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    There Comes a Time

    Photo By Christopher Turner

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    The lyrics of a familiar activist song are, “There comes a time when you just gotta stand. You’ve been down so long, someone will give you a helping hand.”

    No one needs another article about our current political quagmire. We are living in a time of unbelievable turmoil in our country. The recent events in Charlottesville and the heartbreaking response from the President have brought us to a new low in our conversation about any group considered as “other.”

    There is an enormous amount of hand-wringing and helplessness. Can one person make a difference? Should we march? Should we shout? Should we write letters/emails and sign petitions? Should we donate? The answer to all of the above is “yes.”

    Three hundred people answered those questions “yes” and added another: Should we sing? Each of them decided to make a huge sacrifice of their own money, time, energy and talent and take a courageous step—together—to make a difference. Actually, not a step, but a ride—a long ride—on a bus!

    The day after the November election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus decided to do what we do best: sing. We decided to take our music and our voices to the South to encourage our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We named it the Lavender Pen Tour for the lavender pen Harvey Milk gave to Mayor George Moscone to sign San Francisco’s first Gay Civil Rights Bill.

    In less than 60 days, we depart on the tour—300 folks heading to Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. All of this will happen over 9 days. Seven buses, two vans and a host of groupies.

    We knew we needed to do this, but little did we know that the timing of our tour would take on even more importance as we have seen in these dark days. Are we frightened? Of course we are. Are we preparing in every possible way for any possible road bump or road block? Of course we are.

    Why are we doing this? Because we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who are blessed to live in a place that does not barely tolerate our existence. It does not just accept our difference. It celebrates who we are! This is what we want to take with us to our brothers and sisters across the South. We want to celebrate them. And we also want to raise our voices to shine a light on the worst discriminatory laws in our country.

    You’ve read all about it. (If you haven’t, drop everything, stop reading and go to www.sfgmc.org)

    But there are things you don’t know. I think you’ll find them most interesting.

    • The 300 travelers are each paying their own way.
    • The sizeable amount of money we are raising is to cover security, concert venues, advertising, staff, and musicians. (Did I say security?)
    • 100% of the proceeds from tickets and donations will stay in the cities we visit. Gross proceeds, not net.
    • With the help of partners in the various cities, we have chosen 20+ beneficiaries across the South who are all doing incredible work against almost insurmountable odds. They include HRC, ACLU, PFLAG and smaller groups who are truly fighting the fight in the trenches.
    • We are being joined for the entire tour by the amazing 50-voice Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

    It is far from a luxurious, tropical vacation for those traveling. There will be no lounging by the pool or disco dancing ‘til dawn on this trip. Those travelers know that we are going to bed late—after concerts every evening – getting up early to eat breakfast, and grab a box lunch for the bus ride between destinations. We will be stopping along the way to sing and share in the places listed below. They also know that they have to make this 9-day trip packing in only one, yes one, suitcase! This is the hardest part.

    Here is an overview of what we will be doing:

    5 Full concerts with all 250 singers + guest choruses and artists

    5 Church Services

    5 Public Schools

    4 Interfaith concerts in 4 different cities

    3 University seminars (HIV/AIDS, Trans issues, LGBTQ support)

    3 PFLAG groups

    2 Community sings in city parks

    2 University music department concerts

    1 Edmund Pettus Bridge march

    1 Gay Pride Parade (Winston-Salem)

    1 South and North Carolina youth conference

    1 University outdoor appearance

    There are some things you can do to help us make this tour all it can be:

    • Come along with us or meet us along the way. (Mississippi State Capitol steps; Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; National Coming Out Day in Knoxville, Tennessee; First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina; big finale in Charlotte, North Carolina)
    • Tell all your friends anywhere near MS, AL, TN, NC, SC to please come and see/hear us.
    • Attend our Send-off concerts at Grace Cathedral or San Francisco City Hall in September or our Homecoming Concert at Davies Symphony Hall in March.
    • Send us your love, prayers, and best wishes for every step of the way.
    • Make a donation to help us reach our goals.

    We are going to the South to “give them a helping hand.” They’ve been down so long. Our voices will no doubt inspire, unite and empower. The funds we leave behind will keep the work going long after the last notes have died away. Most of all, we know that our singing, sharing and shouting are going to leave an indelible mark on those whose paths we will cross.

    There comes a time. It is now.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.