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Standing in Solidarity: Where Black History and LGBTQ+ History Collide in Cleveland

Feb 15, 2019
Eric Hayes, Communications and Development Coordinator
Each year in February, the nation pays tribute to generations of African Americans who have helped move the needle towards a more equitable American society. Last year, The Center recognized a different individual from LGBTQ+ black history each day of the month. This year, we want to use this opportunity to show our gratitude to an African American organization that stood up and supported the LGBTQ+ community when no one else would: The Cleveland Call & Post. 
In 1975, the Gay Education and Awareness Resources (GEAR) Foundation was incorporated in Cleveland. This was the earliest form of what today is the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. In the early days of GEAR, along with operating a gay hotline for people who needed help or advice and facilitating support groups, a major arm of the organization was the publication of High GEAR, Cleveland’s first gay newspaper. Published entirely by a dedicated team of volunteers, High GEAR contained both local and national news coverage that was relevant to gays and lesbians, as well as features, editorials, and advertising for gay businesses.

 

In the early days of High GEAR, these volunteers faced a major roadblock. They sent out letters to publishers and printers all over town explaining what High GEAR was and asking for a meeting to discuss purchasing printing services. The paper generated enough in advertising from the gay bars and baths to pay full price. None of the printers responded.

 

The group then started requesting meetings with printers without detailing what High GEAR was, and they were able to arrange meetings with several publishing houses throughout the city. At the end of each meeting, the results were similar: “Thank you for your interest, but I’m afraid we would not like to be affiliated with that.”

 

In the end, only one publisher agreed to publish High GEAR: The Cleveland Call and Post. By the 1970’s, The Call & Post was already a historic black newspaper in Cleveland. It originated in 1929 when two newspapers serving African Americans in Cleveland—The Cleveland Call and the Cleveland Post—merged. Thanks in large part to editor and publisher William O. Walker, the paper became the most influential, African American paper in the state of Ohio. It was William O. Walker himself who made the decision to take on the printing of High GEAR, and he did so with no delay and with no reservations. One of the original editors of High GEAR said, “It felt like one minority standing up and helping another. We are so grateful to this day.”

 

Not only did the Call & Post agree to print the paper, they also helped GEAR learn how to successfully create a newspaper. Mr. Smith, affectionately known by the High GEAR editors as “Smitty,” was a Call & Post employee who was assigned to helping teach the volunteer crew about writing headlines, creating layouts, and other important aspects of publishing.

 

The Call & Post published High GEAR for the entirety of its run from 1974-1984, when the publication closed down and made way for the Gay People’s Chronicle. The Call & Post is still in business today.

 

“People have a right to live their life whatever way they want. In America, you can choose to be whoever you want to be. There are so many gifted people that are unique and who own their individuality and we have no right to condemn anybody. People have a right to be who they are and express themselves.”
Dale Edwards, Executive Director at Call and Post
An editorial from High GEAR in the 1970’s castigating gay bars and their patrons for racist business practices. The editors of High Gear operated with an informal, but strictly enforced anti-racism policy.
The Center wants to thank the Call & Post for their allyship during a critical period in Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ history, as well as the countless other African American LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who have stood up to make a difference in Northeast Ohio to create a more fair and prosperous region for us all.

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