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Annual S.O.S. ball, panel discussion held at CSU
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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The 16th annual S.O.S Ball and panel discussion, Respect for Equality, took place Oct. 27 at Chicago State University ( CSU ).

Panelists included Evangelicals for Social Action Associate Fellow Darren Calhoun, University of Chicago Medicine Assistant Director of Inclusion and Training Joel Desmond Jackson, Clinical Mental Health Counselor and The Psych Cafe Owner Donita M. Lake, Coalition for Justice and Respect Executive Director and Cook County Commission of Social Innovation Commissioner Marc Loveless, Chicago Department of Public Health Community Epidemiologist Sista Yaa Simpson, Brave Space Alliance Executive Director and State of Illinois Comptroller Board Member LaSaia Wade and Rewind Sports Co-Host and comedian Kelly Lee Williams. Jackson is also House of Balmain Midwest Father JD Balmain while Wade is the House of Lauren Chicago chapter mother.

Ahead of the discussion, In Demand Entertainment ( IDE ) Founder/Executive Director Solomon Arnold spoke about the importance of turning advocacy into activism that will work toward a more equitable future for LGBTQ people of color.

Calhoun said he hid from his gay identity by living in the basement of a church for awhile and that caused him harm. Because of this, Calhoun explained that he became a community advocate for queer religious people.

Jackson spoke about how community organizing is not the same as activism. He said both are important to move society forward and one example of this is the Southside Health Advocacy Resource Partnership of which he is a newly appointed co-chair.

Lake said it is important to remove the stigma of being different because suicide rates within the LGBTQ community are very high. She explained that these suicide rates can be lowered if health professional better acclimate themselves to reaching the LGBTQ community.

Loveless said he is running for Chicago city clerk, adding that he wants to turn it into an ombudsman office. He said people cannot make real change without exercising their right to vote.

Wade described herself as a revolutionary and that includes how she approaches the work she does running Brave Space Alliance. She explained that sometimes one has to clear the table in order to bring marginalized people to the table. Wade also said voting is not the only option to make real change in society.

Simpson spoke about the importance of using science and data to back up one's arguments for any issue they believe in. She also said everyone needs mental health first aid because because no one in America can escape the problems that need to be addressed.

Williams explained that it was important for him to be on the panel because he wants his gay child to have the same opportunities as his other children. He said that being the parent of an LGBTQ child comes with great responsibility.

Loveless, Lake and Wade said there are not enough resources being funneled into Chicago's South and West sides to help the LGBTQ community and that has to change.

As for how to confront churches that marginalize the LGBTQ community, Lake said it starts within the family so they can be advocates, if that church cannot embrace their LGBTQ family member, then find another home church or create their own church. Williams explained that it is important to confront the leaders of anti-LGBTQ churches and call them out for their biases in great numbers. Calhoun said asking one's grandmother to think twice about their tithe money going to these churches is another approach, while Lake said leaving these churches all together will make a difference. Jackson explained that denying them revenue is the key because money talks.

A Q&A session followed.

CSU Student Government Association ( SGA ) Speaker of the Senate Mario Knowles spoke about the responsibility of student's involvement in order to "be the change they want to see."

The ball competition featured more than 30 categories including many that were open to all—best dressed, lip sync, dance and prance, hair affair, legendary runway, legendary performance and sex siren, among others.

CSU SGA, IDE and the Overall Icon House of Infiniti were the sponsors of the vent, which also featured free HIV testing, courtesy of Chicago House.

For more information, contact Arnold at .

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