Thursday, March 27, 2008

Denver's Gay and Lesbian Latino Alliance closes its doors

News of the closing of Denver's Gay and Lesbian Latino Alliance (GALA) comes to us from La Gente Unida through their quarterly e-mail bulletin.

I have taken the liberty to re-post the full message sent to bulletin subscribers. More information on the bulletin at the bottom...

LA GENTE UNIDA NEWSLETTER (April through June 2008)

THE NONPROFIT GAY AND LESBIAN LATINO ALLIANCE recently dissolved and donated its bank balance to the nonprofit Latin American Research And Service Agency (LARASA) to start a scholarship fund for Latino gays and Latina lesbians.

Always using the acronym GALA (not GALLA) throughout its duration the past 18 years in Denver, the alliance started in 1990 as a project of People Of Color Consortium Against AIDS (POCCAA), a nonprofit agency where long-time Chicano activist and visual artist Carlos Santistevan was employed at the time. POCCAA initially planned to start a Latino HIV support group, but discovered that such a group already existed. POCCAA then started the advocacy group GALA, which soon became a spin-off of POCCAA.

Because he is not gay, Santistevan enlisted the help of two Chicano gays in starting GALA. A long-time organizer who believed in self determination, Santistevan upheld that it was vital for a Latino gay group to have Latino gays as co-founders. Enrique "Honko" Montoya and Robert Garcia-Williams were the Chicano gay men who joined Santistevan as co-founders of GALA.

In the same year that GALA got started in 1990, Santistevan and Montoya sought the legal help of Walter Gerash, a nationally-known civil rights lawyer whom Santistevan and Montoya knew from the days of their 1960s involvement with the Chicano nonprofit Crusade for Justice of which Montoya's father and Santistevan were among the incorporators. Gerash's legal expertise was pursued by GALA on behalf of Edward Modesto, a gay Latino whose 17-year military career was in jeopardy due to facing a court martial when U.S. Army officials learned Modesto was gay. Gerash stated in the Denver media at the time that the Modesto case generated national concern among gays and lesbians, who saw Modesto as a symbol of persecution of their lifestyle.

"This treatment of human beings will be as dead as a dodo in your lifetimes," said Gerash to the media in 1990 regarding the Modesto case, which predated the military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy.

Throughout its long and rich history, GALA was the annual sponsor of the "Mr., Miss and Ms. Gay Latino" pageants that each year raised hundreds of dollars that were donated to Denver-area charities. The annual pageants always had an awards ceremony at which several community activists, such as long-time Chicano gay activist Donaciano Martinez and the nonprofit La Gente Unida, were honored. Some awards were named after GALA co-founders Montoya and Garcia-Williams, both of whom died in the 1990s.

In the spirit of its autonomous origins, GALA always was and remains unaffiliated with any other Latino gay or Latina lesbian group in Colorado. With its formal Articles of Dissolution on file with the Colorado Secretary of State, GALA is now a defunct organization. In compliance with the law that requires a dissolved nonprofit corporation to donate its remaining funds to an existing nonprofit, GALA recently donated its bank balance to LARASA, which was incorporated in 1964 as the first Latino nonprofit 501(c)(3) agency in the U.S.

"Now that GALA has been laid to rest, that does not mean GALA's spirit is dead. With the donation of GALA money to LARASA to start a college scholarship fund for Latino gays and Latina lesbians, the spirit of GALA lives on as a new chapter in its 18-year existence," said Santistevan, the sole survivor of GALA's co-founders.
About the newsletter:
This newsletter is provided by La Gente Unida, Inc.
P.O. Box 11714 Denver CO 80211 Voice mail: (303) 831-6086.
We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) group whose purpose is to educate ourselves and the public about issues of concern to Latina lesbians and Latino gays. We are an all-volunteer group with no paid staff. We provide: speakers for classes and other public forums; periodic lobbying on legislation and ballot initiatives; newsletter and updates; and, a referral network about resources in the community. Donations to us are tax deductible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about Denvers's GAY AND LESBIAN LATINO ALLIANCE closing after so many years. I have seen it happen time and time again. Need to get new blood going all the time to give it continues life. Too, people are so busy making ends meet and finding a good partner to spend too much time in la lucha. But for 18-yrs! Bravo to GALA and standing ovation for a job well done.