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Pride And Prejudice

It only took a moment for 10 protesters to step off the curb, into the path of the Stonewall Columbus annual pride parade. And only another moment for the attending police officers to react. A confusing whirlwind left them maced. Four were detained, one of whom was later nearly felonized. But, it also thrust them [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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It only took a moment for 10 protesters to step off the curb, into the path of the Stonewall Columbus annual pride parade. And only another moment for the attending police officers to react. A confusing whirlwind left them maced. Four were detained, one of whom was later nearly felonized.

But, it also thrust them into Columbus civil rights history.

A year of criminal charges, press coverage, and tumult within the LGBTQ+ community would ensue. The fallout from the way Stonewall Columbus handled, or to some, failed to protect, the “Black Pride 4,” would lead to a resignation and a retirement from the leadership of the longtime community organization that produces the city’s massive Pride celebration.

From that protest and arrests sprang a grassroots movement that spread like wildfire in the ensuing months, birthing a new movement for queer and trans people of color in Columbus.

Today, Wripley Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton, and DeAndre Miles stand as the faces to the fight for visibility in the capital city. While Columbus as a whole has been celebrating Pride as a monolith of progress, the city’s LGBTQ+ citizens of color have long felt sidelined in the increasingly corporate and policed celebration downtown.

Their protest, performed in black t-shirts, silent mouths symbolically taped shut, arms linked, had a multi-pronged aim.

They wanted seven minutes of silence in observance of the unprosecuted shooting death of public school employee Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer, the ongoing problem of police brutality toward people of color, and the recognition of the lack of equality of people of color within the LGBTQ+ community. Columbus police officers responded with mace and riot-control tactics.

The goal was to disrupt business as usual and interrupt the parade.

The result was a booming call to change that has now reverberated throughout the city—and created a new way to celebrate pride in Columbus, Ohio. 

The intense marginalization of people of color within the already marginalized LGBTQ+ community was no surprise to people living their daily lives at the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality. As early as 2010, attempts had been made by various organizations to center the voices of people of color in the context of one of the country’s largest pride celebrations. This resulted in Columbus Urban Pride, which was integrated into the larger event. Despite their best efforts, this movement fizzled out around 2016. This happened to be the year Ariana Steele arrived in Columbus. An academician and activist, Steele saw no organizations dedicated to the visibility of queer and trans people of color upon their arrival from Chicago (by way of Seattle). Steele, along with several friends, decided to band together and start their own. They co-founded Black Queer Intersectional Columbus (BQIC), a community organization committed to lifting up the voices of queer and trans people of color.

And now, as a direct response to their feelings of exclusion from the larger pride celebration, and community as a whole, they’ve started Community Pride, their answer to what they feel is a celebration unmoored from their mission by corporate whitewashing—one that has become increasingly dominated by the image of cis-gender, white, middle class, gay and lesbian couples.

Community Pride is a celebration of the lives, and a recognition of the struggles, of queer and trans people of color. It accepts no corporate sponsorships. No police will be hired or welcomed. Security will be provided by black- and trans-owned private local security firms. A series of events without a centralized location, the initiative seeks to center the voices of those who have been marginalized exponentially.

Some say the splitting off comes at the detriment of the greater LGBTQ+ community, fracturing solidarity and splitting resources. Others say that the fissure has always existed, perpetuated by an increasingly corporate establishment, at the risk and loss of black lives.

Many sides agree on one thing: the LGBTQ+ community in Columbus will never be the same.

One year later, (614) was given a chance to sit down with Ariana Steele, Co-founder of BQIC & Community Pride Director, in the weeks leading up to the first annual Community Pride, and discuss the events of last year, the fallout, and the growth of a new movement in the public eye of the capital city.

One of the first criticisms the Black Pride 4 faced was the approach of the protest. Do you think things would have gone differently if they had notified the parade organizers of their intentions and actions?

Things would definitely have gone differently because it wouldn’t have been an interruption. I don’t think it would have been so traumatic. Pretty much immediately after, the first things that Pride organizers were saying were, You should have told us. You need to get a permit to be a part of the parade … It would have been different and more palatable in some ways, but also not as visible publicly. Part of protest is interrupting business as usual, which is what gets on national news and local news.

The headlines across the country weren’t just a result of the Black Pride Four’s actions, but a catalyst for them. Columbus Division of Police have long been embattled with activists, as well as the Department of Justice relating to their use of force, especially in interactions with people of color. A 1999 investigation by the DOJ resulted in a federal lawsuit demanding changes in training for Columbus officers, as well as investigations into formal citizen complaints against them. The Fraternal Order of Police was able to fight the DOJ demands, and renegotiate.

I know that the Columbus Division of Police is a big suitcase to unpack, but what are some things that you would like to see changed?

[The CDP] were able to sue the Department of Justice in order to not implement the changes that they were told to implement. As shown by that example, they have a lot of power. They have been able to push for things to not change. I don’t know what can really be done for the police. There’s a lot wrong. Columbus Police Department is number one in the country for killing black people.

Unfortunately, this grim fact checks out, statistically. According to mappingpoliceviolence.org, which uses data sets from the U.S. Census Bureau, police killing statistics from police reports, and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 76 percent of CDP homicides from 2013 to 2017 were of black people, despite black people making up only 27 percent of the population of the city. Columbus leads the nation proportionally in the homicides of black citizens by police officers

Community Pride has been using the hashtag #PickaPride. Some people think that is divisive to the [LGBTQ+] community. What is your reaction to that?

When people say that we are dividing a community, I think those are often people who didn’t realize that there [were] already divisions in the community. There’s a difference between creating divisions, and calling attention to divisions that were already there. That’s what we’re doing. A lot of people who are coming to Community Pride haven’t been to Stonewall Pride for years because they didn’t feel safe there, or they didn’t feel accurately represented by them. So saying “#pickapride”—to me that’s just clear that there is a difference in how we’re executing this.

How do you feel about people who want to go to both? 

Ideally, we want people to not go to Stonewall’s, and to come to Community Pride. But we also recognize that groups like Human Rights Campaign need to get signatures, need to get people signed up to vote …. they’re going to be at both. In that case, it makes sense to me because you just need more people to make that political change. Individuals who want to go to both … it’s at that point not really something that matters to me, because I’m happy that people want to support Community Pride and are curious about it. Whether or not they’re going to Stonewall’s Pride as individuals isn’t that important when it comes down to it—because by being in support of Community Pride, they are uplifting this grassroots movement.

Is unity among people of the LGBTQ+ community of all colors an eventual goal? Can you see a future combining again?

I think the way for that to happen would be if larger organizations and the community as a whole recognize that there are currently these divides, and a lot of these divides are because people of color are not being put to the forefront. When we operate under an idea that “we’re just working for people in general, or for the everyday queer person,” a lot of people generally think of the everyday queer person as a white, cis man, or woman who is gay or lesbian. And that leaves out a lot of people who really need help. [People] who are dealing with homelessness, being forced into sex work. When we don’t focus on the most marginalized in our communities, in this case focusing on trans people of color, especially in the queer community, then it leaves this division. It’ll keep going. So if at some point the greater LGBTQ+ community could focus on the most marginalized, then I think that would allow us to all work together.

Beyond that, what is the ultimate goal?

I don’t know if we’ll ever be done. If we are able to create a network or a location or something that will serve queer and trans people of color, and help them get the services that they need, get them housing, food … I think that would be a really good step in the right direction. Post Community Pride, we’re going to work on emergency housing for LGBTQ+ use, because there is no resource for that in Columbus and it’s something that really needs to be changed. While [Community Pride] was birthed out of this division between Stonewall Pride, and those who are against Stonewall Pride, in a sense; I want to think of it now as not an anti-Pride, but just a Pride that is explicitly and intentionally for the whole LGBTQ+ community. By being [that,] we are also focusing on and centering people of color. I want it to be more positive and uplifting.

Steele knows firsthand that language has power. Power to identify or hide oneself from others. Power to help or harm. Power to disrupt. As the vehicle of communication, language can drive a cause forward. And so when it comes to Community Pride, Stonewall Columbus, and police brutality, we as a community must have a conversation, and we must keep talking. And when it comes to the evolving story of queer and trans people of color—a statistically small group of people who face an astronomical rate of discrimination and violence in Columbus, and around the world—that is when we must listen.

BQIC’s Columbus Community Pride will consist of a series of events throughout the month of June, culminating in the Community Pride Festival, held at Mayme Moore Park (240 Martin Luther King Blvd.) 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. All ages are welcome to enjoy performances and visual art by queer and trans artists of color, a community resource fair, outdoor activities for children, PoC-owned food trucks, and more. For more, visit columbuscommunitypride.org.

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Safe Space: New day dawns for animals in need at Sunrise Sanctuary

Mike Thomas

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Wooly Bully is a nine-year-old Jersey steer. He came to Sunrise Sanctuary after being rescued by an elderly couple who saved him from being put down by his previous owner. Having never spent much time around other cattle, Wooly typically likes to hang out near the front of the property with the pigs.

This is just one story. Of the approximately 170 animals who call Sunrise Sanctuary home, Sandra Horvath could tell you about all of them.

There’s Miss Ping, a pig saved from a factory farm by an eight-year- old’s birthday wish. Or Woody the goat, who’s down to one horn after an accident sustained while roughhousing with a ram.

Horvath knows each animal by name and can give a detailed account of how they came to be at Sunrise. She knows each one’s particular peccadilloes, their medication needs, the personal histories. It’s not just a matter of practicality. She speaks of—and to—each animal as a close friend and companion.

Photos: Leah Conway

Brooklyn, New York native Mindy Mallet started Sunrise Sanctuary in 2001 after relocating to Central Ohio in the ‘90s. The 16-acre property in Marysville is a farm-style refuge where rescued animals are free to live and roam the grounds. There are three large barns at Sunrise, along with miscellaneous small buildings, chicken coops, a sizeable pond, and Mindy’s own home. The animals have the run of it all, with some barricades here and there when inter-species divisions are necessary.

Animals who find their way to Sunrise will call the sanctuary home for the rest of their natural lives. With its mission of acceptance and love for creatures large and small, Sunrise is a beacon of hope for animals in need—not to mention the people who volunteer their time to care for them.

Horvath became a volunteer in 2013 after falling in love with the sanctuary during a public event held there. When the property next to the farm went up for sale, she sold her downtown Columbus condo and moved her life to be closer to her passion. Lending a hand with the day-to-day operations is now all but a full-time job for Horvath, who balances her role as a devoted caretaker to her animal friends with a career as a practicing attorney.

“The daily work is hard. It’s mostly just making sure everybody is treated individually with proper time and attention,” says Horvath. “It’s not hard to stay motivated, but there’s just always a lot you worry about.”

With over 170 animals to care for, “a lot to worry about” is perhaps an understatement. The cast of critters at Sunrise currently includes four steer, seven equine, six sheep, four goats, 15 pigs, roughly 27 cats, two bunnies, several rats, and a whole lot of birds.

“Our mission is to take on as many animals as we can responsibly, and give them the best life possible.”

While the emotional and physical labor involved in caring for this many creatures is substantial, keeping the sanctuary running also has its challenges. Between feed, medication, vet bills, and the cost of maintaining the grounds, among other miscellaneous expenses, funding the operation is financially demanding.

Sunrise depends on three primary streams of revenue to keep the lights on: contributions from private donors, assistance from grants, and funds generated through special events such as Sunrise’s monthly “open barn” days, when the grounds are opened to the public. In addition to the funding they provide, these events provide a valuable opportunity to educate the public on responsible animal stewardship practices.

“Our mission is to take on as many animals as we can responsibly, and give them the best life possible. We also like to educate people,” says Horvath. “If enough people visit farm sanctuaries instead of other types of places, like petting zoos, they’re going to connect with them on a different level, and I think the views about animals in our society will change.”

With increased education, the need for sanctuaries like Sunrise might disappear altogether. As it stands, Sunrise can’t always accommodate every animal in any given situation. While adoptions occur on a case-by-case basis, the sanctuary is currently at capacity. Providing the optimal care and attention for animals already in their care is the focus of the Sunrise staff.

“I hate saying no to anyone, because there are amazing animals out there that just need a chance. But if we said yes to everybody, we couldn’t take care of the ones we have,” Horvath explains. “We don’t ever want to get in a place where we can’t take care of the ones we have really, really well.”

Ideally, all animals would have a safe and happy place to call home. For now, Sunrise Sanctuary is a slice of heaven on Earth for a few lucky animals (and the people who love them) to enjoy.

To learn more about Sunrise Sanctuary, visit them on Facebook or online at SunriseSanctuary.org.

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The local architecture firm who gave beautiful home to family in need

Mike Thomas

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Curt Moody knew he wanted to be an architect before he knew there was a name given to that particular career path. While enrolled in a middle-school industrial arts program, he discovered a love for drawing, but was less than taken with the rendering of machine parts that made up much of the curriculum.

“In the back of one of the books, there were houses,” Moody explains. “I asked my instructor if he’d allow me to draw those instead of what was normal for the class, and he said yes. That was when I knew I wanted to do buildings.”

Thanks to this gracious concession from his seventh-grade teacher, Moody had taken the first steps in what would be an accomplished career. Moody Nolan, the architecture firm that Moody would go on to found in 1982, is today a booming operation with offices throughout the country and an impressive list of awards and accolades to its name.

The successes enjoyed by Moody today are largely a result of opportunities available to him in his youth, and the fact that others may not be as privileged is not lost on him. Like many businesses that have achieved a certain status, Moody Nolan has engaged in the sort of philanthropic work that is expected of leaders in the community. 

In spite of years of time and energy spent giving to various causes and organizations, Moody couldn’t seem to shake the nagging sensation that he and his company could be doing more.

“There were so many golf outings and dinners that we participated in over the years, but if you asked us where did that money go,
we couldn’t tell you,” Moody says of the firm’s past charitable efforts. “We knew we were doing it for a good cause, but how can we do something better, using what we do? We are architects. We design buildings, we design houses—why can’t we use what we do to make something more permanent?”

Inspired to give back to the least advantaged members of society in a more tangible way, Moody and his associates conceived the Legacy Project. Designed to set an example to their peers in business and beyond, the project would begin with a single house, designed by Moody Nolan, to be given away to an underprivileged family at zero cost. 

“There are a whole lot of great programs out there when it comes to affordable housing, but the truth is there are not enough,” Moody explains of the issues central to the project. “There’s a problem that no one seems to know how to address: if you make $22,000 a year, what’s affordable [housing]? There’s nothing that you could purchase that is affordable when every bit of your income is going toward trying to just live.”

Its plan of action decided, Moody Nolan set aside 50% of its annual budget for giving to put toward the Legacy House. Moody reached out for donations from longstanding business partners, who donated time, funding, and building supplies to see the project through to completion. When all was said and done, the modern, fully-furnished 700-square-foot home included everything a family starting from scratch would need, from linens to cabinets fully stocked with food. 

Thanks to a land donation from The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Moody Nolan decided to place the home in Columbus’ Linden neighborhood. Having previously designed a community recreation center in the area, Moody and his associates were already well aware of the challenges faced by this economically disadvantaged community, and knew that it could benefit from the positive exposure.

When it came to finding a family in need to receive the home, Moody looked to YMCA of Central Ohio and Southeast Inc. to help navigate a list of potential candidates. 

“[Curt] really wanted a family that was currently experiencing homelessness. This would be a new start, a new beginning for a family that was in about the most vulnerable state that you could possibly be in as a human—which is without a home,” says Sue Darby, the Senior Vice President of Housing for the downtown Columbus YMCA. 

While the family who was ultimately chosen has asked to remain anonymous, Darby describes them as a very young family experiencing homelessness for the first time after a series of unfortunate life events.    

“I think what compelled us the most through the interview process was their determination, always putting the children first in every decision,” 

Darby says of the family. “With the legacy house, you’re just really hopeful that the poverty cycle for at least this family has now been broken.”

While the Legacy Project has made an immeasurable difference in the lives of one family, the realities of homelessness continue to pose significant challenges to communities in Central Ohio and beyond.

Moody and his partners hope that the greatest impact of the Legacy Project will be found in its example, and encourage others with the means to do so to undertake similar projects.

“I admire Moody Nolan for what they did, and I encourage other companies and individuals to take this same challenge, and to build new or revamp some areas that could be used for individuals who are in this kind of crisis,” says Darby. “Right now at Van Buren [shelter] we have over 80 families every night that come through our doors who are experiencing this tragedy. Affordable housing is the number-one issue. It’s not rocket science—housing ends homelessness.”

Moody Nolan plans to build other homes in the communities it serves. For more inforation, visit moodynolan.com

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The Interview: Wil Haygood

Author / Journalist / Curator Everyone loves an underdog. And in our interview, celebrated Columbus author Wil Haygood referenced many feel-good sports stories woven into the fabric of American culture. From Remember the Titans, to Hoosiers and Friday Night Lights, he maintains that the feat accomplished at East High during the 1968-69 school year, in [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Author / Journalist / Curator

Everyone loves an underdog. And in our interview, celebrated Columbus author Wil Haygood referenced many feel-good sports stories woven into the fabric of American culture. From Remember the Titans, to Hoosiers and Friday Night Lights, he maintains that the feat accomplished at East High during the 1968-69 school year, in which the Tigers won championships in basketball and baseball 55 days apart, eclipses them all.“I would never like to be called an activist,” says Wil Haygood when asked if he might consider himself such. “That’s not my game. I’m here just to find a good story. It’s my calling to be objective. I could never just tell one side of the story.”Yet, in reading his latest book, Tigerland, and immersing the reader in the strife East High faced in the wake of the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the “feel-good” triumph of two championships takes on a higher purpose. There’s so much more to the story. It’s the tale of a segregated city getting its first African-American principal in Jack Gibbs. Of the white basketball coach Bob Hart, choosing to settle in an East side neighborhood he was warned against. The players, and mothers of players, who persevered in the newly developed housing projects despite overwhelming odds. Haygood may not want the title activist, but Tigerland could easily serve as guide in how to counter civil unrest, especially now, fifty years removed.That objective journalism is becoming more of a rarity is troubling. Haygood’s storytelling is a resistance, and in Tigerland it’s a redemption story brought “from the shadows” that is uniquely complex and distinctly of Columbus. He insists there are many more stories of Tigerland’s ilk which must be exposed. The uncovering of a zeitgeist forgotten is a theme consistent with Haygood’s recent curation of the Harlem Renaissance exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. In I, Too, Sing America (also an award-winning art book), he chose to spotlight lesser-known writers and artists of the era that continue to play “an enduring role in moving us forward.” How that dais influenced the cultural rise of African-Americans in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood where the sub-plots in Tigerland play out, is palpable in Haygood’s words.In talking with Haygood, he’s acutely aware of how Tigerland’s legacy and the continued re-awakening of the Harlem Renaissance add to the social discourse that accumulates to this day. Our interview here is abridged, if only because we spent a taut 45 minutes veering down rabbit holes created by the vivid representation Haygood paints of Columbus, Ohio in 1968. Fortunately, it’s a conversation that has and could last for generations.In an interview you talked about Tigerland not being the story “you were born to write, but a story that the rest of the world needed to hear.” Why is this now such an important story?Wil Haygood: When I traveled around the country, to about 25 different cities talking about this book, people constantly asked me if the release of Tigerland was intentional given how timely the story was. It just happened that it was the 50th anniversary of the famous Olympic protests by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the Colin Kaepernick narrative was playing out, the President of the United States was attacking black athletes for their social activism—these were the things on the mind of so many people on this tour. Of course, I didn’t time it, but this story is just so topical, it’s so rich with drama, it just calls for very enlightening conversations with the people I met across the country.I love it for the locality, and learning about a Columbus I never knew existed. So I’m curious to know if the heroes in this book, Bob Hart (East’s white football coach), Jack Gibbs (East’s first black principal), and the Tiger athletes, have always been heroes in your eyes, especially growing up? Did Columbus, en masse, know the history being made on the East side of town? WH: The city was so segregated that it was hard to give the East side its proper due. A figure like Jack Gibbs—he’s someone who you can almost make a movie about his life. It took so much perseverance and so much focus for the student body of East High to do what they did in that 1968-69 calendar year that I thank the literary gods for the foresight to return to my hometown and pull this story together. Frankly I kept waiting for this to be written by someone else, given the amount of high school sports stories that are on the shelf. I’m not trying to rate this story against any of the others, but I do think that it’s a book with a sports theme. It’s also a book that’s about far more than sports.Was this your favorite book to write?WH: That’s a tough question, but here’s how I’ll answer. As a little boy, I lived in the North side of the city. When I lived there East High was a mythical place and I had never laid eyes on that school. But I knew about it because it seemed to be this spiritual epicenter of the East side. It was where you had a lot of black teachers, an all-black student body. Your uncles, aunts, and cousins would always be talking about East High School. It constantly grew in my little boy mind. I lived within walking distance of the Ohio State Fairgrounds, so I would always beg my mother to let me go watch the team play. You had to be there. It was a lot wrapped up inside of me as I approached this book, because in a real way I was writing about my heroes. I’m sure that my history and emotions played a part in me wanting to do this book. What memories do you have of Columbus during that time, that reminds you that no place was isolated from the racial and social unrest of the events of that era?WH: In the summer of 1968, the very summer of after Martin Luther King’s assassination, my mother moved her five children to the Bolivar Arms housing project. Within weeks of moving there, there were riots on Mt. Vernon [Avenue]. I, as a 13 year old boy, saw National Guard tanks right through my screen door. It was a very frightening summer for me to wrapped up in that racial turmoil. I did not know that urban unrest on the North side of town. That street was integrated, our neighbors were white. Then I was thrust into this community on the East side that was feeling pain—the pain of a lack of good housing, a lack of jobs. The whole environment of urban America was set right outside of my front door.How much do you think Columbus has progressed since the time of Tigerland in accepting inclusion and fostering growth in underprivileged neighborhoods like the East side?WH: There has been a lot of maturity and growth in this city. I’m very proud of a lot of things that have happened. There is no big city in this country right now that doesn’t have social problems, but I think Columbus has done a much better job than some cities certainly in creating a peaceful dialogue over the years. I think that there have been stories that haven’t been championed as much as they should have. There is a gap in what the young people of Columbus know about the city’s past. Another fact from the book is that during that school year in 1969, East High sent more kids to college than they ever had before. Those are stories people need to know.As a teacher of many students who come from broken homes and neighborhoods, I’d love to know what advice you give to young people?WH: Since the release of the book I’ve spoken to Somali students in St. Paul, Minnesota, to white students in rural Maryland, black students in Dayton, Ohio. I tell students that on their darkest day, on that day when they feel like the world is not loving them enough, that they need only to take inspiration from these East High Tiger athletes. Eight of the twelve basketball players’ mothers worked as maids, many of them did not have fathers living in the home, two of them had fathers in jail, and none of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. But what pushed them and helped them succeed was a championship attitude before they dribbled a basketball or swung a baseball bat. They knew they wanted to be successful. They can lean into this story and they can rise up. Sports is a very gentle way to open the door to talk about poverty, racism, and sexism. You want to hear about how the winners won and how the losers dealt with losing.Wil Haygood will be the first featured speaker of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Carnegie Author series on Jan. 27th. Register for free at Eventbrite.com.
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