Distinguished Service Award to Cheryl Spector
Presented by GLAA Secretary Barrett BrickGLAA 33rd Anniversary Reception
Radisson Barcelo Hotel
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Many of you know me as a science fiction fan. I have to admit, for years I had thought that Cheryl Spector had actually developed time travel, or cloning, or both, for it seemed that no matter what event was taking place in Washington, and no matter how many, there she was. But, in fact, it was simply Cheryl's passionate commitment to her community that has given her the seemingly boundless energy to be a fixture of Washington's activist and social life for over two decades. She has been a major force in groups such as OUT!, Queer Nation, and the Lesbian Avengers. Indeed, when I was involved with OUT!, Cheryl was always an inspiration to me to kick my energy level up even higher. Cheryl has been described as "a soft and gentle militant," and I would say that is accurate, and appropriate for those of us who are, in the words of Holly Near, a gentle, angry people.
This is perhaps most evident in her work with ACT-UP, moved by the death of her brother and too many friends over the years from AIDS-related complications. As Cheryl reminds us, words and symbols are not enough: "You have to earn your red ribbon." Cheryl has also been involved in preparations for the Marches on Washington in 1987 and 1993, is a member of the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and I am pleased to count her as a fellow member of Congregation Bet Mishpachah. Most important, I am privileged to count Cheryl as a friend, one who makes me laugh and keeps me sane.
As a member of the Advisory Board of the Rainbow History Project, I look up to and gain inspiration from Cheryl in her role as vice chair of the Project. Indeed, Cheryl is responsible in a significant way not only for the creation of our community's history through the groups with which she has been involved, but also for the preservation of our community's history, because for over two decades Cheryl has documented the history of gay and lesbian life in Washington in all its aspects through still and video photography.
On Sunday we observed Yom ha-Shoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day. One thing I am particularly proud of Cheryl for having helped organise was the memorial commemoration for Gay martyrs of the Holocaust at the Holocaust Memorial Museum on the weekend of the museum's dedication in 1993, coinciding with the March on Washington that year. Recalling the silence that for too long surrounded the experience of our people during the Holocaust, I remarked that "each time we tell the truth of our history and our heritage . . . we demonstrate our commitment that indifference shall not stand, and that silence shall not descend ever again." The same is true of all of our history and culture. Cheryl's loving preservation of our community's lives and memories truly speak out against indifference and silence.
Inspired by shows in New York, Cheryl has helped bring the drag king culture here to Washington, where it continues to grow and flourish. So Cheryl will understand when I say that it is my great privilege to present GLAA's Distinguished Service Award to someone who is a true mensch - Cheryl Spector.