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    Into the Fray

    By Rafael Mandelman

    A Big Weekend for the LGBT Center

    On April 8, our LGBT Community Center celebrated its 15th Anniversary at our annual Soirée at Terra Gallery.  Abundant thanks to all those who worked so hard to make the evening a smashing success, starting with Soirée Co-Chairs Nicholas Gonzalez and Sally Jesmonth, along with Roberto Ordeñana, the Center’s Development Director, and his amazing team.

    The following day, April 9, the Center re-opened its doors for an all-afternoon open house event to welcome the community back to our remodeled building. Former State Senator Mark Leno and current State Senator Scott Wiener, both of whom had labored mightily to open the building back in 2002 and have been great friends to the Center since then, offered their reflections on the role the Center plays in our community, its past and its bright future. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band and San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performed, and author Marvin White offered a powerful invocation.

    It was a special thrill for Board and staff to see community members exploring the renovated spaces, especially knowing that the addition of approximately 15,000 square feet of nonprofit office space to the building will simultaneously help meet a pressing community need for such space, while also better serving the needs of Center clients and ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of the building.

    Outrage Over Chechnya

    On the evening of April 18, my Community College Board colleague Tom Temprano and I helped organize a candlelight vigil outside the Russian consulate to protest the horrific persecution of gay men in Chechnya.

    At the vigil, I spoke about my memories of protesting outside the then-Soviet consulate as a kid back in the eighties to protest the treatment of Soviet Jewry and, we hoped, to shame the Soviet government into allowing the refuseniks to leave. I noted that back in 2013, when the Russian government began a campaign of harassment against LGBT people, it was the Jewish Community Relations Council, so active in the fight for Soviet Jewry, and recognizing the connection between the struggles of the Soviet Jews back in the seventies and eighties and the persecution of the Russian gays more recently, convened us for town halls and a protest back in front of the very same consulate.

    At the end of the vigil, after various politicos had spoken, Cleve Jones closed the program expressing his frustration that our community had not been able to mount a more effective response back in 2013 and challenging us to come up with a boycott or other action that would actually cause some pain to the Russian leadership this time.

    I share that frustration. At the same time, I am tremendously grateful to Cleve and the dozens of folks who turned out for the vigil. Vigils and protests alone will not stop the horror that is taking place in Chechnya, but silence in the face of such horror is not a moral option. In preparing for the vigil, I came across a quote from David Waksberg, a former director of the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jews: “We can’t know the impact of what we do, but we can be sure of the impact if we do nothing.”

    Free City College!

    Free City College is on track for implementation this year, and with the College’s financial future dependent on our ability to reverse the substantial decline in enrollment over the last five years, a lot is riding on the success of that implementation. College administrators and staff have been hard at work making necessary changes to the website and enrollment processes to implement the program for the fall 2017 semester. City College has long been a terrific bargain, and with the City now covering the cost of enrollment for San Francisco residents, it’s an even better deal. Online registration for continuing students begins May 3, and online registration for new students starts May 24. Sign up for a class!

    Into the Fray

    And finally, for those of you who have not heard, I have announced that I will be running for District 8 Supervisor in the June 2018 primary election (to fill out the remainder of Scott Wiener’s term) and November 2018 (for the term beginning in January 2018). District 8 is a very special place, encompassing Duboce Triangle, the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, Twin Peaks and parts of the Mission. The District’s voters are among the City’s smartest and best informed, and having previously elected Mark Leno, Bevan Dufty and Scott Wiener, they have high expectations for their Supervisor. I am looking forward to spending the next year talking with the voters about the needs of our neighborhoods and the challenges facing the City. It will be an adventure!

    Rafael Mandelman is a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Oakland. He has served as a member of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees since 2013, and is Chair of the Board of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.