Don King, pictured here as the keynote speaker at the 20th anniversary Charlotte Business Guild Gala in December 2012. Photo Credit: David Lari.

On Oct. 30, longtime Charlotte LGBT leader Don King passed away. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be highlighting King’s decades-long work with interviews with those who knew and worked with him and special reprints of some of his writing. You can see an archive of our tribute to Don King here. A memorial and celebration of life for King is scheduled for Nov. 23.

In the January 1987 issue of qnotes, then-editor Don King penned a commentary outlining his wishes for the new year. Though the commentary is nearly 30 years old, you, as I did, might notice some still-common themes, concepts and ideas with which Charlotte’s LGBT community still struggles. Take, for instance, King’s call for a community center — the earliest publicly written call for such an organization I’ve found in our archives. The questions then are the same as those being asked by many community members are today: Do we need a community center? What would the community center do? What resources would it take? And, for another example, see King’s last wish regarding public relations and activism; still today community leaders balance the pros and cons of more public and outspoken advocacy and quieter, more behind-the-scenes movements toward change.

Let’s Work Toward a Community
Center in 1987

by Don King, editor, January 1987

The original commentary published in January 1987. Click to enlarge.

What a fantastic holiday season!

Liver pudding, vinegary eastern N.C. barbecue and hours of conversation and bowl game son television with Mom and Dad and brother George and sister-in-law Metta in Tarboro. Christmas cards from so many wonderful gay men and lesbians in Charlotte and in other scattered places. And a few days vacation to go with the usual corporate holidays!

Those five-hour drives to and from Tarboro provide a lot of time to organize thoughts that have occurred throughout the year. Much of that time was spent thinking about what folks in our Charlotte gay/lesbian community have said and done and wished for.

Permit me to share some of the wishes with you.

A gay/lesbian community center. Chuck P,, with whom I’ve shared so many activist and private hours, has wished many times that we had a center where organizations could meet; where we could have our own community library; where the Switchboard could be located; where news media could go when they need a contact in the community; where struggling gay and lesbian newcomers could bed down for a day or two.

What would it take? Probably a large old house or not-so-new commercial space that could house a live-in caretaker and provide plenty of meeting space. And a commitment from our organizations to pool their resources, such os they are.

I remember the Triangle Gay Alliance house on Boylan Street in Raleigh back in 1971 where I spent many happy hours. I had just come out and needed the company of good gay men and lesbians, The TGA is now long gone and the house may be law offices now. But such a place could serve as the nerve center for our community as that one did then in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.

Stronger support from group to group. I don’t know whether QCQa stepped on MAP’s toes or what; but I sure wish somebody would cut the burner from low to off under that simmering whisper of ill feeling, My sense is that those groups’ leaders have pretty much let bygones be bygones, but that some of the lieutenants stoke the flames occasionally. I predict that the fire will burn slowly out during 1987 with no effort at all as everyone realizes that past mistakes are simply a sign of humaness. Some folks are going lo be tiptoeing a lot in ’87 to keep things from heating up again,

Used to be that whenever something was going on, all groups pitched in to help and attend. Let’s see that happen again.

Less work for group leaders. Talk to me about burn-out sometime. That’s about the only negative in leading or participating in groups. You get to the point where you’ll scream if your bridge game, book-reading or televised basketball game is interrupted just one more lime with someone wanting to talk about the community. You also learn to pace yourself. Luckily, I’m in one of those pacing times when burn-out is nowhere in sight.

But I’m afraid it’s going to strike some other folks soon. A leader of one of our groups — a man who strongly believes in his work and is awesomely dedicated to it — has got to find a way to delegate responsibility to others. His own striving for perfection leads him into taking responsibility for too many details. And that means that he occasionally blunders. My hat’s off to him of the incredible number of hours he invests and his pain when small eruptions occur. He has to keep smiling, regardless. May the road in ’87 go much more smoothly.

More money for everyone. PFLAG needs a few dollars a month for incidentals and for building a stock of books. Closet Buster Productions needs a couple of hundred now for a set and will need a few hundred during the year to pay the expenses of guests. One Nation Indivisible could use money for researching legislators’ views and other projects.The MCC churches need funds to pay rent and pastors’ salaries. The Chorale must buy music and pay for that 1988 trip to the national sign-off. MAP has to have a few hundred each month for phone, rent, correspondence and management. Everyone needs stamp and stationary money.

Most of that is coming out of the pockets of individual participants now; but pockets run dry after a while. A trickle is coming from QCQ, which continued to struggle with its bank account, but has added to the community this newspaper as well as many entertainment opportunities.

What’ll it take? Merely an awareness on the part of our gay/lesbian consumers that when an organization announces an event, their patronage is invited and needed. “Fundraiser” is an overworked term, but that’s what it takes to get things done.

A public relations campaign. This is the biggie on my wish list. Some of the theorists among our national archivist have examined the evidence and said we’re going about things in a way that isn’t as effective as it could be. Laws get passed in our favor; then populist referenda repeal the laws.

The problem, the theorists say, is that we’ve occasionally won over the lawmakers without winning over the grass roots electorate. They say we should win over the grass roots before going after the tall trees.

They say the way to do it is to pour as many dollars as possible into billboards, leaflets, flyers and other media with the message that antigay laws and discrimination are hurting people that nongay individuals know and love. They say we must point out the injustices through concrete examples.

Their contention is that Americans are basically good people who will right whatever wrongs exist if convinced that the wrongs are real.

I’d like to see us begin just such a campaign her win Charlotte. Begin small — with one billboard, for instance. One Nation Indivisible would be the place to start. What about it, folks?

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.