Dustin Lance Black is an excellent role model for the students at Pasadena City College. He is an oscar winning screenwriter, and a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Community College League of CA. This is why a committee including students chose to invite him to our college to speak at commencement, and why students were ecstatic when he agreed. Unfortunately, the school's board of trustees disinvited him last week in a stunning display of institutionalized homophobia.
Mr. Black is an excellent example for community college students who want to make a positive impact in the world. Mr. Black's vibrant storytelling brought the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk to a national platform for a whole new generation of activists. His play, 8, told the real story of what happened in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial after courts refused to release damning video recordings.
Pasadena City College's Board of Trustees were made aware that in 2009 a group of people stole image's of Mr. Black from an ex's computer and shopped them around to gossip sites. They were photos of Mr. Black and a man that he cared for, doing what two gay men do when they love and trust each other. Having sex. These photos were private, and were never intended to be shared. These individuals violated Mr. Black's privacy and caused him significant emotional harm. In 2010 a court ruled that they had broken the law (http://archive.recapthelaw.org/cacd/449819/).
In spite of the fact that Mr. Black was the victim of these individuals the Board of Trustee's at PCC compared him to the perpetrators of sexual harassment at Pasadena City College, most notably Hugo Schwyzer. Blaming the victim of a crime is bad enough, but comparing them to a perpetrator of sexual violence is beyond the pale. Tony Fellow, the Board of Trustees President said in an email to his fellow trustees,
"Mr. Schwyzer's radio and newspaper interviews were beyond belief. His statements about what he did and wanted to do in the classroom embarrassed me as a professor. I don't care how good or dynamic a professor he was. He made a fool of himself and of PCC. I received more phone calls about his actions than any issue since I have been elected. Perhaps, what bothered me more was that he wasn't even teaching the content of what the course was about. Thus, I believe we need to have some time pass before we can invite a Mr. Black on campus."
This dehumanizing language is homophobic, and blames the victim. This is not only insulting to Mr. Black, but dangerous to queer students on campus. In addition to the already unsafe environment of our campus for queer-identified people, queer survivors of harassment and assault now know that our administration believes the victim to be at fault, meaning there is nowhere to turn for support. Queer-identified youth already experience high rates of suicide, homelessness, and marginalization due in part to the oppressive cultural environment created by heterosexist decisions and language such as that of Mr. Fellow
Students and faculty are proud of Mr. Black and his achievements and consider him a member of our PCC family and will not sit idly by while he is maligned. Students and faculty at PCC are proud to stand by our invitation of Dustin Lance Black to our campus to speak at our commencement, and we are ashamed of our administration for rescinding that invitation without our consent. Mr. Black, and the students at PCC are owed an apology and reparations. Apologize and renew the invitation to speak at commencement.
You can read about the student government's support of Mr. Black here: http://www.pcccourier.com/2014/04/16/commencement/
You can read Mr. Black's response to the school here:http://www.pcccourier.com/2014/04/17/exclusive-dustin-lance-black-speaks-directly-to-pcc-students/
- Dr. Mark Rocha, Board Secretary and Superintendent President
Pasadena City College Board of Trustees
Apologize to Dustin Lance Black and restore his invitation to speak at commencement
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