Meet 3 New Leaders in Kansas City’s LGBT Community
Correction: Because incorrect information was supplied to Camp by the interviewee, the original published version of this article misstated Mase Hakes’ role in Robin Carnahan’s Senate campaign. Hakes is a campaign volunteer, not a county coordinator. This correction has been made in the story below.
We celebrate National Coming Out day in October each year, so this is the perfect time to feature profiles of people who serve the LGBT community in greater Kansas City.
Claire Cook is the new regional organizer in Kansas City for PROMO (www.promoonline.org), a statewide organization in Missouri that fights for the rights of the LGBT community. She moved to Kansas City from St. Louis this summer. A May 2010 college graduate, she did an internship in 2009 with PROMO in St. Louis, running the Equality Federation summer meeting there. The Equality Federation is made up of state organizations like PROMO, and the members, Cook said, “work together to improve the state-based movement and to talk to national leaders about how important it is for … the work done on this level as well.”
Cook sometime works from her home in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood, but she usually works at a desk in the ACLU office.
During the initial weeks in her new role, she has been introducing herself to people in the LGBT community.
“Jim MacDonald [of Four Freedoms Democratic Club> was the first meeting that I had when I got to Kansas City, and he’s wonderful. I’ve had lots of one-on-one meetings with some of the big people that I need to know, the ones that have a lot of history here in Kansas City. Now I’m kind of through that period and getting started on my actual projects,” she said.
Besides political organizations, Cook said, she has been meeting other community groups, including youth organizations.
“We have a brand-new position of safe schools coordinator [Morgan Keenan"> and he was in town last week focusing just on passing our safe schools legislation, and so I did a lot of the youth outreach with him,” Cook said.
Before the November election, she said, she’ll be working with PROMO Pac-endorsed candidates, helping in canvassing and other duties. A list of the Missouri candidates endorsed by PROMO Pac is available at www.promopac.org. Cook said that some candidates aren’t endorsed simply because they don’t return a survey or because they may not have taken a stand on LGBT issues.
PROMO is a non-partisan political organization. “I think that’s what makes an organization like this interesting,” she said. “… If you are good on our issues, if you support our stuff and if you’re not going to fight against us, then there’s no reason why we can’t help each other out. But if you are going to say one thing and do another or use money in an adverse way, then that’s not possible. We wouldn’t go there,” she said.
PROMO’s main office is in St. Louis, and it’s headed up by executive director A.J. Bockelman. The group also has an office in Springfield. She said she plans to bring back PROMO monthly meetings and will also be working on their annual lobby day in Jefferson City on Feb. 15, 2011.
“I want PROMO to be a big face in Kansas City. You hear gay, you hear LGBT, and it should be: ‘What’s PROMO think about this issue?’”
Joel I. Bolling is the coordinator of programs and services at LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Allies) Resource Center at UMKC. Previously, he worked with LGBT students and religious minorities at the University of Nevada in Reno in the multicultural student affairs office.
He’s now working with the Lesbian and Gay Community Center and Pride on hosting the Oct. 10 OutFest at UMKC, followed by a dance later that evening.
“One of my goals is to actually open up this space and what we do here on campus to the greater community. In student services, traditionally you’re focused specifically on the students, but because of my background in multicultural student affairs and working with various populations, what I came to understand is that if you’re serving the students you also need to serve the communities they come from,” he said.
His office is also offering its facilities for the LGBT citywide organizational meeting that LGCC puts on each year, and it will be followed by an LGBT Town Hall meeting with Mayor Mark Funkhouser.
UMKC has been changing its image from a commuter campus now that more students live on campus, but Bolling says they serve a wide range of students.
“This campus has a lot of what has traditionally been called non-traditional students, people outside of that 18-22 year old range. We have a good mixture,” he said.
“I spent the second month here working heavily with the residence halls, so all of their RAs are trained within safe space but also additional diversity training. They’ve gone through quite a lot of training, actually. We just received a card from them saying ‘Thank you for being the superhero of training,” he said with a laugh.
He’s also working on their annual Pride breakfast, set for Oct. 28, which funds scholarships.
“We’ve raised close to $10,000 last year. Basically, we offer it up to organizations, individuals, departments to buy individual seats or tables.”
You can check out other events the office has scheduled on their Facebook page under UMKC LGBTQIA Resource Center.
Bolling said their resource center also welcomes faculty and alumni interaction.
“I’m also working on an LGBT studies minor and graduate certificate, in part because one of those other outcries from LGBT faculty is that though they have this other specific research interest, they have LGBT research as well that they’ve never been able to, even if they’ve gotten it published, been able to teach or talk about it because it’s outside of the scope of what they’re doing in their specific department. So this would give them a venue to really utilize some of those other academic interests that they have,” he said.
Bolling wants everyone to know that his office is open to all. “I’m always welcoming to any student and hope they drop by,” he said.
The office has a “Rainbow Lounge” with publications, computer stations, chairs and desks. The LGBTQIA Resource Center is in the new Student Union, at 5100 Cherry St., Suite 320.
A familiar face to those at the Pride Festival this year is Mase Hakes, who chaired the youth committee and was an active volunteer. He is a student ambassador and the student director of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, where he is majoring in political science.
Hakes’ passion is politics. He is a campaign volunteer working to help Clint Hylton, a Democrat, win his race for the U.S. House against incumbent Republican Sam Graves, and he has worked for other area politicians, helping with canvassing, voter outreach and more. He’s also a county coordinator for Robin Carnahan’s Senate campaign.
“The whole thing with politics that got me started in this was I heard about this revolutionary, this young, this amazing politician who was openly lesbian. So I did some research and found out it was Jolie Justus [a Missouri state senator">. I familiarized myself with a lot of her work, and she really served as my inspiration to get more involved in politics,” he said.
Hakes said he is taking a much lighter load of classes this semester to focus on his work for the November elections. His enthusiasm for Hylton is obvious.
“He’s so dedicated to winning this race. He’s so dedicated to the people and he wants to generally represent them. He’s not a career politician, he’s a small business owner. He wants to represent the people because Sam Graves is only interested in special interests,” Hakes said.
He got an unfortunate introduction to the world of politics and candidate security when he happened to be at Penn Valley Community College on Sept. 14 for the Gov. Jay Nixon speech. That was the day when the dean of instruction, Albert Dimmitt Jr., was stabbed. Police charged 22-year-old Casey Brezik and said he had intended to stab Nixon instead. Hakes was witness to the entire event.
“He walked into the computer lab and he was wielding a knife. I saw it and was taken back for half a second and I told the people next to me, ‘… That student has a knife.’ They were all kind of shocked and stood there. I began walking to the exit to try and get students and some of the staff out of the room. Dean Albert was walking out with me as well, and once we exited the room and began walking in the hallway, I heard someone yell. I turned and see the student running after us. He lunged and he got Dean Al in the neck.”
Hakes said he hopes to have a long involvement in politics and is considering running for office in the future.
“I feel an obligation to work for not just the LGBT community but to work for everyone in this community. I think that by seeking election to some type of public office I can accomplish that.”"