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Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame To Induct 14 Individuals and 2 Organizations

Fourteen individuals and two
organizations will be inducted Nov. 12 into t
he Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of
Fame, the country’s only known government-sponsored hall of fame that honors
members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.



 


The inductees were selected by a
committee composed of former inductees, which reviewed nominations submitted by
members of the public. The names were released by Friends of the Chicago Gay
and Lesbian Hall of Fame, a section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


 


The chosen nominees will be
inducted at the Hall of Fame’s annual ceremony, which will take place from 5:30
p.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday,
Nov. 12,
at the Chicago History
Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., Chicago. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m., and the
program is scheduled for 6 p.m
. The event is free and open to the
public. 


 


Mary F. Morten, a respected
Chicago women’s- and LGBT-rights activist and a former LGBT mayoral liaison
under Mayor Richard M. Daley, was recently elected as the new
co-chairperson of Friends of the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. 
“I’m excited to step into this role as co-chair,” she said, “and I look forward
to supporting an institution that has consistently recognized the best and the
brightest from our communities and our allies. This year’s inductees are no
exception.”


 


“We welcome the 2013 inductees’ addition,” said Israel
Wright, executive director of the Friends organization. “It continues to show
how the important contributions from our LGBT communities and from our friends
pave the way for the future. It is humbling to recognize each inductee’s
special efforts to create change in ways that affect us all so greatly.”


 


Hall
of Fame inductees fall into one of three categories: “individual,” “organization,”
or “friend of the community.” Nominees represent all of Chicago’s
sexual-minority communities, including LGBT Chicagoans, past, present, living,
and dead, as well as those who have supported or assisted them.


Those honored in 2013 are:


“Individual”
Category


 


Gaylon
B. Alcaraz,
42, for almost 20 years of work on behalf of
women’s reproductive freedom, the interests of African American lesbian and
bisexual women, adolescent health, and other social concerns. She was a founder
of Affinity Community Services, a South Side social-justice group, and is the
Chicago Abortion Fund’s executive director.


 


James
L. Alexander,
63, for his contributions to Chicago cultural and
other nonprofit institutions, including LGBT- and HIV/AIDS-related
organizations, through board service, advice, and leadership and through
directing philanthropic support. He is co-trustee of The Elizabeth Morse
Charitable Trust and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust.


 


James
L. Bennett,
48, for his leadership in the nonprofit
community and a career as a comedic writer and performer.  He has fought
for social justice in the United Methodist Church and through other groups.   He has written and performed in 14
sketch- comedy revues and appears and emcees at radio and staged events.
 He is the Midwest regional director for Lambda Legal.  


 


Jorge
Cestou,
41, for 16 years of social-service activism,
organizing, and leadership in LGBT Latina/o and HIV/AIDS organizations locally
and nationally, as well as in the Chicago leather community. He is director of
programs and services for Vida/SIDA, a Latina/o AIDS  service organization in Chicago.


 


Rocco
J. Claps,
52, for public service in political and government
roles as an openly gay man and for advancing LGBT rights goals. He began on
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s staff in 1987, worked in federal and
Democratic National Committee positions during the Clinton administration, and
since 2003 has been director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights.


 


Rudolph
Johnson, Jr.
(1947–2006), for 23 years as a well-known and
well-regarded North Halsted Street bar owner who led the Northalsted Merchants
Association and other neighborhood groups, instituted and promoted local
festivals, sponsored sports leagues and events, and lent and recruited support
for a wide array of LGBT nonprofit organizations and pro-LGBT politicians.



 


Lee
A. Newell II,
64, for his community service in Chicago from 1976
to 2001. He led the financial revival and growth of Gay Horizons (an early
precursor of today’s Center on Halsted); documented local events, assembling
what is now a Chicago History Museum collection of some 5,000 photos; led the
city’s first LGBT PAC; and was an officer in neighborhood groups.


 


Paté,
55, for her community involvement since 1986 as a bartender in numerous
venues, where she has built a loyal customer base, won mixology awards, and
volunteered and raised funds for numerous organizations, while also devoting
countless hours to organizations rescuing and rehoming lost, neglected, and
discarded pet animals, both locally and after Hurricane Katrina.


 


Andrew
Patner,
53, for more than three decades as
a journalist, editor, biographer, lecturer, teacher, and internationally active
arts critic and interviewer in print and electronic media, besides media
advocacy since 1979 for LGBT and HIV/AIDS concerns. A lifelong Chicagoan, he is
critic-at-large for WFMT Fine Arts Radio and contributing critic to the Chicago
Sun-Times
.


 


Laura
Ricketts,
46, for generous donor support and board service to
LGBT and non-LGBT organizations, including Lambda Legal, Housing Opportunities
for Women, GayCo Productions, Opportunity Education, and Democratic Party
entities. She has backed ecotourism and, as a part owner of the Chicago Cubs,
is the first openly LGBT owner of a Major League Baseball team.


 


Burr
Tillstrom
(1917–1985), a native Chicagoan, for his
contributions to the early days of television and in particular for his
creation of unforgettable puppet characters such as Kukla and Ollie. He
enriched the lives of children and adults through the Kukla, Fran and Ollie
show with co-host Fran Allison, as well as through other performances over five
decades beginning in 1936.


 


David
Zak,
58, for 31 years of producing and directing Chicago and LGBT theater as
well as developing new stage and screen plays, especially through the former
Bailiwick Repertory’s Pride Series and now through Pride Films and Plays. He
has won numerous awards, has directed in cities around the world, and has
helped to enrich LGBT lives and advance social equality.


  


“Organization”
Category


 


Lambda Legal, for
the 20 years of groundbreaking, precedent-setting work done by its Midwest
Regional Office since its 1993 establishment in Chicago, involving such local
issues as equal parade participation, HIV and fertility-treatment insurance
coverage, real-estate discrimination, adoption rights, and student organizing
rights, plus participation in critical national litigation.


 


POW-WOW (once
formally known as Performers or Writers for Women on Women’s Issues, Inc.), for
10 years of offering an open and affirming space for women, especially those of
color, to create and present artistic performances and writing, as well as
helping women and girls re-entering society to develop artistic careers and
providing socially relevant, arts-based literacy programs.




“Friend of
the Community” Category


 


Neil Steinberg, 53, for 26 years as a Chicago
Sun-Times
writer or columnist who has repeatedly portrayed LGBT lives and
social-justice issues while insightfully commenting on them. His work has
contributed to better public understanding and has often been produced when
issues were more unpopular than now, such as human-rights laws in the 1980s and
marriage rights in 1996.


 


Brenda Webb, 60,
executive director of Chicago Filmmakers, for her 32 years of perseverance as
organizer of Reeling, the Chicago LGBT international film festival. Reeling is
said to be the world’s second-oldest such festival and has become a major
cultural event for Chicago’s LGBT communities and the city’s general arts and
culture scene.


  

The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame was established in
1991 under the auspices of what was then the Chicago Commission on Human
Relations’ Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian (later, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender) Issues, a municipal government agency. At the end of 2011, the
advisory council ceased to exist after a commission restructuring, and the
Friends organization succeeded it as caretaker of the Hall of Fame in
partnership with city government.


 


Beginning with the first ceremony in 1991, former Mayor
Richard M. Daley personally participated in the Hall of Fame’s induction
ceremonies. Current Mayor Rahm Emanuel has continued to do so.


 


The Hall of Fame’s purpose is to recognize the achievements
of LGBT Chicagoans, their contributions to the development of the city, and the
help they have received from others. In 2013, it holds its 23rd annual
induction ceremony and continues to represent an official recognition by
Chicago’s government of the city’s LGBT residents and their allies.

 


Those selected for the “individual” category are or were
members of Chicago’s LGBT communities and have made single far-reaching or
significant long-term contributions to the quality of life of those communities
or of the city as a whole. Those in the “organization” category are LGBT
businesses and nonprofit groups that have done likewise. “Friends of the
community” are non-LGBT-identified individuals and organizations that have
contributed to the quality of life of the city’s LGBT communities.

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