Smoke

Issue I, Vol. XXVIII, No. 327 | October 2022

 
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Gray Alliance News

John Richardson

Gray Alliance is a group for LGBTQ+ seniors, and we get together for potlucks the last Sunday of each month.

​​

We will have a potluck Sunday October 30th at the First Congregational Church from 2-4 pm. We will meet in the Fireside Room of the church, which is located at the south end of the church at 2131 N Van Ness Blvd in Fresno. Please note that although we are using a church facility, Gray Alliance has no religious affiliation.

If you have any questions, please contact John Richardson at 559-260-1565. Hope to see you soon!

Youth Alliance News October 2022

David McGee
 

The Central Valley is finally experiencing our early fall weather, where daytime temperatures are moderate and nighttime temperatures are just a little chilly. We can finally sleep with the windows open! The days are getting shorter, and we’ll all soon change our clocks back from daylight savings time to standard time. The LGBTQ Youth Alliance continues to meet weekly, with only a break for Thanksgiving, and occasionally a break on Christmas and New Year’s Day, if they happen to fall on a Friday!

October is LGBTQ History Month. Our Grand Poobah, Jeffery Robinson, used to print biographies from an LGBTQ history website and have the youth take turns reading the stories and discussing them. This year, Rachel AKA Banana had the youth name their favorite LGBTQ icon and discuss why they chose them. Most of the members discussed current musical artists they listen to. The adults in the room had no idea who these icons were but they were able to Google the names to catch up to the discussion!

Since Halloween is happening in a few weeks, Banana brought small bisque figurines and small wall hangings that youth group members could paint with acrylic paints and take home. Of course, there was plenty of discussion going on, as well! Some folks talked so much they didn’t get their project done, but they took the artwork home anyway and said they would finish it at home!

We save the last Friday of the month for our world-famous potluck! September’s potluck was a blast, especially since group members brought friends and family for the festivities. We had a ton of food, chips, drinks, and cookies! One group member baked banana bread, which was still warm when we ate it! It was delicious! Potluck meetings are a great way for new members to try out the group, since we all just eat and talk about whatever is on our mind! This month, the potluck will fall close to Halloween, so we will have our annual Halloween potluck, where folks can come in costume and listen to cheesy Halloween music!

The LGBTQ Youth Alliance meets in person at the Big Red Church (First Congregational Church) on Friday nights from 7 to 8:30 PM. We will continue to post on Facebook, and now that we’ve got our Instagram account going, we’re posting on Instagram, as well! We urge all LGBTQ school-age youth to join us Friday nights at the Big Red Church, located at 2131 N. Van Ness, just up the street from Fresno High School!

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NEWS RELEASE: 10/2022

 

Fresno Stonewall Democrats met on October 11, 2022, to vote on final candidate endorsements and consider positions on the California Statewide Propositions and Fresno County Ballot Measures. Our club is pleased to share our full list of endorsements and recommendations for this election cycle. Please consider our list as a ‘Voting Guide’ to help with your selections on the ballot.

 

FEDERAL ENDORSEMENTS:

U.S. Senator: Alex Padilla

U.S. Congressional District 13: Adam Gray

U.S. Congressional District 20: Marisa Wood

U.S. Congressional District 21: Jim Costa

 

STATE ENDORSEMENTS:

CA Governor: Gavin Newsom

CA Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis

CA Secretary of State: Dr. Shirley Weber

CA Attorney General: Rob Bonta

CA Treasurer: Fiona Ma

CA Controller: Malia Cohen

CA Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond

CA Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara

CA Board of Equalization: Jose Altimirano

CA Senate District 12: Susanne Gundy

CA Senate District 14: Anna Caballero

CA Assembly District 27: Esmeralda Soria

CA Assembly District 31: Joaquin Arambula

 

LOCAL ENDORSEMENTS:

Clovis City Council: Joseph Hebert

 

EDUCATION ENDORSEMENTS:

Fresno Unified School Board Area 1: Keshia Thomas

Fresno Unified School Board Area 4: Veva Islas

State Center Community College District Trustee Area 1: Destiny Rodriguez

State Center Community College District Trustee Area 5: Gilbert Felix

Central Unified School Board Area 4: Nabil Kherfan

 

PROPOSITIONS:

Vote “YES” on Propositions 1, 28, 30, 31
Vote “NO” on Propositions 26, 27

 

LOCAL BALLOT MEASURES:
Measure C: No
Measure E: No
Measure M: Yes

VOTING INFORMATION:

Check your Voter Registration Status: https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov

Register Online to Vote (California only): https://registertovote.ca.gov

Track Your Ballot by Email and/or SMS: https://california.ballottrax.net/voter

 

More information about the election and these candidates can be found at our website: https://fresnostonewalldemocrats.org

 

The Fresno Stonewall Democrats are dedicated to advancing the equal rights of all people,

regardless of sexual orientation, preference, or identity. We support the Democratic Party and those Democratic Candidates who support our mission.

REMINDER:

Fresno Stonewall Dems will not be meeting in November because it is election night! We will be celebrating Democratic victories which have a tremendous impact on the LGBTQ+ 🏳️‍🌈 community! We encourage everyone to vote! If you want to take action and help with GOTV get involved! Reach out and we will connect you with campaigns!

Local

 
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Conservative Christians call for boycott of the new Scooby-Doo movie because Velma is gay

David McGee

One Million Moms, a conservative Christian group, wants to alert all parents about the latest Scooby-Doo movie, “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!” because Velma has a crush on another woman in the movie.

The conservative group warned followers to “make sure to share this information with your family and friends to guarantee they are not blindsided by this dramatic twist in a familiar cast of characters.”

OMM claims that 11,000 people have signed a petition saying that their families will boycott the Scooby-Doo movie. The petition states that “Warner Brothers places more importance on homosexual indoctrination than it does on the well-being and healthful nurturing of children.” Warner Brothers Studios has not responded.

(Source: lgbtqnation.com)

Madonna baffles the Internet with “I’m gay” Tiktok video

David McGee
 

One week ago, Madonna posted a viral video where she suggests she is gay. In the video, Madonna holds up a pair of pink underwear next to the caption, “If I miss, I’m gay.” She tries to chuck the underwear in a trash can, and misses. The video cuts to her dramatically turning away from the camera.

While racking up millions of views, Madonna became the Number 1 most searched topic on Google in the United States, in the past week. One reader wrote, “Did I just witness Madonna coming out?” Another person responded, “Madonna has been an out bisexual for literally decades, my dudes.”

Whether her video was merely an effort to bring attention to herself or an attempt to show her thanks to the LGBTQ community that has always followed her, Madonna has once again demonstrated she can stir up controversy.

(Source: nbcnews.com)

Landmark trial begins over Arkansas’ ban on transgender youth care

David McGee

The nation’s first trial over a state’s ban on gender-affirming care for children began in Arkansas, on Monday, October 17. US District Judge Jay Moody is hearing evidence and testimony over the law he temporarily blocked last year that would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers, or surgery to anyone under 18 years of age. It also prevents doctors from referring patients elsewhere for care.

The families of four transgender youth and two doctors who provide care gender-affirming care want Judge Moody to strike down the law, saying it is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and intrudes on parents’ right to make medical decisions for their children. The trial is expected to last at least a week.

 

(Source: inquirer.com)

Pete Buttigieg is a hot commodity on the campaign trail

David McGee

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has become the most requested surrogate on the campaign trail for Democratic candidates in the midterms, according to CNN. He’s so in demand that he’s getting more requests than Vice President Kamala Harris, but still fewer than President Joe Biden, as Democrats look to defend their narrow congressional majorities and win governor’s races in November.

The Advocate, an LGBTQ multimedia organization, has suggested that Buttigieg has proven himself more agile on camera than Harris or Biden.

Both Buttigieg and Harris are widely expected to run to succeed Biden, either in 2024 or 2028, and for Democrats looking ahead, the party’s preference for Buttigieg on the campaign trail may be an early indicator of the future direction of the party overall.

(Source: advocate.com)

National

 
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Taliban murdered gay medical student & sent video of his death to his family

The regime has engaged in a campaign of terror against the LGBTQ since retaking the country.
John Russell
Reposted from LGBTQNation.com

 

A gay Afghan man was abducted and murdered by Taliban gunmen in what was reportedly part of a brutal crackdown on the country’s LGBTQ community. A video of the killing was later sent to his family and partner.

Hamed Sabouri, a 22-year-old medical student, was kidnapped in August at a Taliban checkpoint in Kabul, according to his family and partner, Bahar. They told The Guardian that Sabouri was tortured for three days before being shot in the back of the head. After receiving a video of the killing, his family fled Afghanistan.

continue reading at LGBTQNation.com

International

 
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Is our brain wired for enlightenment? 
Mark Lang

 

The other day I was sitting within earshot of a group of intellectuals who were pontificating on the difference between the brain and the mind. As I was eavesdropping, one of the men said, “People only use 10% of the brain.”  

 

In truth, we do use our entire brain. Maybe not all at once, but there’s no part of the brain unused. What the man probably meant was that we only use a fraction of the mind’s potential. There is a difference between the brain and the mind. The brain is the physical structure; the mind is the mental process. We use 100% of the physical brain. If we didn’t, nature would not have designed us to grow a brain several times larger than what we needed.  

 

Doesn’t that make sense? Do you think the human brain would evolve larger and larger over the course of human history if only 10% of it were needed? Nature doesn’t work that way. Evolution develops in response to adaptation to the environment; it doesn’t just give you nine times more of some bodily organ just for the hell of it.  

 

Even so, I believe it is a fact the average person does not use the full mental potential of the brain—particularly in the area of creativity. Think about it this way. What is the limit of a person’s creativity? Is there any? I don’t think so. The mind’s potential is limitless in any number of mental domains. 

 

Can you imagine the things you could do if you focused your mind on developing just one of your mental capabilities? Say you wanted to work on becoming more enlightened. If you spent your entire life developing that area of your brain, you might reach that goal by the conclusion of your life. 

 

The thing is, you do not have enough time to develop your mind’s potential in every arena fully. You need to prioritize. What topics, skill, and talents do you want to develop the most? If your mind did not limit your unlimited potential, you would not be able to do much of anything at all. Make sense?  

 

So, don’t get all “guilted-out” because you haven’t, yet, become all you can be. You cannot be all things to all people in all situations. Give yourself a break. Most people have one category they can claim as an area of expertise.  

 

And by the way, those same experts are probably completely inept in other fields. That’s why they pay a mechanic, layer, computer technician, surgeon, farmer, or another professional when they need something done outside of their competency.  

So, what about the physical brain? Why does it seem to conflict at times? Why are we sometimes selfish—then giving? Why are we sometimes angry—then forgiving? There is a physical structure in the brain for each of those emotions above.  

 

Brain scans reveal a region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens which activates when a person is selfishly thinking of extreme pleasure like gambling or winning the lottery. The nucleus accumbens is the pleasure center, and it drives addictive behaviors.  

Another part of the brain, the posterior superior temporal sulcus, activates when an individual is showing concern for the well-being of others which demonstrates social consciousness. It’s the part involved with altruistic thinking.  

 

When someone is infuriated, it’s the amygdala firing off in the brain. Later, when that person is ready to forgive, the prefrontal cortex takes over. That’s the region which houses moral reasoning and ethical behavior. Neuroscientists are continuing to discover the connections between the brain, mind, and body. It can all get pretty confusing. (Personally, I like to look at it this way: my brain is part of my physical identity; my mind is part of my essence, and my essence is my true nature.) 

 

Something to meditate on today. Realize your brain has the capacity for enlightenment, yet you also have limits. You are not expected to reach your full potential in every aspect of your life. Focus your attention on developing your abilities in a few select areas you have chosen for your life. Be satisfied with that. Relax; you do not need to be perfect.  

 

And the next time you hear someone make the false statement that we only use a fraction of the brain, realize that person is getting the terms “brain” and “mind” mixed up. Try not to judge them too harshly.  

Enlighten Me

 
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New Wellness

 
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Book Review for Payback’s A Witch by Lana Harper 

     A Kaylia Metcalfe review  

 

From the back of the book…. 

 

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn't been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams. 

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She's determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago. 

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in? 

But most concerning of all: Why can't she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov? 

 

I have been writing book reviews for years and one of the main things I strive for is to stay “spoiler-free.” I want to give you enough information about a book that you can make the choice to read or skip because it is the best choice for you. Obviously, not all books are for all people. And that’s fine! That is what book reviews are for… to help you find your next favorite book. But getting the ending ahead of time would be a bummer. Thus my goal of spoiler-free. 

 

Some books, however, seem to want to spoil themselves. Or rather, some genres are more likely to be predictable than others. Such is the case in this book, but I will do my best.  

 

As is my custom, I will use my ASPECT method for this review.  

 

A / Atmosphere (Tone) 

 

Between the cover art and the back of the book blurb, you pretty much know exactly what you are getting into when you pick up this book. It is light. It is whimsy. It is clearly a “romance” with all the benefits and drawbacks that genre entails. (If you read romance, you know very well what tropes you can expect to find here, and if you don’t read romance, keep reading this review and I will lay it out for you further down.)  

 

There are no real surprises, the carnal interludes are fairly PG13, and, most importantly, there are quite a few time/place references and pop culture allusions that center this story in the now, the right now (or more specifically 2021). There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it does mean that there is a built-in expiration date for a lot of the jokes, banter, and characterizations.  

 

The other part of “Tone” is world-building. This is a world with both real and pseudo-magic, and that world is fun. It is like urban fantasy but in a lighter gentler more made-for-TV movie sort of way. It’s cute even if it is overly simplistic. There are four types of magic, that are used in very broad strokes to create four types of characters, houses, businesses, fashion aesthetics, etc. It is like the sorting hat from that series that shall not be named decided to not limit itself to four color combos… but decided to magically infuse every aspect of the students with their house mannerisms. So now all Ravenclaw students are purple-skinned and they all major in library science and every single one of them is always carrying around at least six books perched on the top of their heads…. My point is that there is no subtly to the magic families or their trappings in this book, and while that can be fun, it can also be annoying.  

 

S / Style 

 

Continuing that thought… Harper writes in a clear straightforward manner. You could almost say her writing is conversational. There are no big words, no real deeper meanings to anything, and no paragraphs that benefit from being reread. In other words, it is a simple enough story told in a simple enough sort of way. IE, a quick read.  

 

What saves this book from being overly simplistic to the point of boring, are the descriptions. Harper has a gift for language even if she saves it for her landscapes, for her set pieces, and for the physical (clothing included) descriptions of a few key characters. Not all the characters or settings however get the attention, which is a shame. One glaring example is the bit where our protagonist, Emmy, is having trouble deciding what to wear - a common problem faced by many of us while getting ready for a first date- and Harper gives us several fun paragraphs about why Emmy is anxious but then we are not actually told what she ends up wearing. Her date’s outfit, on the other hand, is described in almost verbose detail. A different writer might have used this scene as a chance to flesh Emmy out more because what a character is wearing can be a useful tool to show the reader who that character is… and juxtaposing Emmy’s outfit (that she only succeeded in putting together after much angst) with the outfit of her date, could be very telling and interesting. But in this case… it just… wasn’t there. There are other examples of this lopsided (in some cases one-sided) use of descriptions and it was frustrating because, again, Harper is gifted in terms of descriptive details… when she chooses to write them. 

 

P / Plot-Pacing  

 

Our characters are in their early to mid-20s and yet this book read like YA. I’m not sure if that is because YA shares so many of the same tropes as the romance genre, or if I am just old. (Honestly, either could be true.) 

 

So there is a plot. It is… a straightforward sort of plot. There are a handful of expected tropes, and then a (not at all surprising) subplot of romance that is connected to the main plot. That romance plot moves along at plot-speed with the expected ebbs and flows and the eventual fight/misunderstanding/dramatic moment happening after the intimacy moment and right before the first plot’s climax. And yes… this romantic hiccup will affect the big plot and then… well, I said spoiler free, right? But you know, We all know. The plot for the romance novel is not ever the point. We all just know that going in.** 

 

So let’s move on to what sets this romance novel a bit out of the total basic basicness of basic… 

 

C / Characters 

 

SAPPHIC LOVE!  

 

That’s right! The love story in these pages is between two women! And.. my little bi heart can’t help but gleefully point out… between two BI women! Extra fun: they bond over the crap behavior of a dude they both slept with. I mean… forget the rest of this book, the setup, the magic, everything…. Is that not the secret dream of at least half of the sapphic women out there? Ahem. 

 

“Coming out” as a concept is just not here. (Which might be the least believable part of this magical book about sapphic witches, but hey, it is a make-believe world and who am I to quibble?) The queerness of these characters is never called out, questioned, challenged, or really dealt with… except that it’s two women who fall in love. Hooray! 

 

They are also witches. Which is fun. Again, the book is pretty upfront about all this from the jump, so no real surprises.  

 

As is common in the genre of romance (and in YA) there is not a lot of character development but there is a fair bit of personal drama and angst. And while the characters are interesting and their fashion senses are extremely on point, I will say that I wanted more. It seemed like Harper really liked a few of the characters more than others and we got a lot more details about them. The characterization of the antagonist was also a bit weak. It is like Harper didn’t want to make him evil, the women had been with him after all, but also didn’t really give us enough to actively hate him the way the women did. We are told he is awful but there seems to be little explanation beyond some douche-level bad behavior. And there is a subplot about the evils of capitalism, our villain is a capitalistic businessman, that seems tacked on to flesh out how truly bad he is, but actually made me want to roll my eyes at our intrepid overly naive scorned women. Yes, capitalism sucks. But this was the weakest part of everyone’s characterization.  

 

Honestly, the best thing our main character, Emmy, has going for her is that she is our main character and -for me- she is a sapphic sort of witch. Her struggles of “where do I belong” and “what should I do with my life?” were just blips on the plot radar and seemed like manufactured drama for the sake of manufactured drama. She was not an overly likable character, and I am not really sure why she inspired such lust from the mesmerizing Talia. Based on the way that author Harper drools over every aspect of Talia, I have to wonder if there is a bit of author insert somewhere along the line.  

 

I don’t know if I just didn’t care about Emmy's problems because they were stupid problems, because they weren’t written in a way to elicit sympathy, or because I knew that they would be solved by the end of the book and therefore not worth any of my personal angst. Whatever the case, I didn’t care. I was here for the magic and the sapphic love. 

 

T / Why THIS Book? 

 

It’s October. Halloween season is upon us and I don’t like horror books. When I saw this at Target, forever ago, I thought “Oh look! An inoffensively harmless little cute sapphic witch book… perfect for October!” And I was right.  

 

E / Entertaining 

 

Why yes, I went a tiny bit out of order this time just to see if you were paying attention.  

 

I am actually going to combine this section with the next one… 

 

Would I recommend it? 

 

This book was exactly what it said it was. A fun holiday Hallmark movie in book form that featured sapphic witches in a romantic setting.  

 

There are no twists, no turns, and nothing overly memorable about the story. BUT the magic world that this story takes place in? Is inherently interesting. As I said before, Harper is great with descriptions and her world-building is pretty great as well. It is just… the story she has chosen to tell within this world is pretty blah, but blah in that “Sometimes I just want to drink my pumpkin spice late and to wear my chunky boots in peace, ok?” sort of way.  

 

It’s basic. But there’s nothing inherently wrong about being basic. (I say as I sip my vanilla latte because it’s not cold enough for pumpkin anything in these parts as of yet- at least not for me.) In fact, a lot of people like “basic” things like romance novels, and that is ok! If you like romance novels, if you like sapphic love stories, if you like cute small towns that are quirky and full of whimsy, if you like modern-day witches and vague magic mythos, if you like happy endings, if you like YA tropes,…. If you like any combination of these things, then this book is for you. 

 

And if you want to look really, and I mean really, hard for a lesson about accepting yourself for who you are and not letting your past or your past relationships dictate your life… well, you might be able to find that here. I know it was supposed to be here. But honestly, the lesson was lost under the squee factor of sapphic witches falling in love in a tiny magic-filled midwest town.  

 

** There is also a plot point that is totally dropped more than halfway through the book which I was a bit miffed about until I was updating my Goodreads and I noticed that this is Book One in a series… so… I am guessing that other characters in this town are going to get their own (romance?) books that will deal with these forgotten plots lines. Which, is cool. I probably won’t be reading them, but, you know. More power to basic books! 

Kaylia Metcalfe is a freelance audio and copy editor based in Fresno CA. She produces podcasts as part of the KMMA Media Network and cohosts

the monthly radio show It’s A Queer Thang on KFCF. For more information, visit kayliametcalfe.com

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Book Flow

 
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ARIES (Mar 21-Apr 19)
All that seemed well is not. You need to look back and rethink some of your actions and projects. Your mantra is: Redo

TAURUS (Apr 20-May 20)
Work has its surprises. At least your mind is sharp. You have a lot of stamina and it is going to pay off. 

GEMINI (May 21-Jun 21)
You have a lot of energy here. You can be accident prone or you can expel that energy through exercise. You need help, don't be afraid to ask for it.

CANCER (June 22-Jul 22)
You have been spending money and it is all coming back to haunt you. You can't sit this one out. Action is called for and all is not perfect. 

LEO (Jul 23 - Aug 22)
It's time to clean house. Use what works and push ahead. It'll be a bumpy ride but worth it. 

VIRGO (Aug 23-Sep 22)
Others get on your nerves so keep busy and do some physical work to dissipate the anger. It's a time of learning.

LIBRA (Sep 23-Oct 22) 
All is well or as well as it can be. Life is not perfect but you are satisfied. Push for your dreams and you will be happier. 

SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21)
You feel like you are in a boat with only one oar, Seek new ways to do things and it will give you a new perspective on life. 

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21)
You are coming into a really stressful period where nothing seems to work. You are starting to spend too much money again. Look back on what you have accomplished for inspiration. 

CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19)

You seem to be escaping the problem plaguing everyone else. You continue to work hard and it will bring some satisfaction to you. It's a time for reflection. 

AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18)
This is not a time to be judgmental but understanding, especially to others. It will bring a period of emotional growth. 

PISCES (Feb 19-Mar 20)
People will get on your nerves. You need some alone time so you can sort out what's going on. Try a gym membership or meditation as a form of self-care.

Horoscopes

 
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TRUNK OR TREAT
SUNDAY, Oct 23, 2022 - 5 - 8 PM

1649 Van Ness Ave

Join us for the First Annual Fresno Rainbow Pride Trunk or Treat!

 

A free event for all families. Sponsored by Welbe Health of Fresno.


Treats

Games

Craft station

and much more!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

12 pm - 1:30 pm

Event by Fresno State's Cross Cultural and Gender Center

bit.ly/probinterview

Duration: 1 hr 30 min

The Men's Success Initiative presents an interview with Dr. Peter Robertson as he shares the challenges and accomplishments the Fresno State LGBTQ+ community has faced, both past and present.

RSVP Via Zoom: bit.ly/probinterview

For any questions, please email: ccgcmsi@mail.fresnostate.edu

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Events

 
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Contact Us

P O Box 4959, Fresno, CA 93744

newslnk@aol.com  |  Tel: 559-266-5465

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News and happenings for, by, about and affecting the LGBT Valley.
Project of Community Link, Inc: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Service Organization. 
EST. September 1995

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