|Joan Benoit, Nazbah Tom, and Andrew Lopez served Thanksgiving dinner at the Native American AIDS Project office. Photo by Rink.
San Francisco is known worldwide for its unique people and history, and the passion for caring, in a place named for St. Francis, is never more evident than during the holidays. Two extraordinary Thanksgiving events - the Native American Two Spirits LGBT dinner on Nov. 17 and the Castro Country Club potluck on Nov. 24 - were complementary celebrations that exemplified the cityâ€™s reputation.
Native American Two Spirits LGBT Dinner
The Native American feast was hosted by the Native American AIDS Project (NAAP), which is located at Market and Van Ness Avenue.
Dozens of Native Americans and their friends greeted each other and enjoyed a heaping plate of Thanksgiving fare financed by the Glide Foundation.
NAAPâ€™s gracious executive director Joan Benoit, from the Ojibwe Nation, helped to serve dinner and welcomed guests that included API Wellness Center staff and clients. NAAP staff member Andrew Lopez, who stars on a NAAP website video, was joined by board member Clyde Martinez (Sioux), Anna LeRoy (Omaha), and Nazbah Tom (DinĂ©) serving a satisfying turkey and ham dinner.
During dessert there were strong endorsements for NAAP programs, and some clients said that they had been elsewhere first, but that NAAP care is far superior. 2011 was a difficult year for Native Americans: the $100 billion owed for land and mineral rights since the 1800â€™s was settled for less than $4 billion; and the rate of HIV infection among LGBT Native Americans has never been higher and is even higher than the high rates among non-LGBT Indian clients. The holiday dinner was important since the homophobia among some tribes has driven LGBT Native Americans to San Francisco. That afternoon, however, they found warmth and connections.
Castro Country Club Thanksgiving Potluck
The Castro Country Club Thanksgiving potluck drew a large horde of club members and their friends. Long tables were set up for serving and dining, and striking artwork by Donald Rizzo lined the walls. Two turkeys and most of the vegetable concoctions had been devoured when Patty, an emergency room nurse, swept in with pungent turkey stuffing. Hunky Brian Peters was sprawled across a chair in a classic too-much-feasting posture, but he jumped up to thank Patty and wave his chocolate fudge bundt cake at hesitant diners. This journalistâ€™s quote, â€śThe only sin in San Francisco is self denial,â€ť induced them to indulge in the all-American dessert, and they moaned as they savored it. Peters cooked wonderful lamb chops with chef Jimmy Sardina to make the clubâ€™s recent Harvest Feast a culinary success.
Many people in the clubâ€™s recovery programs appreciated the dinner since they were far from their families, and they enjoyed sharing the holiday with other people who are freeing themselves from substance abuse. The club is a refuge that features meetings for more than 700 people a month, and is the most successful Baker Places project since 1983, according to its executive director Jonathan Vernick.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, State Senator Mark Leno, Supervisor Scott Wiener, Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and civil rights attorney Rafael Mandelman attend club events and have shown steady support for its â€śSave the Stepsâ€ť campaign. The club building (which is for sale) and its distinctive outdoor steps are a central gathering place for people seeking a refuge from the Castroâ€™s alcohol and drug infused party scene.
The recent Harvest Feast featured Mistress of Ceremonies Heklina from Trannyshack. The clubâ€™s Olivia Hart and the studly bartenders offered greetings and mocktails. More than $10,000 was raised at the dinner, bringing the total to $170,000 raised so far to save the clubâ€™s site.
Sultry Zachery Davenport, dressed as a character known as Laybelline, presented a spectacular drag show to benefit the club recently, and he shared the stage with club manager Terry Beswick and drag stars Serenity Heart and Olivia Hart. There was unexpected interaction with the audience, including large lipstick marks on a tall sexy manâ€™s forehead. The drag starâ€™s outfits drew the envy of Davenportâ€™s visiting cousins.
The Thanksgiving feast was a part of the series of events designed to entertain and bond the clubâ€™s members to each other and help save their lives. It was a fine party that makes it clear why the Castro Country Club should be preserved.