Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Rita Adair on her activism, upcoming book, social work career
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2016-07-17

This article shared 1100 times since Sun Jul 17, 2016
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


When Rita Adair moved to Chicago five years ago she'd already made a name for herself as an activist and social worker in her hometown—Madison, Wisconsin. Adair currently lives in the Edgewater neighborhood, however, she'll be leaving the city at the end of the month to travel and write a book.

Born in 1955 to a Norweigan white mom who was a professional costumer and an African-American dad from the South, Adair—the middle child among six siblings—spent her childhood living in a variety of places/attending many schools in both the U.S. and Canada due to her step-dad—Sailor Art Thomas'—career as a professional wrestler with the WWE ( he was named Mr. Black Adonis in 1973 ).

As Adair entered high school, her family settled in Madison where she attended Madison East High School. She didn't graduate but later went back and got a high school equivalency diploma which is different from a GED. Adair studied social work at University of Wisconsin at Madison for awhile but didn't complete her studies, as she was also working full time as a single parent to support her children.

"The State of Wisconsin tested and licensed me as a social worker/counselor without completing my degree because of my many years of social work experience," said Adair.

In addition to being a foster parent to 23 teenage girls over a period of 17 years, Adair spent the bulk of her working life as a social worker for Dane County in Wisconsin. She worked in the Dane County District Attorney's Office for 16 years in many roles—the Coordinator for the Dane County Prostitution Project, Community Service Coordinator and Intake Counselor as well as facilitating domestic violence classes and teaching criminology.

"I spent most of my time at the district attorney's office dealing with domestic violence and sensitive crime cases," said Adair. "I got tired of being in the office and meeting people after they committed a crime. I decided I wanted to work in the community so I took a job as the Community Social Worker with Dane County Human Services. I did that for 13 years before I retired in 2011."

While working for the county, Adair also owned an upscale LGBTQ blues and jazz club in Madison called Adair's Lounge.

Adair not only helped those in her community by raising millions of dollars for various agencies, developing programs and changing neighborhoods for the better; she took her activism national. She was the co-organizer of the 34 Black women contingent from Madison to the 1997 Million Woman March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and spearheaded the resettlement of 30 people to Madison following Hurricane Katrina. Adair raised $155,000 in the first 24-hours after the hurricane hit and continued to fund raise after that.

"My mom was a Freedom Rider," said Adair. "I come from a long line of activist work so it didn't surprise me that I became an activist myself. In 2005, I was voted the most newsworthy person in Dane County and was honored by the State of Wisconsin ( Certificate of Commendation ) the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus ( Citation By Assembly ) and the Madison Police Department and Dane County Executive for my community work."

Adair noted that her family is accepting of people's differences because of her parents status as a bi-racial couple. She explained that when her mom's best childhood friend Lorraine came out in the 70's as transgender and took the name Larry it was no big deal to anyone in her family.

Even though Adair knew about Larry when she was in elementary school, she was still influenced by the Black Baptist Church she attended.

"I got a clear message from church, I'd go to hell if I was a lesbian," said Adair. "I didn't want to go to hell so I did what I was supposed to do which was get married to a man and have children. It wasn't until I was 45 and two times divorced that I was able to live my life authentically. Actually my mom told me I was a lesbian. I'll never forget that day. She asked me when I was going to stop this ( wanting a man ) and admit I was a lesbian. Her acceptance made me know it was OK to be a lesbian and live my life."

Adair had two children and adopted her youngest daughter—Tyrone Adair( deceased ), Raven Adair and Brandi Grayson. She has 6 grandchildren ( two deceased ) and 2 great-granddaughters. Grayson followed in her mom's footsteps and founded Young Gifted and Black, is the chair of #BlackLivesMatter Madison and continues to teach, protest/march and speak locally and across the country.

"When I had my first relationship with a woman we moved in together right away," said Adair. "It was the classic U-Haul lesbian joke. I didn't want my grown kids to know because I still wasn't sure what I was doing. After a few months, my son and I were in the car and he said to me 'mom you still think you have to earn my respect' and I said 'what did you just say' and we looked at each other and I said 'you're talking about Tina' and he said 'yes mom why did you think you couldn't tell me.' He told me that he got together with his sisters and they decided he would be the one to talk to me. My kids are fine with me being a lesbian."

When Adair retired she'd already made Chicago her second home having traveled to the city to hang out with the Black, lesbian community here. She went to parties and joined groups ahead of her move and when she arrived she dove right in and got involved on the planning committee of Women of All Colors Together or as some people call it Women of All Cultures Together ( WACT ). Adair also volunteered at the Center on Halsted's front desk early on.

Until recently, Adair was also the co-chair alongside Toi Williams of Affinity Community Services' Trail Blazers committee. She also created Adair Entertainment and started the 2nd Sunday Parties for queer women who don't really like the nighttime bar scene and created/managed two profession lesbian lip-sink groups—Style & Swagg and Seduction—as well as a Facebook page—LezInColor—where queer women can let people know what's going on across the country.

"WACT is pretty informal and has an active membership of about 60 people who show up to our first Sunday of the month pot lucks held at members houses," said Adair. "As for Affinity, we did some groundbreaking work including events and raising money."

Other than finding a larger, more diverse queer women community; the underlying reason for Adair's move from Madison to Chicago is due to what happened with her son Tyrone and his family.

"In Dec. 2009, Tyrone committed familicide," said Adair. "He shot and killed his two daughters ( my grandchildren ) and each of their moms. He also killed himself and after that I wasn't able to do my work the same way so that's why I decided to retire. When anyone was talking about what he did they always began it by referencing me because I was a well-known member of the community. I wasn't treated badly. The people were actually very kind to me but it was really hard to stay in Madison."

Although Adair loves Chicago and what she's done here, she explained that the reason why she's decided to put her stuff in storage and travel is so she can focus on the book she's writing about her life with Tyrone.

"I want to learn more about familicide so I can educate people," said Adair. "I'm also going to look at mental health issues within the African-American community, guns ( access to gun ) and domestic violence. I've started doing this research, attending conferences and doing public speaking and what I've learned is this is very common unfortunately. There aren't enough services for the family members of those who've killed other people. Those families are judged and not given any support. It's hard when an adult child of yours does something wrong. No matter how adult your child is, others judge the parents."

Adair noted that when she completes her book she doesn't know where she'll land, however, Chicago is still in the running. She said Chicago gets a bad rap due to gun violence and the politics of city hall but she doesn't see the city that way.

"The truth is Chicago is a vibrant, diverse, incredible place to live," said Adair. "I wish people would discover Chicago the way I have, especially what the LGBTQ community has to offer."

In terms of what she does for fun, Adair was a professional background vocalist off and on for 30 years. She also loves attending spoken word events, does interior design, spends time outdoors and swims ( she was a swimmer at the 1967 Youth Olympics in Montreal, Canada ). Earlier this month, Adair and her best friend went sky-lining in the Wisconsin Dells and she's planning on going race car driving and jet skiing next.

As for what Adair wants to convey to the world she said, "Sometimes I think it's easy for us to have passion but the hard part is to take action. It's important to light the match and I mean that in a good way. We can't keep sitting back and wallowing in our emotions. There are many things that need to be addressed and we all have to get involved."

To join WACT visit www.facebook.com/groups/152344554812622/ or Lez In Color visit www.facebook.com/groups/LezInColor/.


This article shared 1100 times since Sun Jul 17, 2016
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Viola Davis, Tyler Posey, Elton John, Tegan and Sara 2020-10-26
- Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will premiere on Netflix on Dec. 18, a press release noted. The movie—based on the August Wilson play—will star Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman and Colman Domingo. In the film and ...


Gay News

MOVIES Ruby Rose talks new film 'The Doorman,' LGBTQ actors 2020-10-18
- In the new movie The Doorman, out actress Ruby Rose (TV's Orange Is the New Black and Batwoman; movies such as John Wick: Chapter 2 and Pitch Perfect 3) stars as the titular character in an ...


Gay News

LGBT HISTORY: Surviving the Silence, The Unexpected Story of Col. Pat Thompson 2020-10-17
- In 1989, U.S. Army Col. Margarethe (Grethe) Cammermeyer was undergoing a routine security clearance interview when she said four simple words, "I am a lesbian." At the time, she was a highly decorated nurse and war ...


Gay News

Jeannie Tanner releases inspirational song, art-inclusive video 2020-10-17
- Local singer-songwriter Jeannie Tanner has released her new single and video, "I Wanna Be the Change." According to a press release, the song was inspired by many of the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ...


Gay News

Women's pro soccer draft Nov. 12 2020-10-15
- The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced that the 2020 NWSL Expansion Draft, featuring Racing Louisville Football Club, will take place Thursday, Nov. 12. The trade/waiver window beginning the expansion draft process will close Oct. ...


Gay News

WGN-TV features the life and times of Windy City Times 2020-10-11
Video link below - WGN-TV produced and aired on Oct. 9 a segment on the history and contributions of Windy City Times, co-founder/owner Tracy Baim, staff, contributors and delivery crew. The segment was reported by WGN's Sean Lewis. Windy City ...


Gay News

Red Stars add new player, lose finale and are part of national camp 2020-10-11
- The Chicago Red Stars announced the signing of Ella Stevens. The club selected Stevens with the 24th pick in the 2020 NWSL Draft. She made her first appearance for the Red Stars on a short-term contract ...


Gay News

Chicago Sky's Courtney Vandersloot named to All-WNBA First Team 2020-10-11
- Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot was named to the 2020 All-WNBA First Team. It marks the second straight All-WNBA First Team selection for Vandersloot, who also made the First Team in 2019. This season Vandersloot became ...


Gay News

2020 LGBTQ Candidate Diversity Report released; 1,006+ LGBTQs running 2020-10-08
--From a press release - Washington, DC — Today LGBTQ Victory Fund, the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office, released its inaugural Out on the Trail report, which details the diversity of LGBTQ candidates who ran ...


Gay News

Affinity celebrating 25 years virtually Oct. 9-11 2020-10-06
- Affinity Community Services—a social-justice organization serving the needs of the Black LGBTQ+ community, with a particular focus on Black women—will celebrate its 25th anniversary virtually Oct. 9-11. The virtual anniversary ...


Gay News

Jessica Halem to open Transforming Care Conference 2020-10-05
--From a press release - The Equitas Health Institute's virtual 2020 Transforming Care Conference on LGBTQ+ HIV & Health Equity opens Wednesday, October 14 with Jessica Halem's presentation of "Mourn the Dead & Fight Like Hell for the Living." As a ...


Gay News

Nominations open for Chicago Red Stars' #SHEINSPIRESME Award 2020-10-01
- The Chicago Red Stars announced that nominations are now open for the 2020 #SHEINSPIRESME Award. The Chicago Red Stars #SHEINSPIRESME Award is an annual award that is presented to women who exemplify leadership, practice social responsibility, ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Bradley Cooper, Spice Girls, greatest albums, film 'The Glorias' 2020-09-29
- Bradley Cooper has found his onscreen partner and a new title—Maestro—for the Leonard Bernstein film he will star in and direct for Netflix, Deadline reported. Carey Mulligan has been cast as Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, wife ...


Gay News

Red Stars tie Washington 1-1 2020-09-27
- Savannah McCaskill scored in the 72nd minute as the Chicago Red Stars played to a 1-1 tie against the Washington Spirit on Sept. 26. For the second straight game, Sarah Luebbert earned an assist with her ...


Gay News

Artemis Singers marks 40th anniversary with virtual panel 2020-09-27
- To celebrate Artemis Singer's 40th anniversary, Gerber/Hart Library and Archives hosted a Sept. 26 virtual panel discussion on the past, present and future of the chorus. Artemis Singers holds the distinction of being the first lesbian ...


 



Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs     
Privacy Policy      Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.