Meet the Candidates – all of them – at Sept. 3 Rainbow Seniors Pittsfield meeting

All votes count.
All votes count.

Members of the Rainbow Seniors began talking about the upcoming elections months ago, and has joined with the Age Friendly Berkshires Task Force to present a Meet the Candidates program that will include all the candidates (Republican, Democratic and Independent) who are running for contested  offices this year from the Berkshires region. 

Open to all, and slated for Saturday, September 3 from 2:00-4:00 pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum Auditorium, we will hear from all seven candidates for two contested elections: State Senator and State Representative for the Pittsfield area.

The primary takes place just five days later, on Thursday September 8, 2016.

The candidates have not only accepted the invitation of the collaborating senior citizen organizations, but are aware they will be answering questions of special interest to the LGBTQ community – of all ages – as well as those that concern the elders and all Berkshire voters.

Meet the Senate Candidates: (l to r) Rinaldo Del Gallo, Andrea Harrington, Adam Hinds, Christine Canning.
Meet the Senate Candidates: (l to r) Rinaldo Del Gallo, Andrea Harrington, Adam Hinds, Christine Canning.

The candidates for State Senate are Adam Hinds, Andrea Harrington and Rinaldo Del Gallo who are facing off in the Democratic Primary, joined by the Republican candidate, Christine Canning. They are vying to replace Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield.

State Representative candidates: (l to r) Michael Bloomberg, Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Chris Connell.
State Representative candidates: (l to r) Michael Bloomberg, Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Chris Connell.

In the State Representative race, incumbent Tricia Farley-Bouvier is facing a challenge from Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic Primary, while Chris Connell is running as an independent for that same office in the General Election.

To our knowledge this will be the first time all the candidates have had a chance to focus on both senior and LGBTQ  issues. It will be a rare opportunity to learn their outlook on these important issues. The panel will be moderated by Ed Sedarbaum, founder of the Rainbow Seniors of the Berkshires.

Open to the general public as well as all  Berkshire seniors, light refreshments will be served. RSVP’s are encouraged, if you plan to attend, let Ed know, send an email to  Ed@rainbowseniors.org

 

Megan Whilden talks OLLI, LGBTQ issues, and the Berkshires

Megan Whilden
Megan Whilden

Tuesday August 16, Noon to 2pm
First Congressional Church of Williamstown
(It’s also a potluck so bring something to share.)

When Megan Whilden was the  Cultural Director for the city of Pittsfield, she did way more than just keep folks entertained. She brought communities together over important issues of the day — and always made sure that all communities were included. She always involved the LGBT community in everything she did, and she still does. For example, she created Out in the Berkshires, a weekend of queer culture and entertainment, and she still moderates the Facebook page Out in the Berkshires.

Now Megan is the Executive Director of OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, where the range of topics for the courses is as varied as the minds of the seniors who attend. She never forgets that diversity is the key to the strength of our communities.

Always a witty and engaging speaker, she will talk about her hopes for the community we share and OLLI’s role in it. OLLI provides educational, social and volunteer opportunities designed especially by and for people fifty years old and better in the greater Berkshires.

See POSTER BOY While It’s Still in Williamstown

I wouldn’t recommend you buy tickets to a show just because it had LGBTQ content. But I have no problem urging you to see Poster Boy, which runs through Sunday, August 7 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. It is a stirring, nuanced, complex theatre piece – with great music and uniquely defined characters — that searches for explanations for a tragedy, finds no simple answers, but leaves you with a lot of new information to think about as you wonder what the full story was and what it means to your own life.

The musical play is based on the suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in 2010 after his roommate secretly videoed him having a sexual encounter with another man in their dorm room. The roommate watched the video live with friends from another room.

Like most people, I believed that Tyler was a deeply closeted kid who killed himself because he was outed. Everyone I know thought that was the story, too. But as the play tells us, that wasn’t his story at all.

The tale is told through the eyes of members of an online gay chat room that Tyler had visited often since he was a young teenager. Discovering that the nice kid they knew as “cit2mo” was the same young man whose suicide everyone had read about in the papers, they knew from their interaction with him that the simple explanation – the outing of a closet case – wasn’t it at all. They search for a better explanation, and through their search reveal to us and to one another the complexity of who they are as individuals and what finding community through the chat room provided them with.

I don’t want to tell you more about the story. I hope you will find it out by seeing the show. I will tell you that the performances are wonderful, with deftly revealed characterization, terrific singing voices, and the level of complexity you find in real life. The set does nothing more than re-create the feel of a dorm room, which is exactly what it should do, while also being able to capture the feel of people conversing with one another in cyberspace. I haven’t seen lighting play such a prominent and powerful role since Berkshire Theatre Group’s “Tommy” oh so many years ago now.

If you have the time – and can afford the $63 for the ticket – I hope you will go and that you’ll be moved by the show as much as my husband, Howard, and I were. There are still some tickets available. You can get them online at wtfestival.org or through the box office at 413-597-3400.

Incidentally, after connecting with WTF when 14 Rainbow Seniors attended their amazing community production “Orpheus in the Berkshires,” the theatre was kind enough to invite me to join the Poster Boy’s creators in a Lawn Talk before the Sunday show, where I had the chance to tell audience members about the reason we have Rainbow Seniors and how to find us.

The pictures shown here are from a rehearsal (photo credit: Daniel Rader) and from the opening night party, which I deftly crashed.

 

 

 

 

US Navy to name ship after gay icon Harvey Milk

A young Ensign Harvey Milk served in the U.S. Navy.
A young Ensign Harvey Milk served in the U.S. Navy.

It has been confirmed that theU.S. Navy is set to name a ship after the gay rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a recent  Congressional notification.

LGBTQ activists have campaigned for the US Navy to honor Milk and other LGBT individuals who have served in the armed forces. This is remarkable news considering gays were officially banned from openly serving in the military until 2011.

Milk served as a diving officer from 1951 to 1955. He was honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant junior grade.

“When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn’t tell anyone who he truly was,” said San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener, who authored a resolution asking the navy to name a ship after Milk in 2012.

“Now our country is telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honor and support people for who they are.”

The July 14, 2016 notification, signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, indicated he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206). The ship would be the second of the John Lewis-class oilers being built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, Calif.

The Secretary of the Navy’s office is deferring releasing additional information until the official naming announcement.

Mabus has said the John Lewis-class – named after civil rights activist and congressman Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – would be named after civil rights leaders.

Other names in the class include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren whose court ruled to desegregate U.S. schools, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, women’s right activist Lucy Stone and abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.

Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972, where he lived in the Castro district, owned a camera shop, and advocated for the rights of LGBT people in the growing gay neighborhood. In 1977, he won his election to the San Francisco board of supervisors, becoming the first openly gay elected official in California.

One year later, Milk was killed in San Francisco city hall by a former supervisor who also killed the mayor, George Moscone.

“Hope is never silent and will be represented in a world port soon via the USNS Harvey Milk,” read a post on the Facebook page of the Harvey Milk Foundation, reacting to the announcement.

Berkshire Rainbow Seniors enjoy being special guests at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

Members of BalletX in "Sunset, o639 Hours"; photo Christopher Duggan.
Members of BalletX in “Sunset, o639 Hours”; photo Christopher Duggan.

 

The Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County traveled to the wilds of Becket to take in the last day of the Out at the Pillow weekend, an annual celebration organized by the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Close to three dozen members took part in the afternoon which began with a tour of the historic campus led by archivist Norton Owen, and was followed by a potluck lunch under a tent in the sun-dappled nearby woods.

Highlight of the day was the performance of Sunset, o639 by Philadelphia’s BalletX Company. There was some concern as to whether ballet would work as entertainment for everyone in the diverse group, but the verdict was a unanimous “yes!” as the company of energetic dancers just blew us away with their imaginative story of how air mail service began in the 1930’s. Member Larry Murray reviews the performance on his website: Berkshire on Stage.

With a major picnic in the works for September, and the arrival of the new gay musical Poster Boy at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in August, (Ed Sedarbaum is speaking at the Poster Boy Lawn Talk on August 31!)  there is no shortage of things to do and fun to be had in the Berkshires.

Rainbow Seniors Topic: Domestic and Sexual Violence in Berkshire Country

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Elder abuse happens in the LGBTQ community, too. What you need to know is the topic of the next Rainbow Seniors Pittsfield meeting.

Coming up in August

Saturday, August 6, 2 pm – 4 pm at the
Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield
It’s only a myth that the LGBTQ community is immune to domestic violence and sexual assault . Becca Bradford of the Elizabeth Freeman Center will introduce us to the reality and to the services offered to LGBTQ victims through her program.
About MOVA and the LGBTQ Community

The Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) awarded Elizabeth Freeman Center of Berkshire County a grant to establish the LGBTQ Access Project to increase outreach and services for LGBTQ victims of domestic and sexual violence in Berkshire County.

The program provides culturally informed services for LGBTQ victims, including counselling, support groups, advocacy, and referrals to other area providers. The program works closely with regional LGBTQ organizations and activists like Rainbow Seniors, the Berkshire Stonewall Coalition, Team Rainbow, and the Live Out Loud Youth Project to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence in the LGBTQ community and ensure victims have access to hope, help, and healing through Elizabeth Freeman Center.  All services are confidential, free-of-charge, and available at the Center’s North Adams, Pittsfield, or Great Barrington locations.

“Domestic and sexual violence can impact anyone regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or socio-economic status”, said Liam Lowney, MOVA’s Executive Director. “Unfortunately, prejudices that many LGBTQ individuals face, particularly in isolated and rural communities, make it difficult for them to access needed services. We are thrilled to support the LGBTQ Access Project, which will improve access to critically needed services for this underserved population.”

“We are so excited that MOVA is helping to fund this important work,” said Janis Broderick, Executive Director of Elizabeth Freeman Center.  “Too often, LGBTQ survivors of domestic or sexual violence cannot get the help they need.  This funding gives us the opportunity to reach and serve more LGBTQ survivors, to create a word-of-mouth network of safety in the region, and to expand the prevailing narratives about abuse to include more LGBTQ people’s experiences.”

To learn more about the LGBTQ Access Project, as well as other programming provided by the Elizabeth Freeman Center, visit www.elizabethfreemancenter.org/rainbow or call (413) 499-2425.

The mission of Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County is to improve the quality of life of people in the Berkshire area by organizing, supporting, and empowering the LGBTGQ community.

Rainbow Seniors thrill to “Orpheus in the Berkshires,” part of Williamstown Theatre Fest

Getting out and about with Orpheus and his drag queen Sirens
by Ed Sedarbaum

Fourteen members of Rainbow Seniors sat entranced last Sunday as we watched the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s community production of Orpheus in the Berkshires. Added to the thrill of watching a brilliant production of a great musical play was seeing one of our own, Danny Trotter, singing and dancing his heart out in the show along with our personal friends, this writer’s barber, and scads of talented local children.

The word massive usually connotes something solid and unmoving. Yet while this production was massive indeed, it was as light as the breezes and as fluid as a stream, as close to 100 performers drifted in and out and around the huge public space of Greylock Works (the old Cariddi Mill) in North Adams.

The theme of the show was also very local – the heroin epidemic that has been growing here in North County – the product of brainstorming sessions over last winter and spring with community members and organizations.

Obie-winning playwright Lucy Thurber reimagined the Orpheus and Eurydice myth so that the young people of a town much like North Adams are cast into the grip of Hades by taking “ambrosia,” a drug meant for the gods that is deadly to humans. They are rescued by Orpheus (a young woman in this production), who descends into the underworld to win the favor of Hades with her beautiful singing voice, so that he will let her bring the young people back to the arms of their grieving families and friends.

The directing was masterfully helmed by WTF associate artistic director Laura Savia, who always kept the audience’s attention focused on the characters’ movements, even as dozens and dozens of other cast members silently drifted into place for their own massive entrances. The discipline of the performers was amazing to see – especially given how many young children were in the cast. As amazing as everyone’s singing and dancing and acting chops.

The director told us after the show that one bit of business – the Sirens being portrayed by drag queens — actually came from a suggestion made by one of our members when she visited Rainbow Seniors this winter. It’s nice to know we had a hand in the production in addition to Danny’s great singing and dancing. Laura expressed the hope that even more of us will join in on the creation of next year’s production.