By Reese Isbell
Alice Board, Immediate Past Co-Chair
The August 26th Alice Board meeting of 2013 was dedicated to the memories of Jose Sarria and Donald Masuda who each recently passed away. Alice is thankful to their work in bettering San Francisco and the world. Below are my thoughts on each.
Thoughts on the Passing of Jose Sarria
Jose Sarria was before my time, and ahead of his. Having now lived and been involved in politics in the City for over a while now, I know that I owe a huge debt to him. We all owe him so much for how this City grew. Neither LGBT Democratic Club here in SF, Alice nor Milk, would be here without his bravery, tenacious skill, stands against power, and heart. He was the first person in the nation to ever run for political office as openly LGBT, in 1961. He once said following his narrow loss in that election: “I wanted to prove I, as a citizen of San Francisco, had the right to help govern the city.”
And that inspired sense of consciousness– realizing we are all worthy and strong enough to govern, vote, express our ideas, and fully be ourselves– changed everything in San Francisco and beyond. He predated the Alice and Milk clubs; in fact he predated Supervisor Harvey Milk’s entrance to San Francisco and Alice’s creation as the first LGBT Democratic Club in the nation. In his time, he was actually opposed by our local Democratic Party that now is one of our strongest pro-LGBT voices and we take for granted as continually having LGBT representation on its DCCC.
It’s not just the growth of political voices and clubs though. We owe him our very lives and through the ways our community organized. He was the first to Get Out The Vote (GOTV) to, by, and for our community. His understanding and use of collective action foreshadowed our community’s ability to create new community organizations as needs and hopes arose. Jose began his life-changing work quite simply: entertaining at his night club and trying to safely live his life to helping others live theirs. He fought the police and those in power by grouping together the community in solidarity and with pride. He encouraged his LGBT friends and clientele to come out, be heard, and be seen, stating often: “united we stand, divided they catch us one by one.”
Through one night’s party to one grand event; one voter registration to one more GOTV’ed vote; one newly out resident to one person not committing suicide; one gay fundraising event to one new openly LGBT candidate; he changed the world and made the City of San Francisco, the local, state, and national Democratic Party, the Alice Club, the Milk Club, and all of us who and what we are today. Thank you Jose Sarria.
Thoughts on the Passing of Donald Masuda
Donald Masuda was one of those unassuming, modest, behind-the-scenes folks who quietly changed the world.
Donald is part of our Alice family; he was on the Alice Board back in the late 1980’s. Around that time he was also meeting with others in the Gay & Asian community whereupon they founded the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA). He said he often got inspiration from his days in Alice to help formally structure and organize GAPA as it began. His tireless work in GAPA was noticed early by his fellow founding colleagues and he was unanimously chosen to receive the very first ‘GAPA Man of the Year’ award (now commonly referred to as the ‘Godzy’) in 1988.
Donald simultaneously kept active with other newly forming groups on HIV/AIDS and the Gay Asian community in the early days of the epidemic. GAPA’s own Community HIV Project eventually consolidated formally with a variety of these other collectives to become what we now call the API Wellness Center. Donald served on the API Wellness Center’s Board of Directors for their first 10 years and continued advising ever since. And over the last 25 years since its founding, Donald continued supporting GAPA and its work, including ongoing fundraising, events, donations to silent auctions, promotions and even singing in the GAPA Men’s Chorus. Most recently he was involved in the creation of the GAPA Foundation which was set up as a grassroots philanthropic organization for the community.
Donald did not have the high profile of some of the bigger names in our community, but he was no less involved and important. Through creating new organizations, gathering groups of people together, growing new ideas, building resources, and supporting each other throughout the way, he made San Francisco, and the world, a more welcoming place. He has created a lasting legacy of love and support and we are all the better for his time here with us.