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July 30 , 2010

First Del Martin award is given at OLOC gathering

When we age on our own terms, we sharpen our radical edge. How do we age on our own terms? By choosing the word ‘old’ . . . we are proud to be old.

--Peg Cruikshank

Cleveland--Over 150 old lesbians from 24 states and three countries attended the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change gathering from July 14 to 18 in the Cleveland suburb of Independence.

The four-day event included four keynote speeches, 17 workshops, speak-outs, a talent show, a memorial program, and a dinner-dance with Alix Dobkin and friends entertaining.

The gathering, titled Sharpening the Radical Edge, is held in a different city every two years.

The first Del Martin Old Lesbian Pride Award was awarded to Carmah Lawler and Kathy Glass of Colorado.

Keynote speakers included Peg Cruikshank, author of Learning to Be Old and other books; and archaeologist Jezz Jesmain, who spoke about women’s roles and the highly-regarded place of lesbianism in tribes of the Americas.

The Three Wizards of Oz--Suzanne Bellamy, Jean Taylor and Lavender--filled in for Vera Martin, who was unable to attend for health reasons. They spoke of the state of lesbians and feminism in Australia.

Sheila Ortiz-Taylor, author of several novels, a book of poetry and a memoir, also addressed the gathering. Her talk included readings from her novels which depicted thinly-disguised events from her life, in which she came up against the horrors of patriarchy. Her audience laughed in recognition.

Dobkin read from her recently published memoir, My Red Blood: A Memoir of Growing Up Communist, Coming Onto the Greenwich Village Folk Scene, and Coming Out in the Feminist Movement and sang several songs mentioned in the book plus old favorites of the lesbian community worldwide.

Forty of the registrants were from Ohio, most from in or near Cleveland. Sally Tatnall of the OLOC steering committee and Judy Benson, the Cleveland chapter contact for the group, did much of the local organizing. They were aided by a cadre of volunteers, some of them old lesbians themselves, and some younger supporters. Before the event, they went out into the community and solicited paid ads and a multitude of donations. They were also present at the gathering itself to help it all go smoothly.

The entire event opened with a Cleveland Cabaret, featuring a group of well-known Cleveland-area lesbian performers and emceed by comic Karen Williams.

OLOC welcomes supporters of all ages and is open to lesbians age 60 and older.

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