About Christy Tomecek

Archives assistant in Arrangement and Description, Manuscripts and Archives. Interested in literature, history, politics, and loud music. Frequent wearer of combat boots.

Waging War(s): Formation of the AIDS Committee of Toronto

Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer. Eight of the victims died less than 24 months after the diagnosis was made

 

LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, “RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS.” New York Times, Jul 03, 1981.

By July 1981, 41 men received diagnoses of Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer that was endemic to parts of Africa and the Mediterranean region and rarely seen elsewhere. When it did occur in the United States, it was generally seen in men of Mediterranean, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern descent above the age of 50 and often took ten years for it to result in death if left untreated. However, the Kaposi sarcoma cases first seen in 1981 struck men in their 30s and they died within three years in many cases.

Further testing of the men showed that something had gone horribly wrong with their immune system. Their T-cells were nearly or outright non-existent. Other diseases were also showing up that most adults with a healthy immune system would never develop, such as thrush and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. These men died of the latter as well. The only real link that was found was that the majority of the infected were homosexual men and had many sexual partners. A few men were also intravenous drug users. Hemophiliacs also suffered these problems on occasion. After years of confusion and research performed by scientists in countries such as the United States and France, this destruction of the immune system was named Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and its vector was determined to be a virus, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Scientists discovered that HIV was passed through contact with certain infected body fluids, such as blood and semen, while saliva and sweat carried so little viral load and would not transmit the virus. Eventually, antiretroviral treatments were developed to slow the loss of T-cells and decrease the patient’s viral load, allowing them to live longer lives.

At the very beginning of the epidemic, there was a lot of fear and confusion across the United States. Gay people were blamed for infecting others and press coverage was homophobic in tone. Those with AIDS and their advocates fought back against government inattention to the crisis. Homosexuals and drug users were perceived as immoral by many, responsible for their own suffering and unworthy of assistance. Much has been written on this time period, including the nonfiction works And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts and Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz (whose papers are part of New York University’s Downtown Collection) as well as the plays Angels in America by Tony Kushner and The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer.

An example of the atmosphere of discrimination against the gay men and lesbian communities. From the <title>Gay Community News</title>, June 26, 1982.

An example of the atmosphere of discrimination against the gay men and lesbian communities. From the Gay Community News, June 26, 1982. (Box 6, folder 2)

 

While many of the first reports of AIDS were coming out of the United States, Canada also began recording statistics of people falling ill with the syndrome. Bert Hansen, an American professor of the history of science and medicine then teaching at the University of Toronto, was among those concerned about the growing epidemic in 1982. His and others efforts to help AIDS patients through the founding of the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) is documented in the Bert Hansen Papers (MS 2042).

A newspaper article announcing the start of the AIDS Committee of Toronto.

A newspaper article announcing the start of the AIDS Committee of Toronto. (Box 2, folder 6)

ACT had its roots in an April 5, 1983 meeting held at the Church Street Community Center, run by Gays in Health Care and the Hassle Free Clinic in Toronto. On April 26, 1983, volunteers formed five different groups to begin work on several fronts: the Medical Liaison Committee, the Media Relations Committee, Fundraising and Special Events Committee, AIDSupport, and the Community Education Committee.

Hansen chaired ACT from 1983 to 1984. During his time, the five working group began projects that set the course for ACT. The Medical Liaison Committee contacted medical professionals for more information about patients with AIDS and to give them information as well. They also worked with the medical profession towards inclusive policies and support for people with AIDS. The Media Relations Committee spoke to reporters on behalf of ACT, held press conferences, and produced press releases. They also monitored the media for coverage of the epidemic, especially of the gay community; circulated articles that were positive and informative to others; and responded to press that was discriminating and bigoted in nature. Their intent was to make sure people were properly informed about AIDS rather than solely receiving news reports that were panicked, sensationalist, and exploitative of patients with AIDS and their loved ones.

The gay men community, especially AIDS activists, often faced insults, poor reporting, and exploitation, as described in the opinion section of the September 3, 1983 issue of Gay Community News.

The gay men community, especially AIDS activists, often faced insults, poor reporting, and exploitation, as described in the opinion section of the September 3, 1983 issue of Gay Community News. (Box 2, Folder 5)

The Fundraising and Special Events Committee held events to raise funds for research into the disease and for day to day office costs of the committee. Most of ACT’s fundraising for research was in conjunction with other organizations, but they did organize smaller events in the Toronto area for ACT. AIDSupport sought to set up counseling and advising for AIDS patients as well as helping with practical needs, such as providing meals, transporting those who were unable to do so themselves, and running social activities for people with HIV and AIDS. The Community Education Committee was responsible for producing pamphlets and holding talks and workshops about how AIDS affected the body and how it may be spread. (During Hansen’s time with ACT, it was still not known what the exact vector was for AIDS, or even certain what bodily fluids transmitted the syndrome.) They modeled their services after the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) located in the United States, after hearing about their work. To get a clearer sense of GMHC’s work, a committee member visited their offices to observe and make a report of their operations.

The report on the activities of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) offices and operations.

The report on the activities of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) offices and operations. (Box 1, Folder 5)

A volunteer survey sheet distributed by ACT.

A volunteer survey sheet distributed by ACT. (Box 1, folder 11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert Hansen stepped down from ACT in 1984 and returned to the United States in 1985. He continued to keep track of the media response to HIV/AIDS, which is also documented in the collection’s subject files. ACT continues to serve the Toronto community of those who are HIV positive, and providing community education on the disease itself and the stigma around those who have it.

Researchers wishing to work with the Bert Hansen Papers can view the finding aid here. Researchers can also visit our website for more information on visiting Manuscripts and Archives and using our collections.

Nuclear Formation: The Foundation of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

Residents of New Haven, Connecticut are most likely aware of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. The International Festival of Arts and Ideas was founded in 1995 and incorporated in 1996, bringing lectures, art shows, and performances to the people of New Haven. Types of performances include theater, solo performance work, music, puppet work, slam poetry and photography exhibitions. Ideas related programs are equally as varied and has included such programs as comparing and contrasting literature in the United States and China, analysis of music about wars and soldiers, using the arts to help high-risk youths, and the state of the ecosystem of Long Island Sound. The city of New Haven is heavily utilized for the festival, with venues including Yale University, the Shubert Theater, the New Haven Green, shopping centers, and even street corners. There is also family programming, tours of different neighborhoods and institutions in the city, and master classes on a variety of topics.

By now, New Haven residents have gotten used to seeing festival flags on light posts, signs on the street pointing to venues and parking, and the massive soundstage that takes over the Green. However, a lot of folks may wonder how the Festival became such an event in the city. The answer is documented in Manuscripts and Archives recent acquisition of their records from 1988 to 2013 (International Festival of Arts and Ideas Records, MS 2021). Among fundraising records, staff files, board meeting materials, festival programs and ticket sales, and video recordings of several festival events, I found a group of files marked “Nucleus Committee.” Dating mainly back to 1995, it contains correspondence, reports, and presentations about bringing the festival to life.

The festival was started by a group of three community leaders: Anne Calabresi, Jean Handley and Roslyn “Roz” Meyer. Anne Calabresi is a social anthropologist and writer, with many philanthropic interests. She has ties with the Yale community as the wife of Second Circuit Appeals Court judge Guido Calabresi, who also serves as Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer here at the Yale law school and used to serve as their dean. Jean Handley, who sadly passed away in 2010, worked in public relations and corporate relations with companies such as the Southern New England Telephone Company (SNET) and AT&T. She also served on the Executive Board of the Long Wharf Theater. Dr. Roslyn Meyer is a psychologist who received her doctorate at Yale and decided to stay in New Haven, and worked with her husband to donate and help with many philanthropic causes in the area. She also tutored children in the community.

The three women had experience working in their communities.  Calabresi and Meyer had also already collaborated on bringing another group to life, Leadership, Education and Athletic Partnership (L.E.A.P.), which provides counselors to children in need in the New Haven area. Handley became involved in that organization as well. However, what interested the women just as much was bringing an arts festival to the New Haven area. They also were not content to leave it as simply an arts festival. They were also interested in bringing in academics and authorities on different topics to discuss ideas of historical, cultural, literary, political and scientific natures.

The women had a feeling that the New Haven area could and would sustain a festival of large size, especially after seeing the success of the Special Olympics World Games in town in 1995. According to the Festival’s website, Jean Handley started work before the Games, commissioning market research to figure out potential for a festival and even researched the time of the year where the weather would be best for such an undertaking. The data from this research was encouraging. In 1995, the women began reaching out to various contacts to help get this festival off the ground.

Contact List

The organizers, having experience in community work, had a fair idea of who they needed to speak to.

 

The reason why they decided to form it in the first place was from both a community building standpoint and an economic standpoint. The women in their various professional and philanthropic positions and roles in the community had seen the variety of people in New Haven and the variety of problems as well. They felt the arts could be a strong unifier for all. Additionally, they were interested in the impact the ideas part of their festival could have on the wider community. Economically, the founders had studied the impact of arts festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland and the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. Both festivals had transformed their host cities from sleepy towns to tourist attractions with increases in business, employment, and income all around. The women felt this could help New Haven, which often has large amounts of residents struggling financially.  There was also simply the fact that they could allow artists and thinkers the chance to present and perform to a wide audience made up of many different people who come from many walks of life.

Logo design

One of the prospective logo designs for the festival

The three leaders formed what they called the Nucleus Committee. These committee members started considering budgeting, fundraising, types of programming, structure of staffing, and even naming and logos. By August of 1995, the committee had 19 members. They had made the decision that the festival would last five days the first year (1996) and would continue to grow larger as they continued to fundraise and establish stable financing. Many of the larger institutions and venues of New Haven were approached about programming, including Yale University and the Shubert Theater. They also hired a Festival Director, Norman Frisch, who kept resigning repeatedly because he did not think they could mount a festival in a year and a half with the lack of funding and staffing.  However, when he finally settled into a consultant role, the committee moved forward despite his fears and mounted their festival with performers such as the Shanghai Quartet, Le Cirque Baroque, and Bread and Puppets Theater. It turned out to be a success.

In 2015, the Festival celebrated its 20th year in New Haven and lasted from June 12 to June 27. It’s safe to say that the people behind the organization have not flagged in their drive, passion, or intensity.

Festival programs

Programs from the 1997 and 2006 festivals.

Researchers who wish to use the collection may view the finding aid here. To learn more about researching at Manuscripts and Archives in general, visit our website here.

LGBTQ Round-up at Manuscripts and Archives

One of Manuscripts and Archives major collecting areas is material from the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) community. I was very much reminded of this in early September when we received several new collections or additions to existing collections, which explored many different aspects of these communities.  Gwyneth Crowley, the Librarian for LGBT Studies, made all of these additions possible by purchasing them from Queer Antiquarian Books.

Highlights include:

  • The Good Vibrations Collection (MS 2025), which covers the feminist, sex-positive sex toy shop based in San Francisco, California. Founded in 1977 by sex educator Joani Blank, it was opened as a response to requests for a “clean, well-lit place” to shop for sex toys and books. They also have a mail order catalog, a production company for making erotic videos, and educational workshops on all sorts of sexual activities. While men are welcome in their shops, it developed its marketing and products to primarily appeal to women. They are also extremely LGBTQ friendly, with workshops and products aimed at people regardless of their gender or their partner’s gender. While I may disappoint you by reporting that this collection does not include any products sold in the shops, it does contain printed ephemera from it, including fliers that advertise their workshops, a catalog from the 1980s (with hand-drawn pictures of their products), and a booklet with stories of people’s first time using toys purchased from Good Vibrations.

    Good Vibrations mail order catalog

    An early Good Vibrations mail order catalog

  • An addition to the Transgender Collection (MS 1848). While generally made up of printed ephemera from Northern California events and services, approximately half of the fliers are from drag queen events and the other half are from events and services for transgender and non-binary people. Represented in the drag queen events ephemera are theatrical parodies (personal favorite: one involving a parody of the film The Silence of the Lambs renamed The Silence of the Trans and starring drag queens Peaches Christ and Sharon Needles as Trannibal Lecter and Buffalo Jill) and charity events led by drag groups such as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Represented in the transgender and non-binary ephemera are fliers for health services (including transitioning care and mental health care), marches and protests, and artistic events such as film screenings and gallery showings. It’s interesting to see the difference in tone.

 

  • An addition to the Physique Collection (MS 1850). Champion Studios operated in the 1950s and 1960s, creating artwork of athletic, nearly nude men and selling them to the interested—in many cases the interested were men sexually attracted to men. Since gay pornography was illegal and therefore straightforward, commercially produced work was unavailable, magazines and artwork were developed around “fitness” and “physique” themes with the models in minimal clothing as they could not pose nude. Manuscripts and Archives received order forms with sample images for prospective customers. The artwork is definitely eye-catching, but also of interest is how they worked to keep the theme going as almost every photo set includes the “story” of how the subjects came to be photographed, or drawn, or sculpted.

 

  • The Gaylesta Brochures Collection (MS 2024), which takes us back to San Francisco, California’s LGBTQ communities. Gaylesta is an organization that refers LGBTQ identified people to mental health professionals that give culturally competent care. The brochures included in this new collection cover issues and experiences that can impact mental health such as HIV/AIDS, gender identity, biphobia and bisexual erasure, body image and eating disorders, coming out, queer parenting, domestic violence, stress and anxiety, and trauma. There are also brochures covering kink-aware therapy for those who are interested in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) and/or fetish practices, and polyamory-aware therapy for those interested in or involved in ethical non-monogamous relationship structures.

    Gaylesta brochures

    A sampling of Gaylesta brochures

  • An addition of ephemera and newsletters to the AIDS Collection (MS 1834) from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s California branch. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is based in Los Angeles, California and works in 36 countries, providing healthcare to those sick with HIV and AIDS, advocacy for the sick, and research studies and clinical trials. Much of the ephemera is made up of educational brochures on different aspects of HIV/AIDS care. There are also fliers for their medical centers, their pharmacies and their California thrift store, Out of the Closet, that uses its proceeds to fund the foundation. Among other preservation challenges with this collection: finding a box that could house its safer sex kits with condoms.

For those interested in working with these collections, you can find links to their finding aids in the descriptions above.

For information on using our collections, visit our website here.

Saving the Day for All: Queer Superhero Comics

Superheroes have long been a staple of comic books. While the first comic books were reprints of humor and adventure comic strips from newspapers, by 1938 the tone became even more fanciful. That’s when Detective Comics (who would later become DC Comics) published Action #1, featuring a costumed hero with amazing strength. This, of course, was Superman. Other writers and artists turned to superhero stories, creating such characters as Batman, Captain Marvel, and the Green Hornet. Superhero comics still continue to endure in their popularity today, as the top selling comic book of 2014 was issue number one of the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man, whose characters originated in 1963.

These superhero comics have little in common with the first lesbian and gay comics that were created in the 1970s. The first documented lesbian and gay comic in the United States was published in 1972 by San Francisco, California artist Trina Robbins. Called “Sandy Comes Out,” it told the story of a young woman discovering her sexuality when she moved to San Francisco. Other lesbian and gay artists and writers continued to follow this trend of independently publishing comics with lesbian and gay characters, some as lighthearted as “Sandy Comes Out,” others more erotic in nature. Gay-themed comics broke out of the underground in 1980 with the publication of Gay Comix, published and edited by Denis Kitchen and Howard Cruse, respectively.

The Gay Comics Collection (MS 1851) in Manuscripts and Archives contains over a hundred lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-themed titles. A small number of the titles were received in 2005 and date from 1976 to 1996; these very much echo the description of the above gay and lesbian comics. This year (2015), additional comics for this collection were purchased from Prism Comics by Gwyneth Crowley, the Librarian for LGBT Studies. While some of these comics date back as far as 1985 (Kitchen’s Gay Comix and Donna Barr’s The Desert Peach for instance), the majority of them date from 2000 to 2014. The shift in tone and topic area in the recently acquired comics is striking. For one thing, it is more accurate to refer to them as queer comics. Several of these comics feature transgender characters and gender shifting themes as well as characters that are not attracted to only one gender. Another thing to notice is the higher amount of comics that are not self-published—one title is none other than Kevin Keller from Archie Comics, whose 2012 publication debuted one of the first mainstream comics centered on a gay protagonist (Kevin Keller the character first appeared in Veronica #202 in 2010). A more subtle shift that is apparent is the significant number (more than 25 percent) of science fiction and fantasy comics. Some involve aliens (Bakersfield, Earth), others involve zombies (Avant-Garde, Junkyard Angels) and a few focus on robots and transfer of minds between inorganic bodies (Anatta, Disconnect, Love Machines, O Human Star). However, the most common sci-fi/fantasy feature of these titles is superheroes.

Cover of Issue #1 of Pride High

Issue #1 of Pride High

What I found interesting while working with these comics is how they approach the concept of a superhero. Pride High for instance utilizes a similar plot line to the X-Men comics, in which teenagers with superhero powers attend a special school. However, there is a twist: a group of these teens are LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) identified and face bullying and harassment from other students. Similarly, Friend of Dorothy features a gay boy who must save the world of Oz. While it is also a straightforward superhero comic, part of the transformation of the protagonist is being barred from seeing his boyfriend by the protagonist’s parents, being signed up for a conversion therapy camp, and his attempt at suicide.

Also present are comics that actively parody the genre and the tropes present in classic superhero comics. These superheroes have the powers and costumes like their traditional counterparts, but how they behave and how they use said powers are not exactly the same as Batman saving Gotham, or even Scott-John, the protagonist of Friend of Dorothy, saving Oz.

Cover of Glamazonia, the Uncanny Super-Tranny

Glamazonia, the Uncanny Super-Tranny

One such hero is Glamazonia, the main character of the Glamazonia, the Uncanny Super-Tranny, which has faced controversy and censorship at times as some members of the trans* community find it offensive. Glamazonia has such powers as super vision, super hearing, and flight. She in theory tries to save the day, such as when a scientist is threatened by visitors from the future, but she also has no problem attempting to murder President John F. Kennedy when he cheats on her with multiple women and a rival drag queen. Issue number 3 of Reignbow and Dee-va features a gay man superhero, his lady sidekick, and his boyfriend battling a vampire queen who is attempting to make the men straight. Of course, the fighting includes their blows being powered by pop culture references from action movies and songs, a time out in a rainbow colored bouncy castle, and defeating werewolves with a very special face powder.

More serious themes are present in The Power Within. Written with the “It Gets Better” project in mind, it follows an eighth grade boy named Shannon. Shannon is constantly bullied by his peers for being gay. It doesn’t help that his father and the school principal blame Shannon for his mistreatment by believing he calls too much attention to himself. To help tolerate this, Shannon imagines himself becoming a superhero when bullied and being able to fight off his attackers. Perhaps that’s why so many of these comics use superheroes—they save the day and make a difference and it doesn’t matter how different they are. If anything, they are celebrated for their differences. It’s a way it can get better.

Cover of The Power Within

The Power Within

The Gay Comics Collection, including the new addition, is open to researchers. You can look at the finding aid here. If you would like more information on using collections in Manuscripts and Archives, you can visit our website here.

Sources:

Benton, Mike. Superhero Comics of the Golden Age. Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1992.

Goulart, Ron. Ron Goulart’s Great History of Comic Books. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1986.

Virtue, Graeme. “Marvel and DC Comics Dominate Sales Helped Along by Big-Screen Boost.” The Guardian, January 14, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/14/marvel-dc- spiderman-guardians-of-the-galazy

Wells, Charlie. “‘No Straight Lines’—Gay Comics History.” SFGate, August 20, 2012. http://www.sfgate.com/lgbt/article/No-Straight-Lines-gay-comics-history-3801379.php

Party Diplomacy: The Ravi D. Goel Collection on Henry Roe Cloud

Thanks to the generosity of donor Ravi D. Goel (Yale College, 1993), Manuscripts and Archives has received a collection created by Henry Roe Cloud, the first self-identified Native American to graduate Yale University.

Henry Roe Cloud was born on a Winnebago reservation in Nebraska in the mid-1880s. Like many Native American children born on reservations in that time period, Cloud went to an Indian school to learn how to read and write in English as well as a trade. Cloud was an exceptional student, moving on to a private boarding school in Massachusetts before starting Yale College in 1906. While at Yale, he was adopted by the Roe family, missionaries that spent some of their time preaching among Native Americans. He received his bachelors in psychology and philosophy in 1910 and his masters in anthropology in 1914. He became a Presbyterian minister, an official within the Office of Indian Affairs, and a lifelong advocate of modern education for Native American youth.

Manuscripts and Archives already holds a collection with some of Cloud’s letters in the Roe Family Papers (MS 774). However, with this new collection, we received more correspondence, including a set of letters addressed to Cloud’s daughter, Marion Roe Cloud Hughes.

The letters were written when Cloud was traveling on behalf of the Office of Indian Affairs. One letter in particular stood out to me because of its familiarity of situation to most: being stuck at a fancy party, unsure what to do.

That’s not to say that Cloud was particularly shy. At Yale he was part of a fraternity (Beta Theta Pi), the debate club, and the Elihu Club. He also regularly talked to people in the course of his work. However, it must have been daunting to be invited to tea with the ambassador to the United States at the Chinese embassy. While Cloud and the ambassador were classmates at Yale together, this was still a far more formal event than Cloud was used to.

Getting to the tea was the first difficulty as neither Cloud nor the taxi driver had change for Cloud’s five dollar bill. Cloud wound up having to ask around the embassy for change before giving the driver $3.00 for a 50 cent fare. When he finally entered the embassy and was received by the ambassador and one of his daughters, Cloud was not quite pleased when the ambassador commented on “how stout” Cloud was and asking what Cloud ate. Embarrassed, Cloud found himself moving on and then lost amongst the 400 or so guests.

Cloud did find a solution to feeling lost. He took refuge at a nearby table with cocktails. After imbibing a bit, he then found his courage to try to find the Chinese ambassador’s other daughters. His purpose, he explained to Marion, was to show the ambassador’s daughters a picture of her and her three sisters so as to have occasion to speak with them further:

“I even went so far as to vie with other ambassadors for the Central and South America republics by saying I was representing the North American Indians! At this the Embassy cohorts lifted eyebrows as much as to convey the thought to me—‘Yes, I duly feel your importance.’ To one I said, ‘I am anxious to meet the other daughters of the Ambassador’…Soon I was face to face with the daughter and I pulled out your picture with your sisters.”

The daughter wrote her sisters’ names on the envelope of the picture for Marion and her sisters at Cloud’s request, but otherwise did not seem interested in Cloud’s photograph. Thankfully, he discovered food nearby and wound up in the company of another Chinese citizen who split a taxi with him home from the tea—Cloud would have walked home otherwise, “even if it took me till midnight.”

While the party probably didn’t go as Cloud would have liked, at least he had an adventure to relate to Marion. We now also have the letter so we can share in it as well.

The first page of Henry Roe Cloud's letter to his daughter Marion.

The first page of Henry Roe Cloud’s letter to his daughter Marion.

Researchers interested in seeing the Ravi D. Goel Collection on Henry Roe Cloud (MS 2008) can now do so via the finding aid located here. To learn more about using Manuscripts and Archives collections, you can visit our website here.

Coalition for People and the West Rock Youth Leadership Program

Manuscripts and Archives recently completed work on a collection of records created by the Greater New Haven Coalition for People (MS 2007). The Greater New Haven Coalition for People was founded in 1981 as an umbrella group of different community agencies and organizations that were concerned about the effect of budget cuts on programs here in the city of New Haven, Connecticut. Soon it evolved into a grassroots organization that focused on organizing and addressing a variety of issues that impacted the low and middle income residents of the city. Some important issues to the group include conditions and safety of public housing, health care and low-cost prescription medication availability for low-income patients, especially those who are uninsured, public transit safety and availability, and programs for children and adolescents.

In 1994, Coalition for People focused heavily on the last item. As they often did fundraising and work with other community organizations, they were included in a Request for Proposals for advanced youth leadership training programs by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. The Community Foundation had been developing these programs with groups like the Coalition for People for the past two years and wished to provide funding and direction for another year. The focus of the 1994 programs was on younger adolescents in the Fair Haven and West Rock neighborhoods. The core curriculum was focused on such things as “Communication (Individual/Group), Planning and Problem Solving, Cognitive/Academic Support, Conflict Resolution/Mediation, and Diversity/Cultural Awareness.” Other aspects of the program included placing participants with mentors, a neighborhood event planned by the participants and special recreation trips.

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven specifically named Coalition for People to lead the program for the West Rock neighborhood. Coalition for People devised a complete program that was approved and put into action in the summer of 1994. This program was called the West Rock Youth Leadership Program.

In this document from a March 16th meeting, you can see the Coalition brainstorming many aspects of the Leadership Program, including possible community events, recreation, placements for participants, and what they expected from the staff they hired for the program.

Planning for the West Rock Youth Leadership Program.

From MS 2007, Box 19, Folder 10.

Planning for the West Rock Youth Leadership Program.

From MS 2007, Box 19, Folder 10.

This draft of the program’s schedule gives you an idea of what they were planning for the adolescents.

Proposed schedule for the West Rock Youth Leadership Program.

From MS 2007, Box 19, Folder 3.

The program was just as much an opportunity for parent involvement as for involvement by the teenagers. Coalition for People regularly sent updates to parents, asking for their help with events and initiatives by the program.

Letter to the parents.

From MS 2007, Box 19, Folder 2.

For the mentorship aspect of the program, the Coalition worked hard to get a large variety of businesses to participate, as can be seen from this list of prospective mentors.

Prospective mentor list.

From MS 2007, Box 19, Folder 9.

Part of the program was planning a community event for the neighborhood. The members of the program chose to host a community fair, with games, food, and tables with representatives from different groups that could provide resources for the community. The adolescents in the program sent out this letter to groups to ask for help.

Letter for the community fair.

From MS 2007, Box 19, Folder 5.

The Community Fair came together on August 27, 1994. By then, the 20 teenagers who participated had gotten a chance to observe, ask questions, and work with role models, take classes, and enjoy day trips that could be as simple as going to the local water park to trips to other cities to see what their museums offered. It is clear that the Coalition had worked hard to help these teenagers. It is equally clear that these teens had a lot to offer.

Flier for the community fair.

From MS 2007, Box 19, Folder 5.

Researchers wishing to work with the Greater New Haven Coalition for People Records can view the finding aid here. Researchers can also visit our website for more information on visiting Manuscripts and Archives and using our collections.

Humor in the Court: The Edward R. Becker Papers

Recently in Manuscripts and Archives, work was completed on the Edward R. Becker Papers (MS 1929). Judge Becker was a Yale Law School alumnus who served in two federal courts, the District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania and Court of Appeals, Third Circuit. He was renowned for his due diligence on cases and his voluminous opinions that could range up to hundreds of pages. He was referred to as the “101st senator” by friend Arlen Specter for the amount of influence he had on legislation, especially with his work on compensating victims of asbestos. He was also devoted to many civic causes, especially those involving the preservation of Philadelphia’s history and making it accessible to all. While all of this is apparent in his papers, I couldn’t help but notice something else engaging: Becker and his colleagues’ sense of humor.

For instance, Matsushita v. Zenith Radio Corp was one of Judge Becker’s cases when he was with the District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania, and the one that made his reputation as an expert in antitrust law. It was a very lengthy case for the court, starting in 1974 and finally reaching a judgment in 1981. After working with it for so long, I’m sure Becker and the other judges were getting rather tired with it. That might explain how a court order was written for “a period of relaxation” in the form of a softball game between the plaintiffs and the defendants, with the only instances of inclement weather allowed to stop the game being “blizzard, volcanic eruption, small pox epidemic, or invasion of the body snatchers.”

First page of the "Softball Order" memorandum

First page of the “Softball Order” memorandum. (MS 1929, Box 9, Folder 6)

The second page of the "Softball Order" memorandum.

Second page of the “Softball Order” memorandum. (MS 1929, Box 9, Folder 6)

Humor was not only reserved for court business. The judges delighted in making digs at each other as can be seen in their memorandums and related documents. In this October 20, 1995 memo, Judge Becker had sent out a memo with a wanted poster attached picturing a fellow judge, Anthony J. Scirica, saying he had seen him in the lobby and how “this guy worries me.”

Judge Becker expressing his "worries" about "this guy Tony."

Judge Becker expressing his “worries” about “this guy Tony.” (MS 1929, Box 16, Folder 1)

The "dangers" of Judge Scirica.

The “dangers” of Judge Scirica. (MS 1929, Box 16, Folder 1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judge Becker was not the only one with a sense of humor. Another correspondent known only as “Bernice” from Washington D.C. told him about her frustration with her day being lifted by his jokes. She was no slouch at cracking jokes either as demonstrated by the puns that keep the note going.

 

Note to Judge Becker with political puns.

Not only full of puns, but an excellent primer in political figures. (MS 1929, Box 2, Folder 6)

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