By Annette Hope Billings
TOPEKA - “Love Is My Superpower!”declares the 2017 Topeka Pride t-shirt designed by local illustrator, Mallory Goeke. According to Topeka Pride president, Nicole Nesmith, the city will celebrate its 2017 pride week Sept. 11-16. The week includes something for everyone from children’s activities to trivia to burlesque.
The week will begin with an educational program presented by Beacon Youth Group (BYG). BYG is a vibrant group that provides support and education to LGBTQIA youth ages 12-20. This program will be at The Break Room Metro Eatery at 6pm on the 11th.
On Wednesday 9/13, NOTO Burrito in Topeka’s NOTO Arts District will host a percentage night with a portion of all food sales going to Topeka Pride.
By Jamie Rhodes
WICHITA - Denise Johnson’s story is a bitter-sweet one containing memories of confusion; but ultimately acceptance and the willingness to keep living as who she always was.
Growing up in a military family, the oldest of five kids, she always enjoyed hanging out with her mom cooking, but anytime her father caught her in the kitchen, he’d take her to the garage to work on other “manly things.” She did the things she thought she was expected to do, all the while, just feeling different. “As far back as six I knew I was different, but didn’t know how or why,” she said.
“I did what I was supposed to do. I had the wife, the family, drank beer, built things, and did the guy thing,” Johnson said. After getting laid off as a welder in the early 80s, she enlisted in the Air Force as Security Police (now known as Security Forces) and six years later got her rank as a Tech. Sergeant (TSgt.)
By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
WICHITA - On Jan. 21, one day after the nation witnessed the inauguration of Donald Trump to the highest political office in America, more than five million people across the globe participated in the Women’s March – with more than 500,000 marching in Washington, D.C.
The message of the march was clear: the narrow-minded views of the newly elected president were not reflective of those who marched. Among the stellar group of women who made the march happen was Carmen Perez, executive director of The Gathering for Justice, a nonprofit founded by activist Harry Belafonte in 2005, that focuses on building a movement to end child incarceration while working to eliminate the racial inequities in the criminal justice system that enliven mass incarceration.
By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
WICHITA - WSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) has selected Brad Thomison for the newly created LGBTQ Coordinator position. Thomison is no stranger to WSU. He graduated with honors from WSU in 2009 with a bachelor’s in music education. Since then, he has remained closely affiliated with various university programs and offices.
He served as the Alumni Adviser for Spectrum: LGBTQ & Allies for five years and has worked with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion staff on previous events. “My career adventure has included working as the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, international IT project management, which took me to numerous countries around Europe, owning a few small businesses, and working across multiple industries from education, human resources, and health care to food service and entertainment,” he says.
MANHATTAN - Fresh off the heels of the release of her new book, The Totally Unscientific Study Of The Search For Human Happiness, comedian Paula Poundstone is entertaining audiences across the country, leaving them complaining that their cheeks hurt from laughter and wondering if the random people she talks to are plants. Of course, they never are.
“On Friday, Sept. 8, I’ll be at the McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, KS. I’ve never been there before. I’ll try not to stare,” Poundstone said of her upcoming performance.
Poundstone can be heard regularly on NPR’s #1 show, the weekly comedy news quiz Wait, Wait...Don’t Tell Me! When asked about Poundstone, Wait, Wait host Peter Sagal replied, “Paula Poundstone is the funniest human being I have ever known. Everything she does, thinks, or says is hilarious. She is made of funny. If you chopped her into bits, each piece would be hilarious. (But don’t.)”
WICHITA – Autumn & Art, which last year drew 29,000 attendees, takes place Sept. 15-17 on Bradley Fair Parkway. This year’s event will feature 98 artists from 22 states, including 31 Kansas artists.
Jeff and Judy Goodwin are the Grant Thornton LLP Featured Artists for Autumn & Art 2017. The Goodwins create richly-colored porcelain and gold jewelry by combining techniques inspired by the Italian glass artform millifiori and a Japanese clay technique, nerikomi.
Activities will include the Art of Bloody Marys (a build-your-own bar) presented by The Good Egg from 10am-1pm, and Whiskey Tasting from 2-5pm on Saturday and Sunday; the Chill & Charge Lounge with a charging station by Living Sound and alfresco billiards courtesy of Chilton’s Billiards & Spas; and over-sized lawn games, including giant Jenga and chess provided by Bluestem Rentals.
WICHITA - Want to install solar panels? How much do your kids know about compost goop? How can hemp be used? What makes art “eco-conscious” - and how can you make (or buy) holiday jewelry and gifts from found objects?
Join us for the fourth annual EcoFest Wichita. Shop from Kansas-based vendors for locally sourced, creative, vintage, and repurposed items and art, make eco-friendly crafts you can keep, play games, eat delicious plant-based and grain-fed food, and talk to experts on everything from energy to gardening to advocating for the earth. Join the EcoFest treasure hunt and win prizes.
EcoFest Wichita will take place Sept. 23, from 10am-4pm, at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Wichita, 7202 E. 21st St. N. Admission is $2, free for kids under 12.
By Jamie Rhodes
WICHITA - Positive Directions, Inc. (PDI), a non-profit social service agency located in Wichita, provides HIV-prevention services, counseling and support to at-risk groups and inmates prior to release, volunteer support, HIV testing, outreach education and condom distribution in a safe and confidential environment. All PDI services are provided free of charge.
In addition to grant and state funding, PDI relies heavily on community support. With ArtAID coming to an end, the staff at PDI is starting a new fundraising Gala entitled Fire and Ice.
Building excitement for the new event, monthly launch parties are taking place until the main show on Jan. 19, 2018 - the Winter Fire and Ice Gala at Abode Venue. The first party, held on Final Friday in July, featured artist Mickey Maddox creating a one-of-a-kind work of art live to be auctioned at the Gala in January. Games, a DJ, and Fire and Ice Gala Tickets available for purchase rounded out the evening at the Positive Directions office and back patio. The next launch party is Bitchy Bingo on Sept. 21 at 7pm at Rain.
WICHITA – Pink Platoon is calling up breast cancer survivors in Sedgwick County and surrounding areas for a free health and wellness ‘boot camp’ from 8:30am-2pm on Saturday, Sept. 9 at KU School of Medicine–Wichita, 1010 N. Kansas. Each survivor is welcome to bring one guest. Lunch will be provided and participating breast cancer survivors will receive a tote bag filled with information as well as some Pink Platoon gift items.
Pink Platoon was developed in partnership with Susan G. Komen Kansas, KU School of Medicine-Wichita and Midwest Cancer Alliance (MCA), the outreach division of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. The ‘boot camp’ will include: Tips to improve energy and wellness after treatment, updates on coping with common after-effects of treatment, workshops on genetics, ‘Chemobrain,’ and more, a guidebook with local and national resources.
American Cancer Society research shows that one out of every four survivors experiences a decrease in their quality of life due to physical issues like pain and memory loss and one in 10 encounter emotional problems.
WICHITA - Extras needed! Casting Call for music video starring, Rudy Love. The song is called, Freedom. All ages, ethnicities, and sexual identities wanted to enact a protest touching on People of Color, the Black Lives Matter movement and all others who stand against hatred, bigotry and fascism. Think along the lines of John Legend’s music video, Glory.
Wear plain-colored clothes, no red, black, logos or busy patterns. If under 18, must be accompanied by an adult. Roles are voluntary. Filming will take place Saturday, Sept. 9 from 5-9pm at the Keeper of the Plains bridge in Wichita. Park at the Exploration Place back parking lot or across from the Indian Center. Bring protest signs and flags representing freedom of rights. Bring a snack and water.
By John Dalton-White
WICHITA - WSR Signature Theatre opens its 2017-18 theatre season with the 1939 American classic drama, The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman. Historically, the title comes from Chapter 2, Verse 15 of the book of Song of Solomon in the Bible, which reads, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”
Performances will be Sept. 15-16 at 8pm and Sept. 17 at 7pm in the historic Wichita Scottish Rite Center Theatre, 332 E. 1st St.
The enduring popularity of Hellman’s The Little Foxes offers proof positive that themes of greed, racism, and misogyny continue to resonate with contemporary audiences. It's set in a small Alabama town at the turn of the 20th Century, as the South struggled to modernize its economy.
“This is a somewhat forgotten, great American play with a recent revival on Broadway,” Director Phil Speary said, “It hasn’t been done here in Wichita since the 1990’s. Audience members will remember the great Bette Davis’ film version.”
By Grayson Barnes
WICHITA - In spite of the 100 degree heat, the crowd was upbeat at the intersection of Penny Lane and Abbey Road on the evening of July 19. No, we weren’t in England, but outside Intrust Bank Arena. The city of Wichita had renamed Waterman and English streets in honor of Sir Paul McCartney’s first concert in Kansas. Ever.
I have to be honest and say that I have reached the age where an evening at the theatre seems much more inviting than a concert. In fact, I can’t remember the last one I went to that wasn’t a cover band and didn’t require hauling your own lawn chair, but when I heard McCartney was coming I had to go.
My seat was close enough to feel the heat of the stage lights, so I was worried when McCartney came on outfitted in a Sgt. Pepper style jacket. Luckily he discarded that after the first song. His opener was Hard Day’s Night. This struck me as incredibly appropriate, given his history as a performing artist. He’s spent a lot of evenings working the stage.
This is a guy whose music I grew up with. The Beatles had broken up a few years before I was in my teens -- I had McCartney and Wings. I listened to the album Red Rose Speedway until the vinyl almost wore completely through. Today, perched in the back of my closet, it is, literally, unplayable.
I made a really poor decision last month and I’d like to apologize. Last month under the crunch of deadline I let the cover sent to me by my designer go to press. This, despite the fact that my initial reaction upon seeing it was, “Oh no, there aren’t any people of color represented.”
Not under anyone’s imagination are all the students, nor the LGBT students, that go to K-State white. My excuses for using it anyway, even though I had huge misgivings, are too lame to mention. It’s my job as editor to make sure stuff like that doesn’t go to print. I didn’t do my job and I’m sorry. It’s a lesson I have been slow to learn on many occasions - trust your gut - and that I will try to get right.
To add salt to the wound, the events in Charlottesville, VA happened shortly after. Okay goddess, I get it. Racism in big amounts as in Virginia or small amounts such as my misstep are unacceptable. No matter the size, it matters.
I was horrified by how big the rally of white supremacists was in Virginia. It scares me. I believe the issue of preserving statues that represent America’s history is an easy one: move them into museums where they belong and where their historical significance can be explained and put into context. Don’t tear them down, move them out of the public space where people who are offended by what they represent don’t have to see them unless they choose to.
Yes, I agree that the statues represent an important part of American history - an awful, humiliating, disgraceful, and shameful part. But just as Holocaust museums are needed to never forget an important part of German history, so are slavery/Confederacy museums.
By Grayson Barnes
WICHITA - Sgt. Don Kimball of the Wichita Police Department (WPD) is a night shift Field Supervisor at Patrol South. He didn’t expect his 5:30am e-mail to Police Chief Gordon Ramsay to get a reply for days, let alone in an hour. “That just tells me how committed he is to the LGBTQ community,” laughed Kimball.
As a 25-year veteran of the WPD, and, by his admission, “the only truly out gay male officer” he knows of, Kimball has seen the department’s attitudes about the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ WPD employees change a lot.
“Traditionally the situation has been one of mistrust,” Kimball said. He’s seen it in the police force and on the streets. This was difficult for him because he wanted to be a cop. “There were places I wouldn’t apply because I was told they didn’t want gay police officers,” he said. However, he believes attitudes have changed since Stonewall, “with one or two steps forward, another back, and then, recently, a surge ahead.”
That latest surge he referred to is the development of two LGBTQ Liaison posts at the WPD. Kimball’s wee hours message to Chief Ramsay was to thank him for attending a Wichita community vigil after the Pulse nightclub shooting last year. After that e-mail, Chief Ramsay created the Liaison positions. The two openings were filled last August by Kimball and Sgt. Vanessa Rusco.
Their job is to foster interaction and understanding with the LGBTQ community by connecting with organizations, businesses, and individuals. “We want them to know what we have to offer, and,” Kimball said, “what they can teach us that we need to know.” For him, it is all about developing relationships so that everyone’s lives and access to the law can improve.
“Right now, Kansas doesn’t have a hate-crime law,” Kimball added, “but Wichita has a City Ordinance that covers some of that.” This is Ordinance 5.01.010, titled Ethnic Intimidation and Bias Crimes, which besides the title, embraces sexual orientation and gender identity along with additional categories. An offender can be charged with anything from a fine to jail time, depending on their crime.
Kimball and Rusco also represent the WPD at LGBTQ events. Kimball hopes one day the WPD will march in the Pride Parade.
Besides outreach, the Liaison Officers’ duties are to help “educate new officers about appropriate interaction with the LGBTQ community and help guide policy,” that will affect the WPD as well as the city itself. They are also charged with improving the reporting on LGBTQ hate crimes. The problem is hate crime victims rarely feel safe to report.
In order to change that, a program was unveiled last month called “Safe Harbor.” The nine Starbucks stores in Wichita posted signs that identify the businesses as places that victims of hate crimes can seek refuge.
Starbucks is the flagship here for this program, which started in Seattle Starbucks in 2015 under the title “Safe Place.” It was renamed for Wichita to distinguish it from the local youth safety program. Starbucks employees received training on how to help a victim, how to report what they see, what constitutes a hate crime, how to operate within company policy, and, most importantly, their responsibility to call 911 so law enforcement can help. The victim can stay in the store until the police arrive. “Safe Harbor” is open to any business by contacting the LGBTQ Liaisons.
Kimball knows the work he and Rusco are doing will also help LGBTQ employees at the WPD, who, in the past, have largely remained under cover. “It will provide a changed culture within the police department,” he said. “I want to facilitate and foster a positive culture [for LGBTQ WPD employees] without the fear that being who they are will adversely affect their careers.”
Kimball’s LGBTQ Liaison duties are in addition to his regular night shift. He and Rusco often attend meetings on days off or evenings. For him, those can be during the time he’s usually sleeping. It also means he’s away from his husband, to whom he was legally married four years ago in California before marriage equality passed, though they’ve been together for 17. “I can’t imagine life without him,” Kimball said.
For more information, visit www.wichita.gov/WPD/Pages/Liaisons.aspx, or call Sgt. Don Kimball at 316-350-3447 or Sgt. Vanessa Rusco at 316-350-3400. l