Queer Voices

October 4th 2023 Queer Voices

October 04, 2023 Queer Voices
October 4th 2023 Queer Voices
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Queer Voices
October 4th 2023 Queer Voices
Oct 04, 2023
Queer Voices

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We speak with the Montrose Center's Executive Director Ann Robinson.  She will be retiring soon and we catch up with her about her 35 years at the Center and what is next.  The Montrose Center opened in 1978 as Montrose Counseling Center (MCC), after the widely successful Town Meeting I at the Astro Arena.

The Center faced many financial burdens in its formative years, particularly because of the high cost of providing health insurance for its employees living with HIV/AIDS. In the 1990s the Center became one of the first places in Houston to offer temporary housing to gay men and transgender people. In 2013, the Center changed its name from Montrose Counseling Center to the Montrose Center, as services had evolved beyond just counseling and wanted people to feel they could come to the Center for services other than mental health. 

Today, the Montrose Center serves as a community hub, with a long, proud history of empowering LGBTQ Houston since 1978.

Guest: Ann Robinson
https://montrosecenter.org/


We get up close and personal with Kendra Walker, a dynamo businesswoman, entrepreneur, and community leader hailing from Jackson, Mississippi. Rising from her humble beginnings to the top, Kendra opens up about her dedication to self-care and how her unstoppable work ethic has catapulted her to success. Uncover more about her upcoming events in Houston, her unprecedented contributions to Pride Houston, and her tireless initiatives aimed at supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. 

And as we wrap up, we cast a lens onto the grim reality of Anti-LGBTQ Abuses in Uganda, providing a broader perspective on the global challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Kendra’s thoughts on this issue, and her challenges to us all to step up as active change-makers, are not to be missed. Join us as we celebrate the resilience of the Montrose Center's staff and emphasize the importance of continuous support for the LGBTQ+ community. An episode brimming with inspiring stories, insights, and calls to action, this is one you wouldn't want to miss!

Guest: Kendra Walker
https://pridehouston365.org/

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

We speak with the Montrose Center's Executive Director Ann Robinson.  She will be retiring soon and we catch up with her about her 35 years at the Center and what is next.  The Montrose Center opened in 1978 as Montrose Counseling Center (MCC), after the widely successful Town Meeting I at the Astro Arena.

The Center faced many financial burdens in its formative years, particularly because of the high cost of providing health insurance for its employees living with HIV/AIDS. In the 1990s the Center became one of the first places in Houston to offer temporary housing to gay men and transgender people. In 2013, the Center changed its name from Montrose Counseling Center to the Montrose Center, as services had evolved beyond just counseling and wanted people to feel they could come to the Center for services other than mental health. 

Today, the Montrose Center serves as a community hub, with a long, proud history of empowering LGBTQ Houston since 1978.

Guest: Ann Robinson
https://montrosecenter.org/


We get up close and personal with Kendra Walker, a dynamo businesswoman, entrepreneur, and community leader hailing from Jackson, Mississippi. Rising from her humble beginnings to the top, Kendra opens up about her dedication to self-care and how her unstoppable work ethic has catapulted her to success. Uncover more about her upcoming events in Houston, her unprecedented contributions to Pride Houston, and her tireless initiatives aimed at supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. 

And as we wrap up, we cast a lens onto the grim reality of Anti-LGBTQ Abuses in Uganda, providing a broader perspective on the global challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Kendra’s thoughts on this issue, and her challenges to us all to step up as active change-makers, are not to be missed. Join us as we celebrate the resilience of the Montrose Center's staff and emphasize the importance of continuous support for the LGBTQ+ community. An episode brimming with inspiring stories, insights, and calls to action, this is one you wouldn't want to miss!

Guest: Kendra Walker
https://pridehouston365.org/

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Glenn Holt:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a home-produced podcast that has grown out of a radio show that's been on the air in Houston, texas, for several decades. This week, brian Levinca talks with Dr Anne Robison, the retiring CEO of Houston's Montrose Center.

Ann Robinson:

It was first started to be just an affirming place for LGBTQ people to get affirming behavioral health services mostly mental health at that time and it started out as just a lot of part-time people pulling together to be able to serve people affordably.

Glenn Holt:

Tiffany Scales has a conversation with Kendra Walker about pride and Kendra's accomplishments in the community.

Kendra Walker:

You know, in order to be the change that you want to see, you actually have to stand up and be involved. Don't just gossip about it, don't just talk about what you heard or what you think or what you don't even know. Be involved, and then you'll know. Come, sit on the board, come sit on the production team, actually put in the sweat equity, and then you'll see.

Glenn Holt:

And we have news wrap from this Way Out Queer Voices starts now.

Bryan Hlavinka:

This is Brian Levica and today on Queer Voices, I'm very excited to have Dr Ann Robison from the Montrose Center to come on Queer Voices and talk about her career in the Montrose Center itself. Welcome, ann, thank you. So who is Dr Robison?

Ann Robinson:

I think for the last 35 years I've kind of defined myself with my job. So you know, ceo of the Montrose Center. In my personal life, I mean, I grew up in Pennsylvania, I've studied psychology and public health for many, many, many, many years and I'm at home. I have an African-grade parent named Neely and a tortoise named Dewey.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So how did you end up in Houston in the Montrose Center or, I guess, the Montrose Counseling Center at the time?

Ann Robinson:

Well, I ended up in Texas because I was married to somebody in the oil business and we moved down to Port Arthur and I got the heck out of there as fast as I could. And so I moved to Austin and worked for what was then Texas Department of Health and ran the sexual assault program for the statewide funding for that and was the contract and program manager for that. And then that was in. When I moved to Houston it was 1988 and it was still pretty early in the HIV pandemic and I saw a blind ad in the Houston Chronicle and answered it and came in and I guess at that time a lot of the I mean the person before me had died of complications from AIDS and at that time there were a lot of the men in the field were sick and I guess I knew more about the issues than anybody else had interviewed.

Ann Robinson:

So but I came, I sought out the center because when I worked in Beaumont at the rape crisis center I had a lot of clients over there who were lesbian and there weren't really much services over there for them. And so I connected with what was then the Montrose Center, montrose Counseling Center, and got services for them if they could make the travel in Houston from the Montrose Counseling Center. And I remembered that and I remembered I had talked to Jim Beecher at the time and how nice he was and how helpful he was and it was just a wonderful resource for for the community and one that you really notice when you don't have it like we did in a small town of Beaumont.

Bryan Hlavinka:

What are some of the things that the Montrose Center provides and what are the services that they give to the community?

Ann Robinson:

When I do my tour I always leave something out because it's a very complex organization. We've added a lot of things because either they just weren't available or we had tried to get our clients the services at a mainstream organization and it didn't work out very well. And sometimes it's not just because the staff of that other agency isn't affirming or good, it's, that if it's a group living situation or a group, the other consumers don't treat them very well. So after trying to get other organizations to serve the LGBTQ community well, and if that doesn't work, then we did it ourselves. So we do a lot of community education, particularly around cultural competency. We have a longstanding since 1986 outpatient substance use disorder treatment license and we have lots of things that wrap around that to help people who are in recovery, like recovery support services, 12 step programs at the 12 step groups at the center, a lot of outreach. We give out Narcan, which is the it's not really the right word, but basically the antidote for somebody who's having an opiate overdose. We use the nasal spray. We have a lot of HIV services and most of those center around behavioral health, counseling and substance use disorder treatment. But we do a lot of testing. We do HIV, hep C and syphilis rapid testing out in the field and in the building. We do case management. We're the longest continuously serving case management organization since it first started in Houston in 1991. Then we have just some general counseling. We have a lot of graduate students that we accept as interns to help us do counseling, as well as our masters and PhD level counselors. We have a full anti-violence program that works with sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crimes and human trafficking. We do a lot of things that most sexual assault and domestic violence programs do, including immediate housing for people who are fleeing domestic violence. We have youth program, of course.

Ann Robinson:

We absorbed Hatch into our programming in the early 2000s and have grown that. We got Hatch for 13 to 20 year olds. We got Hatch Junior for 7 to 12 year olds. Next step for that is we have rising leaders which are young professionals and it's more of a social group. We started senior services in 2005 and Chris Kerr and I worked for about 10 years before he died to develop and learn everything we could about doing senior housing. We opened the Law Harrington Senior Living Center in. I believe we had the first people moving in in early 21. Hatch has been up and running for a couple of years now, probably the most recent services. We do have some psychiatry very limited psychiatry. They have to be in counseling or case management with us, but we're using Baylor Residence and a supervisor from Menengar to provide psychiatry. I think that's everything.

Bryan Hlavinka:

That's all.

Ann Robinson:

Yeah.

Bryan Hlavinka:

From that one little building on Bruninard.

Ann Robinson:

Yeah. Yeah, I mean it used to be a smaller building on Lovett and then Richmond. That's kind of why it's a complex position to replace, and the board and the search firm are working very hard to do that. The person that replaces me doesn't have to be an expert on any of these issues, they just need to. They can learn all that stuff, they just need to. Really, the most important things are to be supportive of the mission, and we pride ourselves on being very ethical, because we have so many areas that require confidentiality. One of the other issues is to be able to run a complex organization like this.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Let's step back a little bit. How did this all get started? Didn't it start out at the town meeting one?

Ann Robinson:

It did.

Ann Robinson:

And the first board I won't remember all their names, but certainly Marion Coleman was one John O'Donnell who was a psychiatrist and of course Bill Scott.

Ann Robinson:

Bill Scott was one of probably best classified as our first clinical director and the meetings were held in Marion Coleman's living room.

Ann Robinson:

I think town meeting one was I don't know, it was a summer of 77 or summer of 78, but we were incorporated by December of 78, so they did that very quickly and it was first started to be just an affirming place for LGBTQ people to get affirming behavioral health services, mostly mental health at that time, and it started out as just a lot of part-time people pulling together to be able to serve people affordably because, again, if they went into somebody in private practice it probably wouldn't have been very affordable and a lot of the agencies at that time really if they had gay counselors they may not have been out and it was just not a time where usually if somebody went in for counseling they would either try to fix them or kind of a conversion therapy, or they would try to, they would just ignore the sexual orientation and you have to deal with the whole package when you're helping somebody with whatever recovery they want to do. You have to allow them to express themselves and talk about all their issues.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Looking at your career at the Montress Center, what is your greatest achievement that you've seen?

Ann Robinson:

Of course, law Harrington is the most recent, so that I'm very proud of and very proud of the work that the board and the staff have done to pull that together. But I think just sometimes I say just the fact that we still survive is an accomplishment because you know, we've had pendulum swings of where, you know, we're very in vogue or we're very hated. Sometimes we get a lot of hate mail, sometimes we get people that want to put us out of business. And we've weathered all that and we're still here and we're thriving. We're a $13 million organization. Now I'm very proud of the fact that we're still here and that we have such a diversity and complexity of services to give to the community.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Is there any advice that you want to give to your successor?

Ann Robinson:

One thing is to trust the staff, and you know there's a lot of licensed clinical people there and I find the best solutions come when the management, administrative side and the clinical side both talk to each other and come to a joint decision, because none of these decisions especially about when you know a client's insurance doesn't work or try to figure out how to pay for the therapy you know we always want to err on the client gets the services. It's often a complex discussion about how do we fund this and what are the clinical issues that you know. Are they in crisis? We want to make sure we don't drop the client in the midst of just trying to figure out how to fund it, because that shouldn't be their problem. So I would say one of my biggest pieces of advice is to really work closely with the staff and come to some common agreements, because if you just take a authoritarian view and don't listen to them, they often have very good points and it's something that you can mediate through.

Bryan Hlavinka:

I assume there's like a national board search going on for your successor.

Ann Robinson:

The board has hired a search firm and they are looking nationally. I know they've had some, at least some, preliminary interviews. I don't think the board has done their round of interviewing yet, but the last I heard from the search firm they were very confident that they're going to have somebody January 1 and that they've got some good candidates. So I'm encouraged, and one of the things I'm going to ask the community is for the community to support this person as much or more than they've supported me, because it's not going to be easy for them to come in and follow somebody, whether it was me or somebody else. It's been there for a long time, so it's be very important for the staff and the board and the community to support them fully.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And I have heard that you were going to stay on for a little while to kind of shadow them. Is that true?

Ann Robinson:

Well, yeah, I'm half time afterwards. I won't be in the office because I don't want to confuse the staff. I want to make sure that this new person's authority isn't shadowed by me being there and them just being used to coming to me. So I'll be at home but I will be available for a lot of transition discussions and support and making sure that none of the balls get dropped, because there's, like I said, it's very complex. We've got about 35 government grants and there's reports and budgets and audits and all kinds of things that and we're accredited Joint Commission and we're also certified community behavioral health clinic and there's all kinds of nuances to all of those. And so part of my job besides the initial making sure all the bank accounts get transferred and all that is to just make sure that they're well oriented and briefed and to be available for consultation if they want. But I will be at their disposal, at the new CEO's disposal.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So what program are you most proud of at the Montrose Center?

Ann Robinson:

Well, I mean the anti-violence one is the closest to my heart because that's what my history was before I came there, and I'm very proud at how we've cobbled together with like six different small grants to put that program together. I'm very proud of all of the things we're able to do with that and how long it's been there it's been there since the early 90s. And I'm also, of course, very proud of our senior services. You know, the reason we have those senior services is because of Jack Jackson. He was just my darling. He and I went to opening night of Gilbert and Sullivan every year. He was my opera buddy and I made all his costuming for his drag outfits and I have a life-size photo of him in my office that keeps me company every day.

Ann Robinson:

When his health started failing and I helped. I was one of the people in rotation with Epa's care team for him and I saw what he was going through, and not just what he was going through as an older man, but what he was going through with health care providers and whether or not they supported him. And he was never one to be in the closet and he was always very vocal about who he was. You get to see things outside of Montrose. When you work in Montrose and you hang out in Montrose all the time, you just get the sense that everything's cool and everybody supports the gay community, and that's not always the case. So when you go with somebody to their health care appointments and you find out that maybe they're not so supportive of who the patient is it, and then that extends to okay if this person has to leave their home and go into some assisted living or even to. You know, we had some clients like Ralph Lasser went to an apartment outside the loop and was not, didn't feel safe around neighbors and leaving anything out of their apartment that might signal that they were gay because you'd have home health workers coming in. So when Chris Kerr and I saw all that, we were just okay.

Ann Robinson:

We really have to commit ourselves to having an affirming space for seniors, both behavioral health wise, but in every aspect we can think of. So we've tried to really beef up the services around our senior community and you know what we heard from them. A lot was look, you know, the younger generation wouldn't even have half of the benefits or the services or the organizations that they do now if not for the people of that age group and they didn't always feel like they were appreciated. We initiated with our fundraisers a senior discount because they said you know, I get senior discount at McDonald's for my coffee. None of the fundraisers want us there because we're not, you know, the pretty young boys anymore, and so we tried to make them welcome even at our fundraisers to make sure that they were honored for all the work and me, being somebody who's over 60, I get that.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Well, I think we're getting older now and we're not dying from HIV at least the gay men. So it's like what's next for our community and I think the law Harrington is a wonderful solution to that issue, and kudos to you and to the Montrose Center for creating such a wonderful entity.

Ann Robinson:

Well and we appreciate legacy for being a strong partner in that there is a small primary care clinic right inside the front door.

Bryan Hlavinka:

And I have to disclose that I am on the board of legacy and we've worked very closely with the Montrose Center.

Ann Robinson:

Yeah, and we appreciate that partnership.

Bryan Hlavinka:

We're speaking with Ann Robison Robison Robison.

Ann Robinson:

Robison.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Robison. I've always said, robison of the Montrose Center, truth be told, you are not a lesbian. Is that correct?

Ann Robinson:

That is correct.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Everyone thinks that you're a lesbian.

Ann Robinson:

Well, when I was first hired and it was discovered that I was an ally, I got a lot of pushback from the staff, from the community. It was pretty brutal but I just pushed through and, like I said, I've been very active and this is where I met Deborah Bell. I was very active in Texas National Organization for Women and worked alongside a lot of lesbians, lesbian couples, and when I was in Pittsburgh, my mentor in Pittsburgh was the CEO of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape and her name was Ann Pride and she took the last name, pride, so that she was not taking any name from any patriarchal ancestors in her history. So I don't want people to say, well, I have a lot of friends who are lesbians, but I felt like I was very comfortable within the community.

Ann Robinson:

But I would say over the years there have been a lot of people in the community that supported me and kind of turned that tide and supported me in helping provide services to the community. One was Mary and Coleman, another was Tori Williams and Renee Tappie and Anise Parker has been very supportive and then there's been some on the male side too, certainly Ray Hill and Gene Harrington Gene Harrington was a jewel, an irreverent jewel, and Jack Jackson and Andrew Eddinson. So there have been a lot of people who have kind of lifted me up and accepted me within the community, because it's quite an honor to hold this position, which everybody thinks is very powerful. I don't necessarily think it's very powerful, but it's a position that's central in the LGBTQ community and I just, at least for the last probably 30 years, I felt very supportive, supported and embraced.

Bryan Hlavinka:

We have a Gala coming up the Out for Good Gala. Can we talk about that?

Ann Robinson:

Yes, sure yes, Kennedy will be happy if we talk about that.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So you're being honored, I understand.

Ann Robinson:

It's our 45th anniversary and I came in the 10th anniversary of the center. The party was like a few days before I started, so I was able to come in and go to the party. So I've been there 35 years and, yes, I think it's community. Visionary is the name of the award, which Ray has gotten before, marion has gotten before, there's been several people that have gotten the award and I think Tommy Ross, they're going to do that and I actually have some family members coming in from Pennsylvania to celebrate with me.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So that's going to be October 6th, Friday night. Yes, I was open at 7 pm. It's at the ballroom at Bayou Place, is that correct? Correct? And so you're receiving an award Now? I've always heard stories about the Montrose Center. Do you have anything that you want to share before we go?

Ann Robinson:

Every day there's at least one crisis, and that can take the flavor of somebody being very upset in the lobby. It can take the flavor of some legislator wanting us to disappear. It can take the flavor of somebody wanting to honor us. So I mean, there's just so many stories I wouldn't even know where to begin. I have to say probably my biggest joy in my as I go through my monthly routine is meeting with our prevention staff. They're not licensed but they're certified and trained in all kinds of things. They do HIV testing. They're out on the street. They risk getting arrested by the police who don't believe they're out there providing services because of where they are and we actually did have one get arrested by Metro police once and they the resourcefulness of those staff members, how they are able to get clients around wait lists at clinics and get them in the back door. They're able to find clothing for them. They're able to find housing for them when you know nobody else can. Meeting with them every month and hearing their stories and the ways they're able to help people is so heartening.

Ann Robinson:

And I guess one of the stories one of our recovery coaches I like to repeat is he had a client who was addicted to pain medication and we asked them to take just real baby steps on how do you get towards your goal. And the person's goal was to get their teeth fixed, because that was causing the pain and started the use of pain meds. You know, we talked them through every step of. You know how do we make an appointment, what do we have to do to get there, what bus do we have to take, how early do we have to get up and go through all those steps with him to get him to the place where he got his teeth fixed, and then we can start working on the addiction. And that is exactly what that crew at the center does is they take whatever the client is, whatever their issues is, whatever they wanna work on. That's where we start and we help them meet their goals and help them see how they can have a better life by making these small changes.

Bryan Hlavinka:

You know, I always heard the story of the early days where you had to go into the Coke machines and get money out to pay the employees.

Ann Robinson:

Absolutely, and at the time I was married and our receptionist had a teacher's retirement, so we both held our paychecks until everybody else got paid. But yes, that is legendary. They also laugh at me for picking up paper clips all over the place on the floor, and that's not only because I don't wanna have to buy paper clips we don't have to but I also don't want them to tear up the carpet when they run the vacuum over it.

Bryan Hlavinka:

So yes, so my last question for you, Ann, is what's next for Ann Robison?

Ann Robinson:

A number of things I've told people. My dad is 94 and he lives by himself out in the country in Pennsylvania, and he's still driving, which scares the bejesus out of me. But I'm gonna go spend a longer time than I'm usually able to with him. In February, when his birthday is. I'm going to travel. You know, katie Caldwell and I travel quite a bit, and I've traveled with my partner and some other friends, so we've got some trips planned. I have a quilt that I started in 1981 that I still haven't finished, that I wanna finish, and my mother, when she died, left me a unfinished crocheted tablecloth that I have to finish. And then the thing that the staff laughs at me the most about is that I'm addicted to Korean dramas, and so I will be watching even more of those now than I have been.

Bryan Hlavinka:

Where can people find out more information about the Montrose Center?

Ann Robinson:

Oh, certainly at our website, MontroseCenterorg, and you can drop by. We take walk-ins, that you know. We do tours. If anybody wants to tour, they can call us and we can do a tour Of either the services building or law Harrington. Best place to get started is at the website.

Bryan Hlavinka:

We've been speaking with Anne Robison, the executive director of the Montrose Center, doing amazing work and stepping down after 35 years of wonderful service. Thank you for coming on, Anne.

Kendra Walker:

Thank you.

Bryan Hlavinka:

This is.

Glenn Holt:

Queer Voices Coming up next. On Queer Voices, Tiffany Scales has a conversation with Kendra Walker about her life and accomplishments in Houston. This is Glenn from Queer Voices. You're listening to KPFT. That means you're already participating just by listening, but how about doing more? Kpft is totally listener-funded, which means it's people like you who are making donations who support this community resource. Kpft has no corporate or government strings attached to funding, which means we're free to program responsibly but without outside influence. Will you participate in KPFT financially? This station needs everyone who listens to chip in a few dollars to keep the station going, because that's the way it works. Even if you're listening over the internet on another continent, you can still contribute. Please become an active member of the listener community by making a tax deductible contribution. Please take a minute to visit kpftorg and click on the red donate now button. Thank you.

Tiffany Scales:

Good afternoon. This is the Web Edition, and we're here with Queer Voices Today. Our guest of honor is none other than Kendra Walker. Kendra, good afternoon, Hello. How are you? I'm well. How are you doing? I'm doing well. I think I want to start off this interview just acknowledging how great you are at multitasking. I think I aspire to be like you when I grow up, only in the degree of maintaining your composure. I hope I always sound as calm and collected, no matter how many hats I have on at the same time.

Kendra Walker:

How do you do it? Right now I have on the hat of a moving lady, believe it or not. I am in the middle of reorganizing storage, but basically staying organized, writing it down on paper, keeping intentions and making sure that I am taking time for myself, which I don't always do. I want to tell everybody I am in a work progress when it comes to self-care things, because sometimes the tasks do take over and my self-care may suffer, but eventually breathing helps keep the composure, just breathing and making sure I'm centered before I start the day.

Tiffany Scales:

So, ms Walker, what can we attribute to your strength, courage and wisdom?

Kendra Walker:

I would say definitely. My parents, my village in Jackson. I am the daughter of two preachers, and giving and service that was just always a part of our life from as early as I can begin or even remember. So that's basically where it started. Strong foundation with grandparents I was fortunate to know my great-grandparents up until the age of about 15. So, and my great-grandfather? Definitely the greatest thing about him is he's one generation, or was one generation, removed from slavery, sharecropped his land until he was able to buy it. It's called Walker Hill to this day. So, yeah, I would say definitely that family tradition is pretty much what got me here.

Tiffany Scales:

Well, I do know your name has reigned quite often in the community of our LGBTQIA Plus for several years, by way of Loch Nation, as well as Pride Houston. But when we hear the name, kendra Walker, who are we meeting? Like who is this woman, this incredible, resilient, multi-tasking businesswoman? Like who was Kendra Walker?

Kendra Walker:

I always tell everybody Stumple Hometown Girl is poor, queer black girl from Jackson Mississippi that was, you know, not taught to dream very high. You're taught to, you know. Go to college, get a good job with benefits. You work it till you die, you know. We really weren't taught about entrepreneurship and so I made the decision to leave corporate America back in 2007 and started two IT consulting companies and I never looked back. As far as community service, I would just say you know what I want to leave people in a better place than when I met them. I want our interaction, if it's just for one second, to actually enlighten your day and if I can pass on some legacy with them, I can. But I guess the biggest thing to know about me is that I work very hard with a lot of passion and I always say you can't outwork me because that's just me. We don't start when we're tired, we start when we're done. I've always had that motto.

Tiffany Scales:

I believe work ethic is vital with all tasks at hand, I know with the ways in which a lot of individuals who run their own business have maneuvered through the pandemic and the changes that have taken place since 2019. There's always these nuggets and tidbits that aspiring entrepreneurs, aspiring business folk would really benefit from. So of course, I'm hearing you say that, though it's not always consistent. You are aware that breathing and self-care are required to maintain the balance of life and work that you do. I'm glad to share that with you know the ears on queer voices, so they also have access to such truth as it pertains to things that you enjoy here in Houston. You being a transplant from Jackson Mississippi, I know there's not too much country left. They're taking all our trees, but what do you love about Houston the most?

Kendra Walker:

To be honest with you, I would say the people, the camaraderie, those that I do have, like you know, like minds. I love the queer black women community, especially those of aspiring entrepreneurs and those of successful entrepreneurs. The things that I like to do, of course I like to read, I like picnics, I like to walk, I like to exercise, I love poetry nights, but I guess a bit of a party here as well. I love to attend so cookouts, gatherings at your house. I thrive in those environments.

Tiffany Scales:

I've seen on social media, ms Walker, that you have some events coming up and of course you know we're walking into Arts and Humanities Awareness Month here in October and I see that there are some fun creatives that are getting ready for Baywatch.

Kendra Walker:

Yes, Baywatch is a lesbian of colors. Annual pool party It'll be happening on.

Kendra Walker:

October 14th, but Pride Houston is also getting ready for a coming out month. Sophie Tucker will be at clay on October 1st and we'll be doing an event on coming out today as well, where we will be sharing the coming out stories of individuals all across Houston, and so we're really excited about that as well. So we have a lot of things planned. Of course, like I said, we're always in the community. We'll also be doing a domestic violence giveaway well, not giveaway. We'll be going to a domestic violence shelter to be to give free bags, and we're doing it in collaborations with lesbians for causes and getting 30 bags to victims of domestic violence extension needs that they have.

Kendra Walker:

So, yeah, but yeah, mostly what's being talked about nowadays is Baywatch, which is the pool party on October 14th at the Heights Hotel. So they, everyone's excited about that. It's our sixth year. It's our sixth year, and so, as with all events with Lesbians of color and as well as with Pride, because it's a nonprofit, we always make a donation to a charity for each event, so it's a party with a purpose.

Tiffany Scales:

I love how Pride Houston is really executing this whole Pride Houston 365. And it's not only during the acknowledged month of June that we celebrate Pride, but in everything that is being done. What drives your passion when it comes to Pride?

Kendra Walker:

Oh, that's a loaded question. To be honest, when I came to Pride Houston, I only wanted to do special events. That was my focus. That's what I was there for to diversify those events. And so it really was bringing diversity and equity to Pride Houston.

Kendra Walker:

Pride had its challenges and then, you know, lost board members and staff and so, rather than let the ship sink, I was asked to stay on by the board to kind of lead it out of a dark chapter. And so what fuels my passion right now is, honestly, the board members that I serve with. I am a bit burned out. So, you know, I'm looking forward to, you know, the next chapter of Pride Houston.

Kendra Walker:

That does not include me, but I look into the faces and they're so how can I say undjaded and they're so ready and they have all these bright ideas, and so, you know, it kind of makes me hard to it makes it hard to leave, because you know you need to train, you need to make sure that there's a good transition in place, and so you know, I would say the enthusiasm of those around me is really what is fueling me right now. In the beginning it was diversity, equity and inclusion, but you know, the longer you do it and with as much work as a pride needed at the time it can wear on you. So now it's the enthusiasm of the others on the board. That's kind of carrying on the growth.

Tiffany Scales:

It's important to have a strong team. It really is, you know, I I know firsthand from volunteering with Pride. Over the years things have shifted under your leadership and I must say it's different. It's very different when the person who is representing the face of an organization is sweating more than the people who have come to work for the organization or partner with the organization. There's a great deal of respect and community for leaders who lead by way of service and I know that, while burnout definitely would be an understatement, I'm grateful that you have a team that is helping stay afloat in the degree of maintaining the balance and working through the nuances, that they all do so with grace.

Kendra Walker:

Well, I would just want to say I'm especially excited now because we've we've built the board, you know. We've gone up to eight members and hopefully we'll be adding two more by the end of the month to give us a board at 10, and that's literally where we were when I started in 2019. So I think the age of the pandemic and litigation is it's coming to a close and we're excited about that. I mean, it's a new chapter we have done. I think what a lot didn't expect. You know, being on the brink of bankruptcy and and dissolving, to coming back strong in the black with a full board and full volunteer team and turning that around in less than two years is something I don't think anyone thought was possible. But a lot of hard work went into that, so we did.

Tiffany Scales:

We accomplished it Most definitely. I know I read an article saying that you even supported the organization with your own personal funds, along with the previous president, to help sustain this organization success. I mean that that speaks a lot to the credibility of leadership, as well as the the sacrifices being made. Again, it's not just a day, like a lot of a lot of commentary has come in saying, you know, we do all this stuff for pride, just for the pride parade, and that's definitely not it. I really appreciate learning more about this organization and the contributions y'all make to community, even when it comes to adapting to the adjustments that have been made, from the pandemic as well as those seeking erudition, these scholarships that y'all put together and maintained in spite of the hardships that were faced. I really would love to know how we can better support, you know, for the listeners who want to know how to contribute, how to donate, or even if there's someone who's aspiring to go to school, like how to apply, you know.

Kendra Walker:

I wouldn't laugh and say, you know, because they always say God loves that you're a forgiver. So I don't want anybody to think that, you know, kendra Walker and Thays and Madison just open, we were just so happy but we knew it had to be done and we were in a position to be able to front that money to pride Houston from our personal funds. And, you know, be patient, because we had to wait for three years for the organization to be in a place to where they could give it back. And you know, god bless Thays and Madison for, you know, joining with me in that effort to actually, you know, give pride Houston a lifeline. And with scholarships, I would say now that is one way the community can really really fill in because even though the board is back and our volunteerism is up, we have committees and our scholarship committee, our last scholarship chair, has gone on to start a family, get married. You know it's a coming into play and so you know they just couldn't do this and pride Houston at the same time. So we are looking for, like, a scholarship chair, you know, our Annie Gully, which is one of our newest board members. She's coming on, she's taking up special events. So you know things are gonna look a lot different because every director that comes to the table has their own vision of things. So I hope everybody is super supportive as these new directors come on and they start to implement their vision of how they would like to contribute to the community. But yes, our scholarship program is still going on. We gave about 20k in scholarships last year in 2022. We have not given our scholarships in 2023 yet. So that is actually coming soon as we can get that committee back up and running, because one person can only do so much, and that's one thing that I have, I guess, as a part of tough care coming up is I have trimmed applied.

Kendra Walker:

How can I say initiatives? We will do the initiatives that we have the staff to support it, doing a lot of initiatives and not doing them well just because people expect you to do them when the staff does not. You know what I'm saying? The numbers here. To carry it on, it doesn't serve any purpose. So what? We've been very great at doing those initiatives that we can do and we can do well and we have staff to support it. We implement them fully. And those that we cannot, we have out for education, so we take money and we give to them. We actually made a $5,000 donation in 2022 to out for education, even though we had our own scholarship program as well, because I do believe that you know, as a community, there are other people out here who may do certain programs a little bit better than we do, and if that is the case, then let's support what they're doing and that's how you're in the community 365 days a year.

Kendra Walker:

It's not just Pride Heason. We have collaborations and initiatives with several. You know, when it comes to Indiana and when it comes to our sponsor, hpe, they are coming on to do a STEM project with us next year. So sometimes it's not all the time Pride, heason, pride Heason, pride Heason. How can we support you because you're already boots on the ground doing the work? How can we help you? Can we raise funds for you so we donate a couple of volunteers to you? What can we do to make sure that we're out supporting this community 365 days a year?

Tiffany Scales:

You know, a lot of times, individuals have based their knowledge of organizations on gossip and Google and social media, which, of course, is just a blanketed hovering as opposed to actually having boots on the ground and having an experience.

Tiffany Scales:

There have been a lot of changes a lot of changes in the workplace, a lot of changes on campuses as it pertains to the rights of our youth and individuals, of LGBTQIA, plus experience and individuals who are faced with coming out. So I'm actually looking forward to Pride, you know celebrating National Coming Out Day and just celebrating being out in October. You know, october the first Tuesday in October is National. Go Outside, meet your Neighbors, and even that would seem to help with the whole hashtag One Safe Houston and really expounding on the safety of us as a collective. Because, while not everybody may fit in the quote, unquote categories being stated, we are all affected by the categories being affected by the changes that have been made. And so are you going to be participating in the Meet your Neighbor on the first Tuesday or anything, just as Kendra Walker, or is everything you do with ahead of leadership and service?

Kendra Walker:

Well, when I can. But I will tell you, I know October is going to be a pretty busy month for Pride as well as for Locke, and so when I get a chance to attend another event is great. I rarely ever get a chance to attend another event. I always usually send a surrogate and if I can I will. But to be honest with you, my schedule changes from day to day, so it's probably too soon to know if I'm even going to be available on that Tuesday.

Tiffany Scales:

Well, Ms Walker, I do know that individuals that are looking to find out more about Baywatch can go on.

Kendra Walker:

They can go to wwwwearloccom, so that's where you can find out more about Baywatch. And, of course, you can find out more about Pride Houston at wwwPriethesonA65.org.

Tiffany Scales:

Are there any tidbits of nuggets that you want to leave? Anybody who is looking to come out in a couple of weeks? Any suggestions or recommendations?

Kendra Walker:

When you're ready. When you're ready, and only do so with those that you feel comfortable. Everybody always makes you seem like it's a brave thing. You're brave just by living, just by existing, you belong, you have worth. So just because you haven't come out, don't let anybody tell you you're not courageous, that you're not brave. But I also want to say that there's someone looking to you, you know. There's someone looking to you to see that it does get better tomorrow.

Kendra Walker:

So what I say is find your tribe, find who you're comfortable with, and when you're ready, you can stand boldly. That's when you come out and you will find more support than what you need or that you even expected. So that is what I say. And there's no rush to come out. But when you're ready if that is so your day then do so boldly. Do it in a place where you're surrounded by love, do so comfortably. And once you come out with people who love you, who support you, you find out that it's easier to come out to those who you're scared of or who may not show you as much love. You got to get strong. You know you got to get strong.

Tiffany Scales:

I do appreciate getting a look into Kendra Walker, one who is from Jackson Mississippi, one who comes from a household of faith, one who is sustained by the grace of such faith and diligence and who puts forth her best foot even in spite of the things that she faces on personal, professional and platonic levels. I do appreciate you what you've done with community. I appreciate what you've done for organizations here in Houston as well as individuals who are outside of Texas, I know. Even with the hardships of hurricane season you have truly surpassed any level of expectation of servitude that one could have for the neighbor, and loving your neighbor is one thing I can say I have watched you do, in spite of any reason not to so. Thank you so much for your time. I did hear you say you were being a moving company at the moment, so for that multitask you had some.

Kendra Walker:

Yes, organizing pride storage, organizing lock storage. Like you said, I wear many hats. I'm actually commanding a volunteer crew right now, but I did want to come on and talk to you because I did try to schedule a couple of dates and they just saying they've never seen us to work out. But I do appreciate you and crew voices and thank you guys for having us on. If I can just leave with one thing is that in order to be the change that you want to see, you actually have to stand up and be involved. Don't just gossip about it, don't just talk about what you heard or what you think or what you don't even know. Be involved and then you'll know. Come sit on the board, come sit on the production team, actually put in the sweat equity, and then you'll see that makes the biggest difference and that's what we are looking for, aiming for. Other than that and if you don't, we'll be serving, we'll still be here, we'll still wish you well.

Tiffany Scales:

Thank you so very much, ms Walker. This has been an interview of Kendra Walker, founder of Lock Nation and president of Pride Houston 365. A wonderful citizen, a wonderful friend and a wonderful supporter, and we at Queer Voices are happy to have her on here to celebrate Pride 365 and to learn more about it.

Kendra Walker:

And just one thing, because I like to use our legal name. Everybody says Lock Nation, but our legal name is Lesbians of Color Incorporated, because there's some confusion with that, so I don't want to. Lock Nation is a euphemism that the queer community gave us because we are a nation of educated queer black women. That a lot of our communities. That's where Lock Nation came from, but our legal name is Lesbians of Color Incorporated.

Tiffany Scales:

There it is, ladies and gentlemen, family and friends and all y'all in between, Lock Nation Lesbians of Color Incorporated.

Speaker 8:

I'm Alan Tihamo.

Speaker 9:

And I'm Alaina Botkin-Levy.

Speaker 8:

With News Wrap, a summary of some of the news in, or affecting LGBTQ communities around the world for the week ending September 30th 2023. The worst fears about Uganda's so-called Gildoge's Law are being borne out. A report by a committee of the Convening for Equality Coalition points to anti-queer human rights abuses by private individuals rather than by the government as the main concern. Researchers from the group, also known as Chapter 4, were able to document more than 300 rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity from January 1st to August 31st this year. Those included torture, rape, eviction and reporting perceived to be LGBTQ neighbors to the police. Only 25 violations were direct actions of the state. At least some of them involved anal examinations, a totally discredited practice mistakenly believed to prove that a man has engaged in gay sex.

Speaker 8:

The report released on September 28th also knows that the research was far from exhaustive. Most LGBTQ people in the East African nation stay deeply closeted and don't report their abuse for obvious reasons. Chapter 4 claims that the law has also led to problematic mental health issues among LGBTQ Ugundans, including suicidal thoughts. Chapter 4's website describes the group as an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the protection of civil liberties and promotion of human rights for all in Uganda. Their name refers to the bill of rights enumerated in Chapter 4 of Uganda's Constitution. The Anti-Homosexuality Act was enacted in May. It calls for the execution of offenders convicted of aggravated homosexuality. At least six people have been charged under the law to date, according to Reuters. Two of them face a death penalty. In one of those cases, it appears to have been consensual gay sex between a 20-something young man and an older disabled man.

Speaker 9:

Popular Iraqi social media personality, noor Bm, was shot dead in Baghdad on September 25th. 23-year-old Noor Al-Safar's murder was reported by CNN citing an Iraqi security source. His more than 370,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram loved his fashion and makeup review video shorts, which often included his joyful dancing. Al-safar identified as male and faced an endless stream of online abuse. In a 2020 interview on Iraq's Al-Wala channel, he said that he was neither gay nor transgender, calling himself only a cross-dresser and a model. These claim that Al-Safar's brazen murder is being fully investigated. However, it comes as the government escalates its crackdown on LGBTQ people. Parliament is considering legislation to officially outlaw same-gender sex or its promotion and to ban gender-affirming health care. The Middle Eastern nation currently has no formal laws against same-gender sex.

Speaker 8:

Colorado's far-right Republican, lauren Boebert, threw two performative anti-LGBTQ measures into the chaotic cauldron that is the US House of Representatives this week. In another of her offensively stupid and pointless political stunts, the Trump-loving Boebert displayed total disrespect for a high-ranking transgender Defense Department official on the House floor on September 27.

Speaker 5:

Mr Chair, I rise today to offer my amendment that utilizes the Homan rule to reduce the salary of Sean Kelly, assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. That salary shall be reduced to one dollar. As the Assistant Secretary of Defense, mr Skelly, is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense and the Undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness on all matters related to the readiness of our armed forces. As DoD's highest-ranking trans official, this delusional man, thinking he is a woman, embodies and espouses the wokeism that's causing significant harm to our military readiness and troop morale.

Speaker 8:

Democrats uniformly opposed Boebert's amendment, many using skating language to condemn the Colorado representative's blatantly offensive anti-transgender language From reference her recent removal from a performance of Beatlejuice the Musical for vaping and mutually fondling her date, a club owner who reportedly hosts drag shows. Boebert's amendment was defeated by a vote of 268 to 161, even in the Republican-controlled House. Her party comrades did approve of Boebert's other vindictive proposal. According to the Washington Blade, they passed her amendment to prevent the US Department of Agriculture from using federal funds to support the agency's LGBTQ employees with educational and diversity materials. No anti-career legislation would have a chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate anyway.

Speaker 9:

Republican rampaging against transgender youth continued during the second debate among the party's presidential hopefuls on September 27. There's not really much hope for the seven on stage since, far away, front-running candidate Donald Trump refused to participate. Florida's floundering Governor Ron DeSantis defended his anti-queer policies Businessman Vivek Ramoswamy specifically targeted transgender young people.

Speaker 10:

I have to be very clear about this Transgenderism, especially in kids, is a mental health disorder. We have to acknowledge the truth of that for what it is, and I'm sorry. It is not compassionate to affirm a kid's confusion. That is not compassion, that is cruelty.

Speaker 9:

Former Vice President, mike Pence, offered a concurring opinion.

:

We're going to stand up for the rights of parents and we're going to pass a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical surgery anywhere in the country. We've got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.

Speaker 9:

President Joe Biden gave his fourth speech defending democracy itself the following day with comments that could have been a direct response. Frankly, these extremists have no idea what they're talking about.

Speaker 8:

A three-judge panel of the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to let bans on pediatric gender-affirming health care take effect in Kentucky and Tennessee. Challenges to each law's constitutionality are continuing in lower courts. The vote was 2-1. Each measure would prohibit medical providers from creating treatment plans with transgender minor patients and their parents or guardians that include reversible puberty blockers and hormone therapies. The laws also banned surgical interventions, which virtually never happened with trans people under the age of 18. The Sixth Circuit Overseas State Laws in Kentucky, michigan, ohio and Tennessee. The three-judge panel decided to consolidate the Kentucky and Tennessee cases. Cases with transgender children are plaintiffs in both states, and the Tennessee case also includes a doctor. They are represented by Lambda Legal, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and private law firms. They're weighing their options, including a review of the ruling by the full bench of the Sixth Circuit. Just about everyone expects the final word on pediatric gender-affirming health care to come from the US Supreme Court.

Speaker 9:

Texas US District Court, judge David Hittner declared on September 26 that the state's law banning sexually-oriented performances is an unconstitutional restriction on speech. He forbade state officials from enforcing it. Hittner had temporarily blocked its enforcement a day before it was set to take effect in late August. Critics charged that the measure targeting drag as sexually-oriented performance was so vaguely worded that it could outlaw other costumed performances such as opera, ballet, broadway musicals, even cheerleading. The owners of venues hosting such shows faced fines of up to $10,000 per violation and performers could be fined and jailed for up to a year. Hittner reasoned in his ruling that a survey of court decisions related to the issue of drag shows reveals little divergence from the opinion that drag performances are expressive content that is afforded first amendment protection. Citing recent court decisions blocking drag bans in Tennessee, florida and Montana, texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick promised an appeal. He claimed in a social media post that the law which restricts children from being exposed to drag queen performances is about protecting young children and families. This story is not over.

Speaker 8:

Finally, a Southwestern Florida school district has ordered the removal of all books with LGBTQ content or characters from elementary and middle school libraries and classrooms. Officials from the Republican-dominated Charlotte County School District pointed to the state's don't say gay laws to justify the purge. They argued that the removal only applies to libraries and media centers, which can sometimes serve as classrooms. Nikki Freed leads the state's Democratic Party, joining a progressive course condemning the don't read gay action. She wrote that books with LGBTQ plus characters and themes should be celebrated, not shunned, just like LGBTQ plus feridians should be every day.

Speaker 9:

That's News Wrap, global queer news with attitude for the week ending September 30th 2023. Follow the news in your area and around the world. An informed community is a strong community.

Speaker 8:

News Wrap is written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, produced by Brian Deschizer and brought to you by you.

Speaker 9:

Thank you. Help keep us in ears around the world at thiswayoutorg, where you can also read the text of this newscast and much more. For this Way Out, I'm Elena Buttkelevy. Stay healthy. And I'm Alan.

Speaker 8:

The Hamel Stay safe.

Glenn Holt:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg. For more information. Queer Voices executive producer is Brian Levinca, andrew Edmanson and Deborah Moncrief-Bell, our frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Glenn Holt:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. In case of death, please discontinue use and discard remaining products.

Glenn Holt:

For Queer Voices. I'm Glenn Holt.

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Strength, Courage, and Pride in Leadership
Supporting Pride Houston and LGBTQ+ Community
Uganda's Anti-LGBTQ Abuses and International Reactions
Queer Voices Podcast and Contributors