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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 1990)
Donna Russell Red Wing
HIDEAWAY FO R
FRIENDS A N D
Visibility in the community is going to be a real challenge .
Enlarging and expanding what we can offer to people .
For me, the challenge is to understand not only the project
but the community.
for. It was meant to be.
“New England is changing. The pace is
elcome to Lesbian Community Project
much faster. The cost of living is tremendous.
headquarters, where the phone rings
For working-class people, Massachusetts has
several times an hour and a copy machine the just become unlivable. Portland is clean and
size o f a Volkswagon is chewing up the paper
wonderful and has fountains everywhere. It’s
and spitting it out. Creased sheets o f the
a friendly, really positive place.
January newsletter, copy machine casualties,
"The job is a combination of the things
fill a trash can. In other parts o f the spacious
that I do best. I also believed in the work of
Union Station office sit dozens o f files,
LCP. It’s a pro-active organization; it’s an
membership lists and pledges, the blank eye o f
organization that’s out there. I don’t think an
the AT& T computer.
LCP could survive in my home town. To Fmd
that here is really exciting. It's comfortable
— for me, for my lifestyle — to work
primarily with women, to work primarily with
"I do know that after all of the welcomes
and the excitement, there’s some real hard
work to do. Fundraising, being out there in
Donna Russell Red Wing glances around
the community, is critical. I think that we
the room, grins like a moon on its way to fu ll
have to take an active role in legislative work.
and says she feels giddy. In her first days as
I think that when we have a civil rights bill
executive director o f P ortland's Lesbian
that protects us, we can do other work much
Community Project, she has pored through
more easily and without fear. So for me,
mail and files, figured out how to answer
that’s really high on my priority list.
about h a lf o f the phone callers’ questions and
"In the three days I’ve been here. I ’ve
arrived home each day happily saturated with
probably had 20 calls from new women in
her new responsibilities.
town, or women who are just out, who need
Red Wing, A New England native, talks a
resources, who need to connect, who need a
fa st and effusive stream, a Boston accent
hotline number, who just want to come by and
propping her A ’s open wide. She wears a
see what it’s all about.
labrys in her right ear, a bright sca rf swooped
“So visibility is important; I think
around the neck o f a black sweater and blue
legislative work is important. I think that this
jeans, a welcome change from the power suits
organization exists and is accessible to all
her last job required.
lesbians is important. In a city like Worcester,
She talks excitedly about the N orthw est’s
certainly there are support services, but there
stunning landscape, the house she and her
is no place folks can come anytime they want
partner managed to fin d in less than fiv e
and meet other folks or sit around and read or
hours, the New Year’s Eve party at the Echo
talk. The fact that LCP exists is the most
Theater, the Lesbian Community Project
important piece of it all.
itself, unthinkable in her form er
“What else can we do — I don’t know yet.
M assachusetts town.
I don’t know what the needs of women in
She looks past the office clutter to the high
Portland are and how we can meet those
windows, where trains chug in and out. It’s a
needs. I think some of the social events —
typical January day, deep gray clouds battling
the New Year’s Eve dance, the formal this
a pale sun. A Portland native might not see
spring — are great stuff. I think many of us
spent too many years being terribly serious
anything remarkable. But to Red Wing, it is
all new; every piece a challenge.
about everything. We have to not forget to
have fun, not forget to enjoy ourselves.
“Before this, I was the director of a child
“I think work like the Groucho Marx
poster [part of the Margins to the Mainstream
abuse prevention program in Worcester,
Project], while I know there’s some
Massachusetts, about 40 miles west of Boston.
around that, that’s important
As a prevention program, we primarily
work. I think we can do it better and bigger
worked with children from two-and-a-half to
18, teaching them how to protect themselves.
“My first reaction [to the Groucho Marx
“It’s the kind of work that is important to
ad] was that I thought it was astounding. That
do, but I think you can give so much of
wouldn’t have happened back home. I
yourself and then you have to pull back.
brought some back with me and folks couldn’t
Because there’s no more to give. I think the
believe that this organization and these
work here is important, but it’s much more
women had the courage to do this. I do
understand that some people have perceived it
“For 20 years Portland has been my
as middle-class, white-toast kind of stuff. But
favorite city. While I was last visiting here, I
back home, one of the first comments I got
thought, ‘Gosh, I ’d love to live here.’ And I
was, ‘Look at the diversity.’
thought: why not? My son is a young adult;
“Maybe Portland is more out than
he’s on the road with his band, so as a mother
Worcester is. Maybe people do perceive that
I didn’t need to be there every day.
project in a different light But back home
“When I got home my partner and I
people were so excited and really applauded
decided to get The Oregonian. The first issue
the project. I think we have to remember that
we got advertised this job. I thought:
this is the first effort of this kind. This
fundraising, special events, legislative work
campaign was palatable to middle-class
— all the stuff I do, all in one job. This is
America, and that may be a criticism. On the
wonderful. It was the only job I looked at, the
hand, middle-class America may be able
only job I wanted and the only job I applied
A N N D E E
H O C H M A N
to say the L word for the first time. It was
done with a very gentle kind of humor. And I
think we need that.
“Fundraising is always, always a
challenge. My fundraising experiences have
been for the arts and for abused kids. It’s not
hard to raise money for the arts. When you
deal with issues like incest, abuse and assault,
it’s a little more difficult. When you’re
raising money for the Lesbian Community
Project, you’re going to be pushing a lot of
buttons. The challenge will be to identify
funding sources and raise the money that will
allow us to do the work we want to do.
“I do think that visibility in the community
is going to be a real challenge. Enlarging and
expanding what we can offer to people. For
me, the challenge is to understand not only the
project, but the community. To be out there,
to meet people, to find out what people want.
“I’ve probably had 50 calls welcoming me
to the community. I ’ve been able to talk to
folks and get a sense of their understanding of
LCP. And then there are the nuts and bolts —
the computer, the xerox machine. It’s been a
very full two-and-a-half days.
“I think it’s going to be a learning process.
It’s exciting. It’s certainly not boring. It’s
certainly not routine. I ’m not just cloistered
away at my desk five days a week. W e’ve
been going to Café Mocha, going to A
Woman’s Place Bookstore and just bopping
around town in the evening, just trying to get
a sense of the community.
“I’m a painter. For about 20 years I’ve
done collage work — very large abstract
work. In the last year, my partner and I have
formed a company called Red Wing
Creations. We do lesbian erotica on clothing,
cards, books. It’s wonderful. It allows both
o f us to work together on a project that we
find very exciting.
“That’s what we do to kind of de-
accelerate and relax. We have two dogs who
take up a lot of our time. And we are very
outdoorsy kinds of folks. We can’t wait to get
out in the mountains. Here, the landscape is
so dramatic. When we crossed from
California to Oregon, I almost had a stroke.
So we want to go to some old-growth forests,
and to the ocean. I think that’s what our
weekends will be.
“I ’ve been in New England almost 40
years. My son is there, but his band is going
to do a cross-country tour, so I’ll see him in
the spring and perhaps the summer. There are
people I ’ll miss terribly, but there are planes
and trains and telephones. I think for the first
time in our lives, my partner and I have
decided to live exactly as we choose and that
includes being here in Portland. That includes
working in a position like this. That includes
making some breaks. But I think they’re
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just out ▼ f 5 ▼ February 199*