Giving Matters More Than Getting

There are two fundamental reasons why I first started the Express Gay News in 1999, and then the South Florida Gay News, in 2010.

My primary aspiration was to illuminate the lives and passions, and the accomplishments and achievements of the LGBT community. I wanted to show we are all a part of the larger society around us, not apart from it. Straight or gay, black or white, we all share a lot more in common than we do apart.

Our community needs to sustain a credentialed newspaper that shows what gays and lesbians do in the daytime with their clothes on, not who we do in the nighttime. That is nobody’s business but our own, whether you put jelly on your belly or lace up with leather. Stay the hell out of my bedroom, and I will stay the hell out of your church.

What I have learned over three decades as a gay activist is the gay community has had to do a lot of things on its own. In the very first stages of the AIDS epidemic, no one anywhere would help us except ourselves.

The very first meeting of HIV advocates was held in the basement of the Marlin Beach Hotel in 1984 on A1A. It was at the location where Beach Place is now. There were all of 8 people there, and a President of the United States who refused to use the word AIDS in public. 29 years later, in 2013, there was an AIDS walk on the same beach that drew thousands of participants and raised nearly one million dollars. We have come a long way.

Though AIDS has become a scourge and epidemic that has stolen so many of our lives too soon and too young, it was gay men who first spoke out and fought back, often alone. In those early days, no major corporations underwrote public initiatives to raise awareness about the spreading virus.

Usually, it was bar owners and drag queens hosting fundraisers or cutting edge activists from ACT UP speaking out in public forums. They raised funds, stood up, and awoke an inert nation. We have gone from apathy to awareness.

A bit older now, many of those good people still have homes and their hearts in our community. The LGBT community has more stars in its rainbow than the Pride Center could ever honor with its yearly awards ceremony. Our community has forged an iron will and developed organizations that give, care, and reach out.

‘Our Fund,’ a foundation that unites the LGBT community, has created a vehicle for planned giving to these groups. They just published a pocket-sized guide titled “Making the Connection.” It is a small book but has a large reach. They are able to list 28 local non-profits you can support.

SFGN is here to empower those who embrace and empower us. We want to give back. We are still a business. We want to give to charities, but not become one. You can’t just give away print ads and stay in business, anymore than you can give away your mortgage money and remain in your home. If another paper wants to sell ads for a hundred bucks a page, I can’t stop them. But you get what you pay for.

At SFGN, we announced this week a new multimedia partnership with CNN. You can also read SFGN’s original content on the Sun Sentinel website, another media partner. Our own website releases a dozen new articles daily. SFGN is affiliated with the Florida Press Association and the Associated Press. We use professional journalists, and research investigative stories. Credibility and content are our watchwords, but social commitment remains our fundamental principle.

Next month, we are collaborating with a host of local non-profits to launch a major community partnership night with the Miami Marlins. On June 14, we will be promoting our first annual  ‘You Can Play’ Night, promoting an organization that fights homophobia in sports. It will be a major statement by our LGBT community that we are taking a stand. Let’s fill the stadium with pride.

The “You Can Play” Project, which we will be talking about for the next four weeks, grew out of a young gay hockey player’s life story. We illuminated his life but sadly, had to write about his death in the first few issues of SFGN, back in 2010.

Brendan Burke worked as a manager in the locker room with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His dad was the general manager. He was gay and supported by the whole team. Everyone was devastated when he was killed in an auto accident on his way home from a college class. The ‘You Can Play’ project emerged from his passing.

Beginning this year, I created a new position here at SFGN. It should have been written about when other staff changes were made, because this is as important as any we can make. John Fugate was moved from commercial promotions to Community Outreach Director.

Giving is the only way to live. John brings to the position enthusiasm, energy, and a passion for life and caring.  If you want to reach out to him, get tickets, or find out information about how you can be part of this adventure, contact him at our office. He is the guy in charge of making it happen.

Join with the other media partners we will also profile in the next few weeks.  Show again that the LGBT community reaches people who care. If you can’t go, buy a dozen tickets for others like Kids in Distress, who can rent a bus for their own children who can go. If you don’t like baseball, buy two-dozen tickets for us to give away to someone who loves baseball but can’t afford to go.

This column is for every one of you who have ever stood up and helped out, whether on a bicycle, AIDS walk, or working a booth at PrideFest.

Once again, it falls upon us to make a difference.

Once again, we will rise to the occasion. Norm Kent


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