. I came on board, and we started giving parties, I’d say for about two years.

A lot of things transpired during that time. DJ Sheron started doing something else, Pam Turrell moved back to Virginia. Pam Turrell used to be Vera’s lover, so Vera was always around anyway. So there was a year when we didn’t do anything [ with ] Executive Sweet. And so I decided to still have parties because everybody kept asking, “Is Executive Sweet coming back? Is Executive Sweet coming back?” So I asked about 10 of my friends—no, I asked 30people to sell 10 tickets. Because 10 tickets would bring 300. I told those 30 people that they could keep money for five. So, you know, … I mentioned that to everybody, and I called everybody. I said Executive Sweet Associated, and I made these banners. And Vera sold so many tickets, I decided to ask her to be my partner for Executive Sweet.

TB: What years are we talking about, when it first started, and then when you took over exclusively?

2:02:47 to 2:02:50
PM: Oh god, it’s been about 30 years.
2:02:50 to 2:03:06
VW: Well, I don’t know. I came back from DC in ’79 and Pam was here and, essentially, it started in 1979. And Pat and I started in 1982.

TB: Why don’t we say that Executive Sweet restarted, rebooted with you guys in the early ‘80s.

2:03:10 to 2:03:19
PM: Early ‘80s. Executive Sweet rebooted in the early ‘80s. I’d say.

TB: Talk about why there was such a need for Executive Sweet, and who the audience was.

2:03:24 to 2:04:29
PM: There was a strong need for a place, an organization like Executive Sweet because women were so discriminated against at the bars; we didn’t have any place to go. Women who were professional, like had very good jobs, didn’t want to go out to some of those bars because they didn’t want to be seen.

Women of color have a difficult time being out. We are uncomfortable with that in terms of our families, our jobs, and just being out period because we don’t want to be discriminated against in terms of our family or our jobs. So Executive Sweet was like a closet-type organization. We never wrote the word “lesbian” on any of our literature; it would always be “women’s groups” or something like that. So we always said Executive Sweet, Pat and Vera, was synonymous with lesbianism. The word got out, in that respect.

TB: What were some of the—where and when were some of the early parties? Kind of paint a picture for us.

2:04:40 to 2:05:19
PM: Executive Sweet early parties were basically in straight environments. For instance, we would go to a straight bar that might look like it was having a hard time. We’d travel around in the car on a Friday night or Saturday night and look for a bar that didn’t have much business, and we would approach the owner and say, “Look, we got a group of women, a social organization, and we’d like to give a function here”. We would go to different ballrooms like the HotHouse—it used to be called Crystal Palace, Marina City.

2:05:20 to 2:05:22
VW: That’s when we knew that we outgrew ourselves.

2:05:23 to 2:06:04
PM: Right, there was a place called the Galaxy, which is now in the location of McDonalds Hard Rock McDonalds. As a matter of fact, they were tearing the place down while the party was leaving, on Clark Street. We’ve been to so many places, the ________, Broadway Limited, Victoria Victoria. We’ve been all over the North [ Side ] . we usually like to have our parties in a central location, in the downtown area.

TB: Talk about the volume of women, and the types of women who came.

VW: Gorgeous.

2:06:08 to 2:06:51
PM: We would try to approach beautiful women because beautiful women attract beautiful women. Working-class women. We would usually go out and pass our fliers, not to every- and anybody. We would discriminate because we knew we wanted the party to be a safe environment for people who just wanted to party, and not cause any type of problems. So that’s what we were known for, having a party in a safe location, and you could have a good time without any type of physical harassment.

TB: For Executive Sweet, what were some of the largest parties you had, and favorite memories, and where they were?

2:06:56 to 2:07:01
PM: Oh, about, I’d say, 8-900 or more, a thousand.

2:07:02 to 2:07:12
VW: We’ve had, Executive Sweet alone, we have had, because we used to use a ticket system and that’s how we did it, and I think I clocked at one time 1,100 women.

2:07:13 to 2:07:49
PM: Yeah, it varies … because we did boat rides, we did events at hotels, we’ve done out-of-town. We’d take a busload of women to other cities to party with other gay women’s groups for Cincinnati and Chicago. … Christmas in July in Cincinnati, Ohio, we would always take a group because it was a big club there. We used to have weekend parties at a mansion in Wauconda, during the early’80s.

2:07:50 to 2:08:21
VW: And we also, with a different group, the March on Washington, Stonewall, we got a group, a planeload of us went down for that. So, for me, that was the most wild, once in a lifetime. I don’t know if I would ever see that again, just like the gay Olympics. I hope I’m living for the next gay Olympics, but those were some of the milestones in my life. Not just with Executive Sweet, but being in the gay life because those were heartfelt to me.

TB: Talk about how you sustained this over this long period of time, both having full-time jobs and other activities that you did. Talk about how frequent Executive Sweet was, and how it sustained itself.

2:08:33 to 2:09:28
PM: When Executive Sweet first started out giving events, we would find, we found three different bars, one on the South Side and two on the North Side. There used to be a place called the El Panama on 73rd and Stony Island. We would have a party there on Wednesday nights. On Friday nights, we were at a place on the North Side on Sheffield called The Factory. Then on Sundays, we were on Clark Street, the Galaxy.

So we would have parties three times a week. Eventually we would do once a month, and now we do it twice a year, because we’ve gotten older …

2:09:29 to 2:09:54
VW: Well, she’s getting older. It’s just that we’ve noticed that the women that came out, even for our 25th anniversary party, we listened back on the videotape, because it was videotaped, and listened to them, they were 17 years old. We thought they were 21. So it was interesting to know this, at that time. I mean we’re known. I’ve had people walk up to me, “Are you Vera …?”

2:09:55 to 2:10:20
PM: Right, they’d say, “I used to be 16; I’d come to your parties.” I said, “What?” I said, “you weren’t 21?” And so now, most of the people that come, a lot of them, they’re reaching like 40, they’re in their 40s, and I said, “You were that young? I say, you were underage!” But they didn’t act like it, and they didn’t look like it, and they had ID, so.

2:10:21 to 2:11:02
VW: One thing about our functions that we had, they would have to dress up and come out. Rarely do I go out in jeans to a club. I don’t care if it’s the scummiest club, I like to be dressed up in some way. But our women like to come out and dress up and come out.

I think over the 25 years that we have been existing, we had one big fight, and the girl got barred, and you get barred for life. And actually, our guests that are there, they look out, they go, “Pat and Vera, somebody’s ….” So we nipped it in the bud before it even got any further. So they enjoyed dressing up and coming out to our events.

Other Interviewer: Can you both say something a little more about how those three-times-a-week parties, how that really integrated into your overall life, how that became your life, how you managed other work, and how did it affect, you know, your overall future? Becoming so successful, did it make you look at other opportunities differently?

2:11:27 to 2:13:51
PM: When we decided to do parties three times a week, it was because of the need for the event. Most of us, we didn’t have anywhere else to go. My profession gave me the opportunity to do that. I mean I worked five and a half hours a day, so I was younger and I could get up, so it was easy for me to be out late.

I didn’t mention earlier the fact that we eventually opened up a bar on Clark St. called Sweets. And we had a partnership with some older guys. What happened was, it was a bar with mostly drag queens, and they had decided to close it down because of the drag queens, the type of element that would come, because straight men would come and they didn’t like it so they asked us to go into partnership with them. This was in the early ‘80s, and Pam Turrell and I at the time opened up the bar with these guys. I can’t even remember their names, that’s how long ago.

We were open for about nine months and it was called Sweets, and it was 3556 or 3546, I can’t even remember the address, but we would give various events, and that was every day. That bar was open until 4 o’clock, and during that time we lived on the South Side, and we had to come all the way to the North Side. Pam would be there during the day, and I would take it in the evening and close it down at 4 o’clock. I almost died. I almost died … because I felt like we needed a space, but I had to come to grips with the fact that more lesbians needed to be educated to entertain, and I had to let it go.

We let it go because it was just too much work, keeping our daytime jobs too; it just didn’t work out.

TB: Talk about, since you are partners, and you’ve had different partners in life, but you’ve been business partners, talk about how you sustain the business relationship.

2:14:02 to 2:14:32
PM: We’ve sustained the business relationship because it’s only two people. And we sort of talk everything, we want the same thing, and we have basically the same goals. We want a place for women to come in and enjoy themselves, and be entertained at the same time, in a safe environment; so that’s easy. When you’ve got two people on the same ideals, you don’t need a big group.

2:14:32 to 2:14:41
VW: You know, with some clubs—I mean, with some organizations—you got the president. We’re both presidents. I have no more power over her, we just do things differently.

2:14:43 to 2:14:45
PM: I talk more.

2:14:45 to 2:14:50
VW: Yes, she does. I don’t talk on mics, so that’s one thing about it. I’m surprised I made it through this interview without crying.

2:14:51 to 2:15:19
PM: And another thing, Vera would go out more than I did. Vera would frequent all of the parties and all of the bars. Me, I would frequent the different organizations and the more political or—stuff like that. That’s what I was more involved in. She was more the party girl, see; I would go to a lesbian meeting. She would go to a lesbian party.

TB: We talked about the business partnership; talk about your separate relationships and how the lesbian community is supportive or not supportive of long-term relationships, and what your situations are now.

2:15:36 to 2:16:28
PM: Well, I think in terms of lesbians being supportive of long-term relationships period. I found it quite difficult through the years to have long-term relationships with women because of my involvement in Executive Sweet. When you know a lot of women, and you’re involved in so many activities, sometimes it can get in the way of your sexual life, and I had such a passion for doing what I’m doing, it satisfied the need. … even though I may have wanted to be in a long-term relationship and be with one woman, the passion for what I was doing just outweighed it.

2:16:29 to 2:17:08
VW: With me, it interfered with my other life. As I said, I’d been in a relationship for 14 years with a wonderful Hispanic woman, but she did not like the fact that I had to be in someone’s face, or someone had to touch me, not inappropriately, but it bothered her. I struggled with that with her for 14 years, and then the relationships that were after it couldn’t deal with me knowing, and me being out in the public having to do things that I would have to do when events would go off. So it would take a lot of time away from home, I got more support from my family than I did from my lover.

TB: And your situations today?

2:17:12 to 2:17:27
VW: Today is better. It’s better today. I’ve still got a lot of support from my family. My children come to my events, they bring their friends to my events. My grandchildren know what I do.

2:17:29 to 2:17:50
PM: I think nowadays, now that I’m older, I try to, if I’m involved with somebody, I already let them know, this is what I’m involved in, and if they can’t hang, then they can’t be with me. Because I’m not changing. I already know, this is who I am, and they have to come along with it, or hey, bye.

2:17:51 to 2:18:25
VW: So this is great thing being able to bring that many women together, and having a good time and seeing people come out in the life for the first time, meeting their first lover. … we can tell, we can go on with this for days. We’ve known when people have met for the first time.

We had a girl who came on one of our boat rides and came with her boyfriend, and left with a girl. And she’s still in the life today. We’ve got a lot of good success stories, of relationships with people that come to our events and they love it, and they shared that with us at our 25th anniversary in December.

Other Interviewer: My question has to do with, what do you both think, being woman business owners, do you think, what’s the significance of that, to be women and to be running and owning your own business and making something happen like you have?

2:18:45 to 2:19:17
PM: I think the significance of being women in business, or business owners, is that you have the control. You determine the destiny, you are responsible for the outcome, you have to do the work. It’s all about what you put in it, and what you get out of it. If you don’t pt anything in it, you don’t get anything out of it, and you don’t have anybody to blame but yourself. So that control factor, which I stated earlier on, I love being in control.

TB: Since we were talking right before we started this tape, about careers and such, I want to make sure we got to what you’re doing now, and also what you’re planning on doing. So let’s start with you, Vera.

2:19:35 to 2:20:57
VW: Today I work for Prologue Alternative High School. … [ I’m ] also a program coordinator for women who are HIV-positive through the sex trade, and I hold monthly groups with them, and I do case management with them, and do different services that they may need. Also I do HIV and AIDS education to the students at three high schools.

My passion with HIV/AIDS today is because I have a brother who is living with AIDS. It took a big toll on my mother because my mother didn’t understand what AIDS was, and I had to break it down—it’s like cancer, there’s no cure. There’s treatment, and this here, so. As time went on and my friends were dying, then I got more educated, and now I’ve got so many certificates and everything that I have done, I can’t even name all of them, but I go out and I do outreach, and there was a day I would not give a kid a condom. I’d give ‘em a box today, to keep them safe.

You know, I don’t want them to have sex, but if you have to, I want them to protect themselves. So I’m doing outreach in HIV and AIDS. I love it today. I volunteer for Chicago AIDS Foundation, American Red Cross, the whole nine.

2:20:59 to 2:21:27
PM: Basically, what I plan to do for the future is, to get more involved in dealing with the gay and lesbian youth, in terms of just sitting down and talking with them. I haven’t gone over to the Center on Halsted yet, but I plan to do some more volunteer [ work ] with the LGBT youth. I haven’t decided how I want to fit myself into that, but that’s what I want to do.

TB: You know we talked a little bit about you being a teacher, and you talked about special ed, but I’m curious if you’ve seen a change in acceptance levels over the years in the youth you’ve seen around, and you as well, if you’ve seen generationally changes, and if it’s towards GLBT youth?

2:21:51 to 2:22:07
PM: The changes I’ve seen in youth, in terms of the LGBT community. I feel like they are more out, they feel more comfortable being out. [ to Vera ] What do you think?

2:22:09 to 2:22:51
VW: By me working with the students, even in our last graduation, we had three [ gay youth ] . Two girls and a boy, and the other students at the school welcomed them. They know who they are. I went to prom with them; that was a thing to see, and even when I’m in school, there’s a lot of them out and everyone treats them equal. They don’t talk about them; we don’t allow it. We just say, “Be yourself, but don’t go over,” because one guy said, “I want to wear a dress to prom.” I said, “The students welcome you, you can dress appropriate this day.”

TB: Is there anything else about Executive Sweet you want to get in? How was the 25th anniversary? What did it mean to you? When and where was it?

2:23:04 to 2:24:07
PM: The 25th anniversary for Executive Sweet was held at the Marmon Grand, which is on 22nd and Michigan. We did a video, we had a video slide show of past parties and different events. We had somebody walk around with a video camera and ask women about their past experience with Executive Sweet.

Most of the women there were people who had been coming through the years, and some new people, but it was a really exciting and inspirational-type setting because a lot of people were there to say thank you for being a part of the community, thank you for being able to have spaces for us to enjoy ourselves, just thank you for being. So we felt real good.

2:24:08 to 2:24:26
VW: I did. It was really nice, I can’t say no more. I’ve looked at the videos over and over and over again, and like Pat said, there were people there that were there with us from the beginning. And the new people that came in today said that they wished that they were there at the beginning, but they were still in diapers.

TB: What about some of the other acknowledgements you’ve gotten in terms of the Hall of Fame or other things, over the years?

2:24:32 to 2:24:56
VW: … just this year, the Youth Pride Center kids honored us. … That was great, I mean to be honored by the youth today as us being legends, that was great. I mean, we’ve been honored by Affinity and a lot of other organizations; it was good for me to hear the youths looking out for us.

2:24:56 to 2:25:15
PM: And the way they did it, because they had one on one; one youth was with Vera, and one was with me and they would ask questions, and then they escorted us down the stairs, and they were so attentive to us. It was quite—it was nice. … t least they know about us.

2:25:16 to 2:25:35
VW: Even as of today, one of the youths—she escorted me—I’ve stayed in constant talks with her on issues that she’s dealing with today, so I feel good about that. And I’ve made donations back to the youth center, as I could. The youths was the best part, it really was.

TB: Are there other organizational involvements like Lesbian Community Cancer Project or other groups that you’ve supported and played roles in terms of, formerly on the board, or volunteered for, et cetera?

2:25:45 to 2:25:59
VW: I’ve volunteered for the Lesbian Community Cancer Project on numerous occasions.

2:26:00 to 2:26:45
PM: Yes, both of us have. We have volunteered for numerous organizations. One that I know—well Literary Exchange, The Affinity Community Services, which I am an event chair for this year for Jazz in July. Mountain Moving Coffeehouse, I used to be very active with them. Just numerous organizations I can’t even mention. … I’ve found that, wherever there’s a strong need, especially I like to go wherever there’s a limited amount of people of color. I like to be the pepper in the salt, so to speak.

VW: That’s my partner.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, the book is edited by Tracy Baim and features the contributions of more than 20 prominent historians and journalists. It is published by Surrey Books, an Agate imprint, and is hard cover, 224 pages, 4-color, with nearly 400 photos.
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