These remarks were delivered by President & CEO, Paul Fairchild at “My Best Friend is Straight!” on July 26, 2012
Tonight would not have been possible without the dedication, hard work, and commitment to Cream City Foundation by our Honorary Chair, the Chair of our Host Committee, and our Host Committee. Please join me in thanking Joe Pabst and Michael Johnston for leading all of us to this great event tonight.
Please join me in thanking our sponsors tonight:
Ross Draegert & Dr. Robert Starshak
Club Charlie’s – Dawn & Craig Bloomfield
Patti Keating Kahn
Kathy Papineau’s Localicious
Joe Brehm, This Is It!
JG and Linda Clark Family Fund
“Lou & Bill” Frank
Also please join me in welcoming 8th Assembly District State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa who came out publicly as a Bisexual woman this week.
Personally, I would like to thank Cream City Foundation’s Board of Directors for their vision, their leadership, their integrity, and especially for their kindness in supporting me over the past 5 months since my arrival in Milwaukee.
In a very short time, thanks to them, and to so many of you here, Milwaukee already feels like home.
Cream City Foundation mobilizes philanthropic resources, by harnessing the pride, passion, and commitment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and their allies to advance the human rights and respond to human needs of LGBT people in Southeastern Wisconsin.
We mobilize philanthropic resources by:
Raising money from individuals, corporations, and organizations who provide the Foundation with a diverse investment portfolio of general funds, donor and corporate advised funds, and the building blocks of an endowment;
We convene strategic collaborations and partnerships to identify effective solutions for our community.
Cream City Foundation envisions a civil society in Southeastern Wisconsin where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender human rights are fully realized, and we uphold the following values in our daily work with each other and our community, recognizing that the causes of poverty, injustice, and lack of opportunity are interrelated and interlocking:
Inclusion – We strive to honor the diversity within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, and ally population.
Stewardship – We pledge to our donors that all money, whether gifted directly to the foundation or held in a donor advised fund will be invested and granted in a manner consistent with our mission.
Integrity – We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards and are fully transparent and accountable to all of our constituents. We treat all people with dignity, courtesy, and respect.
Partnerships – Cream City Foundation works in partnership with individuals, corporations, foundations, service providers, advocates, and lawmakers to identify effective solutions consistent with our mission to achieve meaningful change for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations.
Commitment – Cream City Foundation are thoughtful, dependable, philanthropic leaders actively engaged in fund raising, grant making, and leadership consistent with our mission. We strive to be visible and available to our community.
This event certainly gives us pause to think about our best friends. My late father defined friendship this way…
your best friend is someone you can call in the middle of the night and say “I need you” and hang up the phone…and they will show up at your door…with no questions asked…and in his very gruff demeanor would follow that with…”and any man that says he can count his best friends on more than one hand is a liar.”
I have lived in 8 different places, went to 3 different high schools in 3 different cities, have worked in Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, and now Milwaukee. And with the exception of the dark – thought I was the only gay boy days of school – I am lucky enough to still have a best friend from every place I have lived.
My oldest friend Lucy is straight. Our grandparents were friends, our parents were best friends, and Lucy is the first girl I ever kissed…and looking back…there was a clear message for me at the age of 6. First of all it happened on the troll bridge, and secondly I pulled my shirt up to cover my lips when we kissed. Her husband says that her kiss made me gay…I am lucky to call her my best friend.
My friend Therese is straight. We met when she was Terri or T when we were waiting tables in Minneapolis. We both moved to Chicago around the same time. We had our first HIV test together…back when you had to wait two weeks to learn your results. While we waited for our results, our good friend Ozzie died of AIDS. She lives in Los Angeles now with her husband and two beautiful daughters.
All of my exes became best friends. You see if you truly love someone…the love lasts forever…but sometimes the relationship has to change to survive. My first lover and best friend was violently murdered in Los Angeles 3 years ago in a horrible road rage murder and hate crime.
Ironically he was a jazz pianist and was murdered by a Swedish Rap Star. He would have found that funny. While we talked several times a year, we saw one another for the first time in more than 20 years, 9 months before he was killed…and in more than 25 years, we made love until dawn. I got….er…am lucky.
My best friend Renae was a black lesbian. A founding mother of the Lesbian Community Cancer Project, an organization I am proud to say I was the first and only man to serve on its board, ironically died of Cancer 3 years ago. I was at her side when the doctors told her she would be dead in 3 months, and I was there 10 years later when they wrapped her in a body bag and took her out of her house for the last time. While she fought like a trooper to beat all odds for nearly 10 years, she continued her activism and inspired mine on behalf of access to culturally competent health care for all of us, but especially for lesbians of color, who are among the highest risk for cancer.
My best friend John was gay. He died of AIDS in 2006. He too fought like a trooper…and to learn from him and from Renae what it means to live, despite all odds, humbles me in a way I am unable to put into words. While I miss them, to count them among my best friends is my honor.
My best friend Jim is gay, some of you met at the Urban Ecology Event in April. He sends his regards and is sorry he couldn’t be here tonight. If I called him right now and told him I needed him…he would be here before this party is over. Yet he has now taken to calling me cheesehead…and is forever making cheese jokes on Facebook…I may have to reconsider his best friend status.
Like you, I have been blessed with so many best friends in my life. I have loved them deeply and lost them…because of violence, because of AIDS, because of Cancer… because of health disparities, because of racism, because of sexism, because of homophobia, because of hate.
This work is personal. The work of Cream City Foundation is personal to all of us and to our best friends…that is why we are all here tonight. While we celebrate community, while we celebrate one another, while we celebrate and welcome our best friends, we remember…and it is clear…our work is not done.
We are at a time in history when the climate to hate has become not just perfectly acceptable, but pervasive. Nearly 30 percent of homeless youth in Milwaukee identify as lgb or t.
As we age, culturally competent services for our seniors is at its infancy.
And while the fight goes on for marriage equality, and as we look to the future with hope, there is much work to do, to make sure those among us – who are most vulnerable, have access to the services they need today. We MUST come together to take care of our own.
The Board and staff of Cream City Foundation promise you this…until lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender human rights are fully realized in Southeast Wisconsin, we will be here…even in the middle of the night.