I attended Parsons Senior High School, and was Student Council President. I never heard of its most famous graduate, Gilbert Baker. I was publicly outed at school by a classmate. The incident forced me to leave my hometown to finish my senior year elsewhere.
I attempted suicide soon after, then decided to join the military to prove I was a man. After four years in the military, I attended the private, Catholic college St. John’s University in Minnesota. It was here I re-discovered my love of music and found a career as a jazz vocalist in Minneapolis. I became a member of the three-time Grammy Award-winning group the Sounds Of Blackness and won my first NAACP Image Award for my work with the group. After twenty-two years in Minnesota, I moved to Los Angeles to work as the personal assistant for Morris Hayes, Prince’s keyboardist and band leader of the New Power Generation.
Two years later, my father passed away and I returned to Parsons to be with my mother and sisters. Thirty-one years after leaving I returned, but now I was fully gay. In honor of my father, who worked at City Hall, I decided to run for Commissioner/Mayor. I was surprisingly elected — the first openly gay person to hold the office.
During my first year of a four-year term, I learned about my fellow Parsons classmate, Gilbert Baker, creator of the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Flag. I contacted Gilbert to let him know a gay man had been elected to run the town that both of us left due to stigma.
Our phone talks became weekly. I invited Gilbert home to be honored in 2017 with the key to the city. Some classmates began to organize a homecoming celebration for Gilbert — his first return to Parsons since he left in 1969. A film festival in his name was also planned with Gilbert as keynote speaker. Everything was all set but Gilbert suddenly passed away weeks before the homecoming.