CHICAGO — Joan Jett-Blakk, the iconic drag queen who ran for president in 1992, is among nine local LGBTQ+ people and two organizations serving the community that will be inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.
The 11 inductees were announced during a press conference Monday at Sidetrack, the long-running LGBTQ+ bar that was inducted into the hall of fame in 2006.
This year’s individual honorees:
- Linda Bubon, who founded Women and Children First bookstore in Andersonville with Ann Chirstophersen. Bubon, a bisexual woman, made sure the shop was inclusive of LGBTQ+ people.
- Andrew Davis, a long-time journalist covering Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community, including nearly two decades at the Windy City Times, where he was editor-in-chief.
- Jan Dee, who opened her first jewelry store in Chicago in the 1960s and has always donated merchandise to LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS organizations.
- Anna DeShawn, creator of E3 radio, the only station in the country dedicated to playing queer music and news 24 hours a day.
- Margaret Hillis, an internationally renowned classical music player and conductor who died last year. She founded the Chicago Symphony Chorus and led it for 37 years. She also worked as an airplane pilot, veteran, educator, activist and mentor.
- Joe Loundy, who in 1974 became the first mental health professional involved with Gay Horizons, which eventually became the Center on Halsted. Loundy became executive director of Gay Horizons, helping grow the organizations out of a single basement room to one of the largest LGBTQ+ social service agencies.
- Robert Neubert, a philanthropist who has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars supporting LGBTQ+ organizations like Equality Illinois, AIDS Foundation Chicago, Howard Brown Health, PFLAG, the Center on Halsted and more.
- Col. Jennifer Pritzker, a veteran who was vocal against the transgender military ban and other anti-LGBTQ+ policies. Her Tawani Foundation supports universities and organizations dedicated to LGBTQ+ research and advocacy.
- Terence Alan Smith, also known as Joan Jett-Blakk, who was the first drag queen to enter the world of politics. She founded the Chicago chapter of Queer Nation, challenged Richard Daley, Jr. for mayor in 1990 and ran for president two years later.
- Avery R. Young, the first Black man to be Chicago Poet Laureate. Young is an award-winning teaching artist at the University of Chicago who has been a key figure in the city’s poetry scene.
Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago’s Gender Development Program, which is the first and largest multidisciplinary program in the Midwest for gender-diverse children, will be inducted as a Friend of the Community.
Black Alphabet, a 10-year-old organization dedicated to Black, LGBTQ+-focused arts, will be inducted as an organization. Black Alphabet started as a conversation around the lack of Black, queer representation in films and evolved into one of the largest Black, LGBTQ+ arts organizations in the world.
The inductees will be honored during an Oct. 3 ceremony at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St.
The inductees join hundreds who have been recognized by the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame for their contributions to the city’s LGBTQ+ communities.
Rick Karlin, co-chair of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, told Block Club last year his goal is to make sure inductees reflect the diversity of Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community.
“For too long, everything has been about gay white men receiving recognition for doing the work, but other people have been doing the work who just didn’t get the recognition,” Karlin said.
The organization was established in 1991 by Mayor Richard M. Daley, Karlin previously said. At the time, it was called the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame, and the first induction ceremony took place in Daley’s office during Pride Week.
The Hall of Fame relied on support from the city until 2016, when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel pulled the plug on its funding when cutting resources for multiple city programs, Karlin said.
At that time, it was renamed the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and had one more induction ceremony in 2017, Karlin said. Since then, the program has been supported by the nonprofit Friends of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame with approval from the city.
The LGBT Hall of Fame held two virtual induction ceremonies during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Karlin said. Last year’s ceremony was the first in-person celebration held in years.
One of the organization’s goals is to engage more younger LGBTQ+ people with the project who might be able to run the Hall of Fame after its current leaders retire, Karlin said.
“We’re also trying to become a little more interactive by doing Instagram posts and other social media things,” Karlin said. “We’re also always looking for more volunteers and need the public support. We’re completely self-sustaining at this point, so it can have a huge impact.”
It’s important to document and celebrate LGBTQ+ history so it doesn’t get erased, especially as attacks on the community are on the rise, Karlin said.
“It’s important that we’re not erased from history and that our contributions are acknowledged,” Karlin said. “Especially in these days when so many places are trying to erase our history.”
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