Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ramblings. . .

I haven't had a chance to post much lately; very busy. But 2 events I participated in this past week bear mentioning.

Last Saturday (May 5), I attended the annual Family Pride Conference co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's (LAGLC) Family Services Program (FSP) and the Pop Luck Club. This day-long event generally draws about 200 LGBT parents and their children to a series of workshops about issues they face within their families and the broader community. It also includes a Resource Fair populated by exhibitors who run the gamut of community interests, including: bookstores, faith-based organizations, law firms, surrogacy facilitators, banks, campus based resources, etc., etc. I attend the Conference as the evaluator for the FSP's grant from the Los Angeles County First 5 Commission to provide programming and support to children ages 0-5 and their families.

It is a loud, beautiful, joyous event where families can be totally open and comfortable without being judged harshly by those around them. It is one of many events sponsored by the FSP. Others include the monthly Family Days (usually held in a park), Parent Support Groups dealing with selected issues faced by LGBT parents and facilitated by experts, Parenting Classes offering support and service to LGBT parents as they raise their families, Baby Bonanza sessions (which most of us were raised calling Mommy-and-Me) that includes both moms and dads with their infant children, and various other celebrations throughout the year (including a semi-annual weekend length Rainbow Family Camp.) I truly have been blessed with the opportunity, for the past 4 years, to view and assess FSP's programs. In addition to their biological children, the LGBT has provided nurturing, loving family environment to many adopted children who otherwise would be forgotten and unwanted.

Jumping ahead to yesterday (May 11), I participated in the 7th Annual Homeless Awareness Symposium co-sponsored by the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) and the Office of Community Service Learning at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). I take great pride in being able to say that I have been there since the beginning working with Bettye Randle who for many years headed up the CUSD Health and Homeless Programs. I have worked with Bettye for over 10 years. It began with assisting her and CUSD in preparing their applications for McKinney-Vento Homeless Education funding, serving as an evaluator for the grants, and participating in the Partners for Survival Collaborative which Bettye organized to bring together all the stakeholders providing services to the homeless in Compton. Coincidentally, both Bettye and I retired last year and were able to enjoy yesterday's symposium without the stress of worrying about the administrative details.

Yesterday's conference was on The Pursuit of Self-Sufficiency: Helping Students and Families Make Effective Transitions. It reflected the evolution of programs for the homeless from those of several years ago that simply tried to feed, clothe and house them to the present emphasis on self-help, getting back on their feet, and transitioning to successful lives. Contrary to the views to too many outspoken critics, most homeless people are in a stage of transition. They are generally homeless for reasons beyond their control and desperately want to get their lives back in order and contribute to society. Every year at these conferences, we hear from "survivors," those who have persevered, elevated themselves from homelessness, and are now both successful and contributors to their communities. The emphasis on transitions also has broadened the discussion to issues of foster care and how to prepare young people within that system for "emancipation" when they reach their 18th birthday. Obviously, many grave problems still exist. But it is great to hear that progress truly is being made.

So those are my ramblings for this morning. In the rest of my life, performances of King Kalimaricontinue at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood, rehearsals forProphets Need Not Apply continue at Congregation Ner Tamid as we move toward our June 3 & 10 performance dates, and I have a callback audition on Monday for a "pro-environment"commercial in which I would portray a grandfather. (That sure seems natural to me.) I will be back soon.

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