On Sunday June 18, Boston’s LGBTQ Elders of Color (EOC) – also known as Flashback – held a gala luncheon and dance at the Sheraton Boston Hotel’s Constitution Ballroom to celebrate their 10th anniversary. In addition, they marked Pride month, Juneteenth, and even Father’s Day. They presented awards to outstanding community members and provided a fabulous entertainer.
Since their inception, EOC has been working to break the isolation that too often accompanies the ageing process. They are inclusive and welcoming, offering both informational and social activities that draw in a range of people of color and their allies.
In 2013, Black activists began organizing, with the support of Boston’s Fenway Health and its LGBT Aging Project. The following February they were ready to invite people to get together during Black History Month for a social event they called Flashback. They hoped to connect with two or three dozen queer elders of color, but were overwhelmed by the crowd of almost 100 community members. I believe there was a scramble to bring in some extra pizza, last minute.
Since then, they have not only organized monthly dinner meetings, they have also sponsored an annual holiday party, been the life of the elder posse who ride the Pride Trolleys, and held this annual awards party during Pride month. EOC adapted to Covid by mastering Zoom right away, and continued bringing programs around health, the arts, and coping with the pandemic, which hit communities of color especially hard. Boston is a city of shocking wealth disparity, health service inequality, and historical racism. LGBTQ elders of color are holding it together by holding together.
The founders, all of whom continue their activism, include the original co-chairs Paul Glass and Shirley Royster; the beloved outreach expert Gloria Charles; and the photographer/archivist Charles Evans who brought an amazing 10-year slideshow retrospective to the anniversary party. These four are also among the best dressed dazzlers in all of Boston. Paul Glass continues as President of the organization today. For this article, he commented on EOC’s activities, now supported by the Multicultural AIDS Coalition with which they merged in 2021: “We are committed to providing Flashback Cafe, our monthly supper club, and Flashback Sunday events. It’s how we keep our LGBTQ aging population, particularly older adults of color, socially engaged and prevent their self-isolation.”
The dignitaries of the day included the much-honored Dr. Gary Bailey, Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Social Justice at Simmons University. His list of accomplishments is vast, as is his massive capacity to engage the community. His calm, insightful, and inspiring speech at the event was a reflection of the many leadership positions he holds in his field of Social Work as well as in the LGBTQ African-American community.
Rev. Irene Monroe was honored for both the speaking and writing she has long contributed to the national LGBTQ fabric. One reason she is so popular and respected is that she brings humor to her activism. For example, her involvement in national organizations have included Christian Lesbians Out (CLOUT) and Seminary Lesbians Under Theological Stress (SLUTS). Rev. Dr. Monroe writes a highly syndicated column and has a weekly broadcast on Boston Public Radio.
Harold du Four-Anderson, was unable to attend, but sent a message which was read out. He was honored for his decades of HIV/AIDS advocacy and education and for founding in 1990 the Bayard Rustin Community Breakfast. This important annual event on the calendar of the LGBTQ community of color celebrates Rustin, who was a central civil rights activist, the architect of MLK’s March on Washington, and later a gay rights advocate.
La Kia Mondale, the current reigning Florida National Showgirl Supreme, 2023, was recognized for her day-job in P-Town as a Sexual Health Community Health Worker, and for her evening work as a top drag performer. She is also on the Board of the Trans Emergency Fund of Massachusetts. In a splendor of shiny fabric and gorgeous moves, she entertained the room with a delicious lip-synch, demonstrating why she was chosen as Miss Boston Pride in 2010.
To cap off the afternoon, the dance floor was filled thanks to the joyous music of Derrick Grissett of Rhythm Knights DJ’s & Entertainment, who has kept the group moving at many EOC events. As people reluctantly left the hotel, it was clear that the LGBTQ Elders of Color have mastered the art of combining community dignity with the best parties in town.
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