By Kristi Parker
WICHITA -Last year Positive Directions, a Wichita HIV-service organization, scaled back its services to focus solely on prevention and education. There have been a few changes in staff, an office move and various other things that come with such a change.
The dust seems to have settled around executive director Brett Hogan and now there is a new prevention person, titled Targeted Outreach Coordinator. The intent is to expand the organization’s prevention services and better serve the community.
“We want to be a stronger presence in the community so more manpower was needed,” explained Camille Gaddis, the new coordinator who started this month. “Having a second person allows us to be in multiple places during the day. One person can be in the office to answer phones and do testing while the other can be doing outreach or attend a meeting.”
By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
WICHITA - The 15th annual Tallgrass Film Festival will take place Oct. 18-22 and will screen several LGBTQ films: Alaska Is a Drag, Woman on Fire, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, and The Feels.
Alaska Is a Drag is director Shaz Bennett’s feature debut, and was born from her own dreams while working in a cannery in Salt Lake City. The film stars Martin L. Washington, Jr. as Leo, an aspiring drag superstar, who is stuck working in a fish cannery in Alaska. He and his twin sister are trapped in the monotony of fist fights and fish guts. Out of necessity, Leo learned to fight back, which catches the attention of the local boxing coach. When a new boy moves to town and wants to be his sparring partner, Leo has to face the real reason he’s stuck in Alaska.
Matt Dallas, star of the show Kyle XY which aired for several seasons in the mid-2000s, plays the role of Declan, the new kid in town who becomes Leo’s boxing sparring partner. Dallas became involved in the film after a call from his manager.
WICHITA - Grab a carnival mask, put on your party clothes, and join Thrive ICT in a night of music, food, and community for a cabaret to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
Thrive ICT partners with local providers to create a collective of services to serve survivors’ individual needs for trauma management, life management, and community support. Thrive ICT hosts three support groups: Thrive Together, Coffee, Tea, & Recovery from Abuse and Partners in PTSD.
KANSAS CITY — Dustin S. Cates, Artistic Director of Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), announced recently that its 32nd year will commence for the first time in November by adding a fall performance, From the Heart, at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. A goal of Cates since he began in 2014 has been the expansion to a fourth concert to help raise awareness of the chorus with new audiences in southern Johnson County.
Scheduled for Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30pm, the performance will feature audience favorites from years past. The concert will also feature Kansas City musician Mark Hayes, an internationally known and award-winning composer, arranger, pianist and conductor. He’s composed more music for HMC than any other composer.
WICHITA - Local Wichita LGBT bar, Club Boomerang, opened its new dinner theatre with two shows in September. Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead and Murder at the Drag Show both debuted last month.
Club owner, Brad Thomison, told the Wichita Eagle in July, that Alex Novotny approached him about starting the theatre. A software developer for Koch Industries, Novotny has an undergraduate degree in theater.
Shows are Friday and Saturday evenings with Sunday matinees at the club, located at the corner of First and Cleveland. All shows are interactive environmental theatrical performances, meaning the characters will be up close and personal with everyone in the audience.
By Grayson Barnes
WICHITA - We bring to art what we are. The artist Diedrick Brackens brought his queer, black body and put it on exhibit at the Ulrich Museum at Wichita State University. Instead of his actual body, though, he’s used textiles in a slow reckoning, to translate his experience as well as that of others.
Brackens’ work is designed to confront the “othering” experienced by queer and racialized bodies in public spaces. Our bodies are subject to scrutiny which is sometimes intrusive and cruel. It might even be violent. Combining textiles with mirrors also challenges the act of looking when one can see oneself reflected in the act.
The beauty of the works is their subversiveness. They creep up on you. They’re not politically-charged photos or paintings full of agenda-laden symbolism. They’re soft and beckoning, just like grandma’s quilt.
The titles are gentle, too, rendered in e.e. cummings-esque lowercase letters. You can’t help but get closer. You notice wrinkles, an unmoored string, and there, behind a straining section of fabric, is a mirror. As you approach and peer beneath the weave, you are confronted by yourself. You’ve been caught examining something too closely.
WICHITA – This summer the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation unveiled a new logo, brand and website. The new website, www.downtownwichita.org, is user-friendly, featuring enhanced functionality and mobile first design.
As part of the rebrand, the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation will be publicly known as “Downtown Wichita.”
The new logo, brand and website was designed by Howerton+White.
“If Downtown Wichita is successful then we are successful. We were ecstatic to lead this project and can’t wait to see the positive impact it has on our downtown,” said Nicole Howerton, Principal and Creative Director at Howerton+White. l
On Oct. 7, hundreds of dogs and their people will converge on Sedgwick County Park for the Kansas Humane Society’s annual fundraiser, Woofstock. This is for them:
When I was 16 my little brother and I went halvsies on a new dog. It was a Pomeranian, who my granddad named Grizzly, because he looked like a little bear. He wasn’t a very well-behaved dog. He chewed on everything in the house, carried stray socks everywhere, ate anything he could reach, and was sooo ornery.
But oh, how I loved that dog.
He was my constant companion who hung with me through college and several moves after. He bounced between my mom’s house and wherever I landed through my 20s. He was my roommate when I struggled to come out.
One night I was getting ready to go to a movie and had just stepped out of the shower when I noticed Grizzly was choking. There was a piece of rawhide he had been chewing stuck in his throat. It was slimy, chewed down to the gooey white stuff that rawhide turns into, and I couldn’t get a grip on it. It seemed like forever before I could dislodge it from his throat and by that time he was limp.
I started CPR. I know what you’re thinking, so let’s just start by saying, I don’t know how in the hell to give a dog CPR. But I had learned in high school gym class how to do CPR on a baby, so that’s what I did.
I was home alone, and wanted to go to the emergency vet clinic, but I thought I couldn’t risk stopping until I got him to breathe.
However, rigor mortis was setting in. Grizzly was bleeding out of his nose, his stomach was swelling/hardening, he had thrown up and he had peed all over. At this point, he had been without oxygen for 20 minutes. And I thought to myself, “Kristi, you are breathing into the mouth and nose of a dead dog, covered in puke and pee. You should probably just let him go. Even if you get him to breathe on his own, he’s going to be brain dead.”
And then the most amazing thing happened. He coughed.
I scooped him up, threw him in the car, and drove 90mph to the emergency vet. He laid limply in the passenger seat beside me, still bleeding out of his nose, but with his eyes open.
I rushed into the vet’s, forgetting that I was still in boxer shorts, with no shoes, no bra, wet hair, and covered in all sorts of dog excrements. I sat in the lobby and bawled. When the doctor came out and said Grizzly was going to be okay, I couldn’t believe it.
He kept him for an hour for observation and when I returned, Grizzly was sitting on the counter shaking. He was completely freaked out. I thanked the vet profusely.
“You’re the one that saved him, not me,” he said.
Grizzly spent the next week with a hoarse bark, never letting me out of his sight.
Fast forward several months. I was going through a particularly rough time. Depression was getting the best of me as I struggled with my sexuality. Unhappy in my job, recently estranged from my dad, broke and broken, I stood in the bathroom with a bottle of pills in my hand.
And there in the doorway stood Grizzly.
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