Mayor Harold Washington centennial event looks at his LGBTQ+ legacy

For immediate release
Contact: Tracy Baim,

Mayor Harold Washington centennial event looks at his LGBTQ+ legacy

CHICAGO—The LGBTQ legacy of late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington (1922-1987) will be discussed as part of a series of events marking his 100th birthday in 2022. This free LGBTQ event will be Wed., Oct. 13, 6-8 p.m. at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted, Chicago. 

The program will include LGBTQ+ advocates who worked for Washington, served on his Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues (COGLI), and those who fought for the city’s gay-rights law in the 1980s. Special guest will be state Sen. Mike Simmons, discussing how Washington’s legacy as mayor from 1983-87 impacted his own trajectory as the first openly gay Black man elected to a state senate post in U.S. history. Windy City Times co-founder and Chicago Reader co-publisher Tracy Baim, the organizer for this event, will speak about covering Washington for the LGBTQ press.

There will be two panel discussions. The first will feature Washington’s gay and lesbian liaison, Peggy Baker, and Ann Christophersen, co-founder of Women and Children First Books, who served on COGLI. Human-rights advocate Mona Noriega will moderate the panel.

The second panel will feature three of the four surviving members of what was known as the “Gang of Four”—activists who were among those advocating for the city’s gay-rights bill during Washington’s administration. The panelists are Laurie Dittman, Rick Garcia and Art Johnston. Mary F. Morten of the Morten Group will moderate this panel.

MCs for the evening will be Kim L. Hunt and Channyn Lynne Parker.

The event will be videotaped for later airing, in case COVID-19 restrictions limit audience capacity.

For tickets:

Sponsors include AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Brave Space Alliance, Center on Halsted, Equality Illinois, Howard Brown Health, Lambda Legal, LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Pride Action Tank, Test Positive Aware Network, with media partners Windy City Times and the Chicago Reader.

Speaker Info, in alphabetical order:

Tracy Baim is president and co-publisher of the Chicago Reader newspaper. She is co-founder and former publisher of Windy City Times. Baim received the 2013 Chicago Headline Club Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, she was inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Association for Women Journalists-Chicago Chapter Hall of Fame in 2018. She is also in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. She is the author or co-author of 13 books, and producer of three films.

Peggy Baker worked as a locomotive mechanic, union organizer, community organizer and paralegal in Los Angeles; then union organizer, precinct worker for Luis Gutierrez, and campaign organizer for Harold Washington. She worked with Robert Adams to bring the NAMES Project Quilt to Navy Pier in 1988 under city sponsorship. Later she developed software for HIV patient care and worked with teachers in academically struggling schools. She is now retired and living in Asheville, NC with her spouse and three dogs.

Ann Christophersen co-founded the feminist bookstore Women & Children First, which she owned with business partner, Linda Bubon, for 34 years. She has served as a board member of, among other organizations, the Crossroads Fund and Rivendell Theater Ensemble, and was the first openly lesbian president of the American Booksellers Association. She was appointed to Mayor Harold Washington’s Mayor’s Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues in 1987 and was inducted into Chicago’s LGBT Hall of Fame.

Laurie Dittman serves as the senior policy analyst for the Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Prior to joining MOPD, she was the deputy city treasurer. In addition to her work on the Chicago human rights and hate crimes ordinances, Dittman previously served as the executive director of IMPACT, the midwest coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign and administrative director of the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Dittman was inducted into Chicago’s LGBT Hall of Fame in 1998.

Rick Garcia is a renowned civil-rights activist and a champion in LGBTQ civil-rights advocacy including marriage equality. Garcia is a 1999 inductee in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. He is a co-founder of Equality Illinois, and served as its first executive director. Under his direction, EI became one of the most successful LGBTQ rights organizations in the country.

Kim L. Hunt is the executive director of the Pride Action Tank, a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago, where she also serves as the senior director of policy and advocacy operations. She drives the innovation, collaboration and learning necessary to make PAT a leader in improving the health, safety and progress of individuals and groups within the LGBTQ+ community. Hunt is the recipient of numerous honors and awards and serves on multiple boards and advisory councils. She is a facilitator for the Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship program and is also a founding co-host of OUTSpoken LGBTQ Storytelling, a monthly show in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.

Art Johnston is co-owner of Sidetrack bar, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ clubs. His LGBTQ activism started in 1974. He worked in the 1980s to pass Chicago’s gay-rights ordinance, and is co-founder of Equality Illinois (formerly the Illinois Federation for Human Rights). He has worked to advocate for city, county and state LGBTQ legislation.

Mary F. Morten is the president of Morten Group (MG), a national consulting firm established in November 2001 to focus on clients in the nonprofit, for profit, and foundation fields. Morten’s podcast, “Gathering Ground,” focuses on nonprofits, foundations and equity and inclusion topics. Previous positions include associate director, interim executive director and board president of Chicago Foundation for Women. Morten served as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s liaison to the LGBTQ community.

Mona Noriega serves as the Chair of the Illinois Commission
on Human Rights. Prior to serving for the State of Illinois Noriega had been appointed by Mayor Emanuel and retained by Mayor Lightfoot to serve as the Commissioner and Board Chair of the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations. 

Channyn Lynne Parker is a human rights advocate, public speaker, community-centric leader and is the director of strategic partnerships for Howard Brown Health. She is on the board of Equality Illinois and the Transformative Justice Law Project. Prior to her current role, Parker was the manager of the Broadway Youth Center’s Youth Development Program, and manager of Chicago House Social Service Agency’s TransLife Project where she supported more than 500 LGBTQ + youth and adults secure permanent, stable housing. She is the first openly transgender woman to work in the Cook County Dept. of Corrections, working with populations in protective custody. 

Sen. Mike Simmons was born in Lincoln Square, the son of a single Black mother and an Ethiopian refugee father. Simmons’ family was one of the first Black families to integrate Lincoln Square after the U.S. Supreme Court mandated that public housing be built on Chicago’s North Side. He is the first Black person to serve the 7th District, the first openly gay member of the Illinois Senate, and the third openly gay, Black state senator in the nation. Simmons recently served as Deputy Director of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative of the Obama Foundation. He has served as a board member of Equality Illinois and is a co-founder of the New Leaders Council Chicago.