Audio Interview, Cynthia Woolbright, January 30, 2012

  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --that's always been a champion
  • for the underdog--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Exactly.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --a champion for civil rights and activism.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Susan B.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Even before that.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Frederick Douglass,
  • if we go back, yes, exactly.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: So we're trying to frame, how is it
  • that a community like Rochester could have
  • such a strong gay movement--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Why do we have that?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --and not only for civil rights,
  • but our reaction and our response to the AIDS crisis--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, yes.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --all of that?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And your name came to us--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: I love Bill Valenti.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right, because of--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Emily.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --Emily.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: God bless her.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But your involvement
  • with AIDS Rochester, your involvement
  • with the alumni group at the--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, was it University of Rochester?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --University of Rochester.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And I think your current involvement
  • with the Rochester Area Community Foundation
  • to begin an LGBT funding--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, I'm not really involved in that
  • at this point, no.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: That might be something that--
  • you might be forewarning me of what Emily
  • is going to be doing with me.
  • But that's OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: OK.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: But not formally, at least
  • at this point, or even informally.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So how did you become
  • connected to AIDS Rochester?
  • What were the--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: How did it happen?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --pieces that brought you?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So this is where you want to start taping.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: OK.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Did you press record?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: You need to press record.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: I did.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, you did?
  • So you got yourself on there before.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: All right, great.
  • You'll just of course edit out the ums and everything else,
  • correct?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Thank you very much.
  • Well, let's see.
  • I moved here to Rochester in 1986 spring.
  • My husband and I had been married for a year.
  • I was living in Boston and he was living here.
  • And we decided it was probably going
  • to be easier for me to get employed here
  • than him to get employed in Boston.
  • So I moved here.
  • And I'd always been active.
  • I guess I would say that I've always been active.
  • I came from an activist family growing up,
  • strong democratic roots.
  • I always tell people that until I really went off to college,
  • I really only think I knew one Republican family in my town.
  • I sat at the feet of my grandmother
  • while she was marking people off at the polls and voting.
  • And I handed out flyers all around.
  • My grandfather was a county sheriff
  • and my uncle was a mayor.
  • So that just has been a really active family.
  • And so that just has been the way I was raised.
  • And then of course I went to college
  • in the late sixties, early seventies, so there you go.
  • I was very active in some of those movements and stuff.
  • And I remember reading about when they first discovered
  • this sort of virus or disease that had come to the United
  • States and was infecting gay men,
  • is really how it was framed.
  • And I was thinking, well, that's really strange.
  • How'd that happen?
  • And so I just kind of kept reading the news.
  • And then when I moved here to Rochester,
  • after I got here in May, I was trying to think of, OK,
  • what do I want to be involved in?
  • I've done these different things over my life.
  • And I guess I should backtrack and tell you
  • that when I started working professionally
  • after I graduated from college a few times--
  • a few degrees, rather--
  • I was in student affairs work.
  • And so a lot of the work I did back in the seventies
  • was around sexism, racism, and homophobia
  • in terms of leadership development.
  • And in our division of student affairs,
  • we worked with student government leaders, student
  • organization leaders, residence hall advisors,
  • all those kinds of individuals in terms of student groups.
  • And I remember in the mid to late seventies
  • a couple of students coming out to me
  • and talking about the difficulties and challenges it
  • was, particularly at that time and particularly even
  • at college.
  • I think at that time, they probably had no clue--
  • that just wasn't-- whereas today,
  • there's a much greater awareness,
  • much in general about who we are.
  • And so I was really wanting to be fairly helpful in that.
  • And so because we were doing a lot of the racism, sexism,
  • and homophobia training, it just was sort of a natural fit.
  • And I probably became known on campus
  • as like, you can go to talk to her, or something like that.
  • So I did a lot of that work with colleagues and with students.
  • And so that was my background.
  • And then when I wrote, I did a book.
  • I edited a book in our professional association
  • in student affairs and on leadership
  • and trying to look at it from different perspectives,
  • instead of a white straight male perspective, because I
  • of course discovered that, oh, that's really weird,
  • leadership is all supposed to be this way.
  • Just think, oh, my gosh.
  • As I became more and more aware of myself,
  • both as a white person, as a female,
  • and as a straight person, recognizing
  • that all the models I had learned from were,
  • like I said, white male straight.
  • And I thought-- and I didn't really
  • understand when I was going through college,
  • I was like the only woman in the group of student government
  • leaders.
  • I was the first woman president of the program
  • board, the college union board.
  • So I was a lot of first women--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What college?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: --in college.
  • Pardon me?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: What college?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, it was a Southern Illinois University
  • in Edwardsville.
  • And so that was just a big part of that.
  • And even in college, I recognized--
  • I got some really good training with a woman
  • who was our student activities advisor.
  • She's actually a woman of color who happens to be also lesbian,
  • although she wasn't out at the time.
  • And I remember the workshops we used to do with her.
  • And it really-- this was early seventies.
  • And this situation happened.
  • You started the--
  • I remember the last time we were doing this,
  • we were getting prepared to be orientation
  • leaders for the university for all the incoming students.
  • And she had selected eighteen of us.
  • Now, just imagine.
  • This was 1971.
  • And she really wanted to hit all the areas on campus
  • and have people really feel comfortable,
  • etcetera, etcetera.
  • So we went through this week-long--
  • the eighteen of us went through this week-long training program
  • workshop series.
  • We went away for three or four days.
  • We came back and did other stuff.
  • And the eighteen of us, a few of us knew each other.
  • But we really came from--
  • I think we had about twenty thousand or so students.
  • So we came from real different walks of life.
  • We probably at that point would have been the best diversity
  • poster, even back then.
  • And so I remember after going through all this training
  • thinking that--
  • we all thought we were pretty confident about knowing
  • who we were.
  • And then the last thing she did was she
  • sent us through this workshop series--
  • I kid you not-- it lasted eight-and-a-half hours.
  • Where you started in the middle of the room.
  • And she had on one side strongly agree, over here strongly
  • disagree, and then grades all around it.
  • And we would all start out in the middle of the room.
  • And the first one of course was easy.
  • I think she started--
  • to this day I'm not sure I remember.
  • But it was something about--
  • oh, I don't know-- political beliefs or something.
  • And so she read a statement.
  • And people would run to their area.
  • And then she would take that statement
  • and add a little bit more.
  • And then she would add a little bit more.
  • And so you would see you had to really take the topic
  • and go inside.
  • Well, as she did that, then the issues or the statements
  • became deeper and deeper issues.
  • So it dealt with everything from sexism and racism
  • and homophobia to just really important topics
  • that we were doing.
  • And after we got about-- oh, god we were exhausted.
  • She was really hitting us hard.
  • This was probably the prelude to--
  • I don't know-- touchy feely stuff (unintelligible)
  • something.
  • Anyway, excuse me.
  • I remember one of our colleagues,
  • one of our student leaders, Eric, whom I knew.
  • About forty-five minutes into it,
  • he stayed in the middle of the circle and never left it.
  • And people-- we had a chance to argue and go back and forth.
  • And the rest of us would kind of move around a little bit
  • and stuff like that.
  • And it would be basically like how do you handle this?
  • How do you handle this personally?
  • And then how do you handle if a student comes up to you
  • and says x or y or if you observe stuff?
  • So it was really getting intense.
  • So I kept watching Eric.
  • And I'm thinking, OK, he's really smart.
  • I'm missing something here.
  • So all of a sudden, about three-and-a-half hours into it,
  • it hit me.
  • I'm an advisor.
  • This is not about me.
  • It's about them.
  • And I've got to be really open minded.
  • And so it was like, oh, god, I finally get this.
  • So I went back.
  • So Eric and a couple other people and I were--
  • there were eighteen of us.
  • And a few of us were in the middle of the circle.
  • But these got into intense debates
  • about, how could you say that?
  • Because we thought we were all great
  • and we had done all of this leadership stuff
  • and everything.
  • So anyway, long story short, you realize
  • that no matter what your own values are, when you're
  • in a counselling situation or and advising situation,
  • you have got to really be aware of who you are and all of that.
  • So that was very intense.
  • And I obviously have never forgotten that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And in that group,
  • we had white, black, male, female, gay, straight.
  • We really had-- and actually, there were a couple of students
  • from--
  • one was from not Pakistan, somewhere in the East.
  • I can't remember now where.
  • But we had-- so it was also not just all--
  • we hadn't all been born in the United States.
  • There were some international students.
  • So obviously we went through that summer.
  • And oh, my gosh, it was just a huge turning point for me.
  • So fast forward then.
  • I go into student affairs.
  • And that's really how I kind of came
  • to then being involved in racism, sexism, and homophobia.
  • That was sort of like how it all happened.
  • OK, so fast forward to I move to Rochester.
  • And I'm thinking, what do I do?
  • I was leaving student affairs as a profession,
  • going into this alumni and development, which I really
  • didn't completely understand.
  • I'm sure I ever do right now.
  • But I really didn't understand it then.
  • And so I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do.
  • And I remember sitting on our back porch in August.
  • There was a Sunday the D and C-- and there's that Local Living
  • section.
  • And I opened it up.
  • And there was this big picture of Jackie Nudd.
  • You know who I'm talking about?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Uh-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: (unintelligible)--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And she was a large woman anyway.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Well, I was going
  • to say larger than life would be a good thing.
  • So I read this.
  • And it talked about her, the beginning of AIDS Rochester.
  • And it said that if you wanted to volunteer, to call.
  • So Monday morning, I called and said I'd like to volunteer.
  • And they told me to come down and blah, blah, blah.
  • So I went down.
  • I filled out some forms.
  • And they said that before I could do anything,
  • I'd have to go on a retreat.
  • So I went on a retreat in September.
  • And that Friday night at the retreat,
  • I thought, wow, this is a really interesting group of people.
  • I thought, really interesting group of people.
  • And I just met people and that kind of stuff.
  • And the next morning, I'm an early riser.
  • So I got up.
  • I went into the women's area where the showers
  • were and met this woman.
  • We were both early risers.
  • Her name is Babs, Barbara Purvis.
  • And so she and I, when we got out the shower,
  • started chatting with each other about,
  • oh, you're an early riser, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
  • This is your first?
  • Yes, it's my first, that kind of stuff.
  • So we went outside.
  • And breakfast wasn't until eight.
  • I think it was six thirty at the time.
  • And we were just starving.
  • And we saw these two men that were out also.
  • And so we started talking with them, Mark and Phil.
  • And so the four of us just ended up
  • kind of hanging together through the retreat.
  • And we all for were volunteering then.
  • And we all four ended up doing development work.
  • Because at that point, these services
  • were nowhere near what they are now.
  • This was life, death.
  • The minute you got diagnosed with HIV,
  • it wasn't long before you were dead.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And there were a lot of people I met,
  • almost all men--
  • I don't think I met any women that were HIV at the time--
  • but that were HIV, and lost some along the way.
  • And then I also from my student affairs
  • had a really, really close friend of mine, Randy, who--
  • how do you (unintelligible) someone in past tense--
  • is, was gay.
  • And so he was the first diagnosed
  • that was really close to me.
  • These other people I had met.
  • And obviously they became close to me.
  • But Randy was this longtime friend.
  • He and I had done a lot of work together on these topics.
  • We served on committees.
  • We were just really good friends.
  • And the thing with Randy was that he really
  • didn't want to talk about it.
  • And it was really hard for-- there was a group of us.
  • There were four of us that all hung out together, five really,
  • and Randy being one of them.
  • And so the others of us would call and say,
  • what's going on with Randy?
  • He's not returning my phone call.
  • And this is long before email and all those kinds of things.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And so when I'd call Randy,
  • Greg would say-- his partner would
  • say-- to me like, well, he's not feeling well, or he's not here.
  • And it was just like-- and I'd call him at work.
  • He's out.
  • So I'd call home.
  • It was just those kinds of things.
  • And so Archie and Gay and Ray and I
  • would kind of talk and be like, what's going on?
  • And finally, Archie and Gay went to Amherst, Massachusetts.
  • Randy was in student affairs at UMass Amherst.
  • And they just lived closer by.
  • And they went to see him and showed up at his house
  • and found him very ill.
  • And he just-- he wouldn't tell anybody.
  • He just didn't-- at that time, this was really early on.
  • So we are all pretty devastated.
  • And literally within a month, he was dead.
  • And that really hit home.
  • And at that point, I was doing my work with AIDS Rochester
  • as well.
  • So long story short on that, I got
  • working with AIDS Rochester.
  • And just a minute.
  • I have to ask this question.
  • How public is some of this going to be?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Well, it will go public.
  • It will be available to the public.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Will your audio?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Our audio will be archived--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --and will be saved.
  • It will not go public as the documentary will.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: The documentary, of course
  • I would understand that.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Right.
  • No, it's OK.
  • I just needed to know.
  • So I was working with volunteering at ARI.
  • And we were starting the first fundraiser.
  • To this day, we sit on our deck outside, the four, Babs, Phil,
  • Mark, me, and the other members of the development
  • committee, the fundraising committee, about seven or eight
  • of us.
  • And literally, we went through--
  • people decided to go get-- who went to RPO,
  • people went to different places where there's a playbill
  • and had the donor reports.
  • We literally, literally sat down and went through every name
  • and rattled them off.
  • And Mark or Phil or someone would say,
  • good, they'd be great.
  • They'd be great allies, couples, whatever.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So we literally put that first list
  • together.
  • And this was back before computers.
  • So we were at our typewriter doing this.
  • And this was-- so we wanted to do a fundraiser.
  • And of course this was also when ARI, we
  • weren't putting on the envelope ARI's address.
  • People didn't want to get mail with any of that stuff.
  • So that was the environment that we were working in.
  • It really was.
  • And it just was really hard because it
  • was just very impressive, on top of everything else.
  • And people didn't want to go out and talk
  • about being HIV or having AIDS, not at that point.
  • And it was just a very hard environment.
  • And of course just all the backlash too at that time,
  • about, well, they should get it.
  • They should get it.
  • You know all that crummy, crummy stuff that was happening.
  • But anyway, we had our fundraisers.
  • And we did really well.
  • We had some at--
  • we had one at George Eastman House.
  • We did a movie and got a film documentary
  • guy that came and did it.
  • White something or other it was called.
  • And we previewed that and had a fundraiser.
  • That was our very first one.
  • And I think we made-- oh, we thought we
  • were so-- we were so excited.
  • We made something like 985 dollars or something.
  • We were just stunned.
  • And then we did another event at Harry's, the workout place.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Harro?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Harro, Harro East.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Harro East.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Harro East, thank you.
  • Not Harry's, Harro East.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Anyway, we did an event there.
  • And we had balloons out in front and the whole entrance
  • and stuff.
  • And people were wanting to walk in,
  • but wanted to act like were they members of the club
  • or did they just have to-- could they stop and talk?
  • It was really interesting.
  • I have pictures of all this.
  • It's still really fun to have it.
  • And so we did fundraising.
  • So we raised money.
  • And so we did a lot of those kinds of things.
  • We would meet on people's front porches.
  • ARI didn't really have an office that was big enough for us,
  • etcetera.
  • OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Can we--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: OK. (unintelligible).
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --stop for a minute?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, I'm sorry.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: When you first got involved,
  • there was no office.
  • There was no--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Well, there was.
  • It was-- let me think.
  • Where was it?
  • Jackie told us that she had started it
  • on the back porch of her house initially.
  • And at that point, this was the first office.
  • I'm trying to think of where it was.
  • It was small.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Tara's?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Where?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Tara's on Liberty Pole Way.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Could be.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Above Tara's?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yeah, I think maybe that was it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: It was a bar.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yeah, actually, I
  • think that was where we were.
  • I'm pretty sure.
  • Because we were in two different places.
  • Because then we went and found someplace else,
  • I remember, a little bit later.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Well, Tara's is here.
  • You go down.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yes, we had a fundraiser there.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: You go down and turn the corner.
  • And that's Liberty Pole Way.
  • And I think your second office--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: The office was there.
  • You're right.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --was on Liberty Pole Way.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Because we had an event in the bar, yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: You're right.
  • You're right.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: And then there was
  • a hot line at the Gay Alliance.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yes, OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But that was primarily a phone.
  • And we didn't have secure space.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: No, I remember that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Or you didn't have security space.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: No, no one did.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But we also had a gay hot line there as well.
  • So I think that the two kind of became one.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: We were helping each other.
  • What I remember though is that after doing this
  • for a few years, it was evident to some of us
  • that the organization was moving--
  • or no, the epidemic, I'll say, was moving at a very fast pace.
  • And this was also when right around that same time
  • Helping People with AIDS was organized.
  • And we did some-- and Helping People with AIDS
  • did some of the dining for-- not the Dining for Dollars,
  • but they would do the dinners at everybody's house.
  • And then we would go downtown.
  • I remember the first few years, we went downtown to what was
  • Sibley's.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Midtown.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Midtown.
  • And then everybody would converge there at ten o'clock
  • at night.
  • And there were different themes.
  • We had this cruise.
  • We had-- I don't know--
  • whatever with just all kinds of deserts
  • and the drag queens and just music.
  • And it was great.
  • And so my husband and I hosted some of them.
  • And then others of us would go into it and stuff.
  • And this is also when-- early on, that
  • was when I first met Bill Valenti, because that's when he
  • was doing his work at Strong.
  • And I remember hearing his name right away
  • in terms of his work.
  • And Jackie was making sure that those who thought they might be
  • were getting tested and doing--
  • we were driving people to Strong in unrecognized cars.
  • I'm not sure that anyone would have thought
  • we were-- it wasn't like we were driving a car that said AIDS
  • on it or anything.
  • But we were doing transportation.
  • We were doing a lot of those kinds of things.
  • So there was that kind of work coordination with them.
  • And anyway, like I said, this went on for a few years.
  • And some of us really felt like the disease was moving so fast.
  • And some of us didn't feel like the organization was
  • responding, wasn't as nimble as it should be.
  • And so we were trying to figure out
  • how to best help contribute to a different type of leadership
  • in the organization.
  • So we got together, the four of us, this four original group.
  • And we got the-- and Jackie had said--
  • and Mary Lou, her partner, was the head of volunteers.
  • And just for me, from an organizational perspective,
  • I thought, isn't that kind of weird to be the director
  • and have your partner on your staff?
  • I don't care if you're gay, straight, or what.
  • That's just--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: A conflict of interest.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: --I think it's a conflict of interest,
  • would be mild.
  • And we always had to have two people sign checks.
  • And it was usually the two of them that signed.
  • There were just all kinds of things that were happening.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: We can turn this off--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, no.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --if you would prefer.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: It's OK.
  • No, it's OK.
  • So anyway, Jackie was really trying
  • to get the board to move.
  • She wasn't sure, I think, where it really needed to go.
  • Jackie was, from my perspective--
  • let me just say this.
  • If it wasn't for Jackie, who was big as life, literally
  • and figuratively, I don't think ARI would have ever gotten
  • off the ground.
  • There would not have been something like that.
  • So to her, much credit is owed.
  • I really do believe that.
  • I do think then as organizations develop that leadership,
  • as I had come to learn it in respect, not--
  • what you really want in a leader is the right time
  • and the right place in the organization.
  • There are a lot of people that can be leaders.
  • It's just a matter of timing.
  • Who is at this particular point in time with this organization?
  • And who has the skill set that works best?
  • So some of us felt like that was not lining up as correctly.
  • And I would say too that I think that Bill Valenti and what HPA
  • was doing was really doing some great service things too
  • on the health care side.
  • That was very important.
  • And we just didn't seem to be behind the-- we weren't--
  • I don't know that expression, eight ball thing,
  • behind it, in front of it, whatever it is.
  • We just didn't seem to be lining up as fast
  • as things were moving.
  • So we got together, a group of us.
  • And I asked Jackie for the minutes of the past year's
  • meetings and stuff.
  • And so we poured through the minutes and the bylaws.
  • And we were a little surprised at some of the information that
  • was recorded at the time.
  • And we decided that we could--
  • we began to identify.
  • we sat that Sunday afternoon--
  • I can still remember that-- in our house--
  • we lived on Genesee Park Boulevard then--
  • in the dining room at our round oak table
  • that my stepdaughter still has, and went through boxes of stuff
  • and cleaned out files and really put it in order,
  • but also read information, and decided that--
  • there was an upcoming election of board members.
  • And many of the board members had been recruited,
  • and rightfully so, rightfully understood, as members
  • in a circle with whom Jackie knew.
  • And again, I'll just say that--
  • but the disease was going much further much quicker.
  • And so we looked at when the next election was going to be.
  • And they had this really funny clause in there
  • that if you were a volunteer at AIDS Rochester,
  • you could vote on the board, which I had never heard,
  • which was one of their--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: --funky rules.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Usually bylaws don't work like that.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: But this one did.
  • And quite frankly, it was to our advantage.
  • So the four of us sat there.
  • And we knew which board members were going off.
  • And we knew which positions we needed
  • and how many we needed for what.
  • And so we did some brainstorming of names of people.
  • And we identified them.
  • And then we divvied them up.
  • And each of us with whom we knew went and talked to them
  • and asked if they would consider themselves to be on the board,
  • be nominated.
  • And so people agreed.
  • And we went to the board meeting.
  • And I said to all the members of our development committee,
  • please make sure you're there.
  • We want to make sure we vote.
  • It was an annual meeting of which not many people came.
  • But we did.
  • And so when the vote happened, everyone
  • that was nominated that we brought in
  • was accepted, voted on, and approved.
  • So we walked out of the meeting.
  • And I remember the four of us said, "We've done our job.
  • That's all we can do."
  • I mean, in terms of the board.
  • And then we kept doing our work.
  • And it wasn't soon thereafter, too
  • far after that, that Jackie and this new board
  • with a combination of members hit
  • a line at which there was not agreement.
  • And so she was asked to resign.
  • And she, being bigger than life, with her organization,
  • her work, her this, she wasn't going to go down lightly.
  • And so she calls.
  • And she at that time she'd call a news conference.
  • And again, back in that era, you call the D and C
  • and talk about AIDS, and people would
  • run because it was big news.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And so she was out publicly.
  • She was on TV.
  • Someone saw it, and we all started calling each other.
  • Did you see it?
  • Did you see it?
  • Hazel-- oh, what's Hazel's last name?
  • You know who I'm talking about?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: She was the chair of the board.
  • And so she got caught blindsided.
  • Because she was coming out of a meeting.
  • I think she used to work for Jordan Health
  • Center or something like that.
  • My husband was the chair--
  • was the treasurer.
  • And when they couldn't reach Hazel, next thing
  • I looked out our front room door and there
  • was some news station coming up the door
  • to ask if my husband was there.
  • I'm like, well, actually he wasn't, which was good news.
  • So when he got home that night, I said,
  • "The news, D and C would like for you
  • to call them in the station."
  • He goes, "Why?
  • What happened?"
  • Hazel Jeffries.
  • That's it.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Jeffries.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So anyway, that went on, that fiasco,
  • for--
  • I don't remember-- a good few days.
  • And it kept getting ignited.
  • And Hazel went in front of the press.
  • And they did this kind of stuff.
  • And Hazel and the board and the attorneys got together.
  • And I'm not sure how long it took,
  • but they agreed on a package.
  • And basically that was when Jackie and Mary
  • Lou left Rochester and went--
  • I think they went to Santa Fe or Albuquerque,
  • someplace like that.
  • And there was another member of our community--
  • I can't remember his name--
  • who had been on the board.
  • And he was one of the early-- well,
  • I think he may have been even one the very first ones
  • in Rochester diagnosed.
  • And he went out with them too.
  • And he died shortly thereafter.
  • I remember that, because some people still
  • stayed in touch with them and you'd
  • hear stuff back and forth.
  • So the board then needed to find a new executive director.
  • So they interviewed.
  • And if I'm not mistaken, I think my husband
  • was on the search committee.
  • I'd have to check that out to be sure, but I think so.
  • Anyway, they interviewed and found Paula.
  • And so Paula was hired.
  • And she came.
  • And we were here for probably about another six
  • months or a year maybe with Paula, and then we moved.
  • And we stayed in touch with Paula, but we had moved.
  • And she was beginning to organize things a little bit
  • differently and stuff.
  • So that's the experience here.
  • When we moved, I continued my own involvement
  • on AIDS in AIDS organizations in Vermont, Burlington,
  • in Northampton, wherever we lived.
  • And I'm really pleased that Northampton still
  • has-- they just had their twentieth chocolate auction,
  • silent auction, and are raising still lots of money
  • from it, which is great, which is one that we started.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Great.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: I remember pulling the tables out
  • of the alumni house where I worked to get them all set up
  • and going and begging people when we first started.
  • So I've been active in the AIDS thing
  • ever since then, and also just in terms of gay, lesbian,
  • transgender issues and stuff.
  • Back then it was just gay, lesbian.
  • And so that happened.
  • While I was still here though, I was working
  • at the University of Rochester, because that
  • was the other piece you wanted to know.
  • And so I was working at the University of Rochester.
  • And I was moved into the alumni house
  • and working with their reunion classes and stuff.
  • And I worked there and went through a reunion.
  • And again, my work at the University of Rochester--
  • when I first got there that first year,
  • I was in the administration building.
  • And again, everyone in my environment,
  • with the exception of probably administrative assistants
  • and one other person, were all white straight men.
  • And I'd walk down the hallway where all the presidents
  • and the board members were.
  • And I just didn't-- when you're in student affairs,
  • it was much different of an environment,
  • much more progressive, I would say, on college campuses.
  • So it was just really strange for me
  • to have come from the environment I did of openness
  • and diversity and stuff, and to find myself working then
  • in this environment.
  • And so then when they asked me to go over the alumni house
  • and organize some reunions, and the alumni-- alumni.
  • I keep saying, "alumnee"-- the alumni
  • had not been really engaged at the University of Rochester.
  • It was an era when they really had the university--
  • and some would argue today.
  • But clearly the university was at a point
  • of the emphasis was on research and professional masters
  • and doctoral.
  • It was not on undergraduate students.
  • So when I would meet with alumni, typically
  • the ones that come back for alumni weekend,
  • they were not just upset, they were disenfranchised.
  • They were angry about what had gone on while they
  • were undergraduates.
  • And I'm thinking, oh, dear.
  • So thinking about my student affairs experience I had,
  • I'm thinking, this is going to be interesting.
  • So during my first year doing that, I went over and talked
  • to student affairs people, which of course everybody
  • in alumni development thought, why do you do this?
  • Why wouldn't I?
  • So I went over.
  • And I knew the people over there,
  • because my husband had been involved in student affairs
  • at one point with the university.
  • So I went over and talked to them.
  • And sure enough, there in the mid-eighties
  • and in the later eighties, there was not only
  • a young Democratic group.
  • There probably was a young Republican group too.
  • But there was the beginning of a Gay Alliance.
  • There was an African-American--
  • I think back then it was called BSU, Black Student--
  • you know.
  • These were the heyday where names were different.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm..
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And so there were these different groups
  • that were forming.
  • I'm thinking, like, OK, I've got to believe
  • that if these organizations are forming,
  • there must be alumni out there that would find affinity
  • with these groups.
  • So I went back and I talked to my husband
  • who used to work there.
  • And I said, "Alright, I need help."
  • I went back and I found out first of all that
  • in our alumni database, with exception of gender,
  • we did not have anything recorded
  • in terms of race or ethnicity, let alone
  • there was never a field called "partner."
  • And that's so much a reflection of the society.
  • But also in terms of race and ethnicity,
  • back then you couldn't ask those questions.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: You weren't asked when a student applied
  • for admittance.
  • So of course they didn't have records.
  • So I said to Bill, "OK, I've got yearbooks.
  • I've got access to yearbooks.
  • I can have a student go through literally the black student--
  • go through the yearbook and find people of color,"
  • that we would call that now, black back then.
  • I can't-- I don't--
  • there wasn't a gay student group back then
  • that was identifiable.
  • And quite frankly, when you look at these pictures, not sure
  • I can tell.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So I said, "You got to help me."
  • So on the African-American side, he told me the person to call.
  • And I did and got connected and started that group.
  • I also very much wanted to start then--
  • I wanted to start a women's group.
  • But the current chair of the board, who was a woman--
  • I wrote this big proposal, why we
  • need to have a women's group.
  • And she shot it down.
  • It's a typical-- sadly, but it's a typical queen bee syndrome.
  • I got here.
  • They can all get behind me.
  • Do you realize you're the only woman on the board?
  • So I couldn't go anywhere with the women's thing.
  • And I think they all thought I was nuts trying to figure out
  • who was gay and lesbian.
  • And I think they really thought that I
  • couldn't do it, which is really all anybody needs to tell me.
  • So I went to my husband again.
  • And I said, "Alright, do you know
  • any of your former students who are gay
  • that live here in Rochester?"
  • And he goes, "Oh, my god.
  • Well, you know, I'll have to think about it."
  • And he said, "I know who will."
  • Because he hadn't worked at the university for a while.
  • And back then, people weren't really self-identifying.
  • So he called a friend.
  • He called a student that he knew.
  • And he said, "OK, here's the scoop.
  • Cynthia wants to do--" and she said,
  • "You've got to be kidding me.
  • No."
  • And she said, "Oh, sure I can tell you
  • three members from my class.
  • And they live in Rochester."
  • And so he said, "Will you contact them?"
  • And she said, "Yes."
  • So she called them.
  • She told them.
  • She said, "You're going to get a call from this woman.
  • And you really need to just be open to what she has to say."
  • So I called them.
  • And I met with them and said that I really
  • wanted to start a gay, lesbian alliance.
  • And again, they sort of looked at me
  • like you've got to be kidding me.
  • And I'm like, no.
  • Two of them were out at work and other things.
  • One wasn't.
  • He actually got dragged by one of them
  • that was to the first meeting.
  • And we met of course off-campus.
  • Because of course everybody knew that I
  • was working on these projects.
  • And if anybody came in the office that wasn't black,
  • they automatically would assume they were probably
  • gay because they were men or lesbian if they were women.
  • So we met off-campus.
  • You know that-- on Monroe, Mount Hope.
  • It used to be a gas station years ago,
  • by Clinton, South Clinton.
  • And then it became a restaurant.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh, the Filling Station.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yeah, remember that?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: We met there.
  • I always remember that spot.
  • Every time I would come back to Rochester before we moved here,
  • I kept thinking, oh, such a good spot.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So we would meet there.
  • Anyway, they were really interested.
  • And so they said they would-- they
  • I think recognized that I was serious about it.
  • So they said they had plenty of people here in Rochester.
  • So we organized a meeting.
  • We did it at what was then the Fairbank Alumni
  • House on Mount Hope.
  • And we had our first meeting.
  • And we must have had--
  • I honestly would have to go back and think about it.
  • But we probably had twelve or fifteen people.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Now, when you said Gay and Lesbian Alliance
  • at the U of R, was this a gay lesbian alumni group?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Alumni, alumni group.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Alumni group.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So I was meeting
  • both with our black alumni and our gay lesbian alumni.
  • I prefer to say alumni who are black
  • and alumni who are gay lesbian.
  • That's really the way it is.
  • So I was meeting with both groups
  • to try and get them started.
  • And each were coming from it in some similar,
  • very similar, but yet different ways of doing it.
  • So we talked about it.
  • And both groups progressed a little bit differently,
  • as I said.
  • What was common-- and I really wanted
  • to make sure of this-- is that I'm also a firm believer that I
  • wanted this to be not Cynthia's project, even though it
  • was touted as that.
  • I wanted it to be an institutional commitment.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So I felt that if we tied it
  • in with current students, that that
  • could be the beginning of a connection with undergraduates
  • with alumni that would withstand institutional whatever.
  • So in both cases, we met with students.
  • So for example, I remember the woman Michelle Ealy
  • who graduated in, I don't know, '71
  • or '72 from the University of Rochester.
  • She was the woman that I worked with more than others.
  • She was the original leader of the organization.
  • And she and I worked a lot.
  • And we had-- you know the radio station on Main?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yes.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: OK.
  • We went down to the radio station.
  • We took students down there.
  • And we did different programs and stuff.
  • We started a newsletter.
  • This one was the--
  • organizing the alumni black was easier in terms of being out
  • and moving than the--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So I'll get back.
  • So that one, of the things we started was a newsletter.
  • And we had students who would write for it.
  • And we had alumni.
  • And then we had, at that point, there
  • was in addition to the alumni magazine.
  • There was a tabloid, literally, that just
  • went out every other month to alumni, a paper one
  • that only alumni got.
  • And so we had things in there.
  • Well, phones rang off the wall.
  • And people started calling friends of theirs, like,
  • what's the university doing?
  • Why are they doing this?
  • People were really skeptical because it was the seventies
  • and what happened at the university in that time period.
  • But it got going.
  • And Michelle wanted to make sure there was
  • an institutional commitment.
  • So we sat her down with my vice president,
  • with the president Dennis O'Brien,
  • to make sure there were institutional funds
  • to support it, etcetera.
  • And the next year at homecoming, we
  • had a reception for alumni of color.
  • We did black and Hispanic.
  • So we had that, had speakers.
  • So that program kind of developed and went along
  • and did well.
  • On the gay lesbian one, there was less visibility,
  • because this was still probably '87, '88, something like that.
  • But there was a real interest in the group wanting to do it.
  • And one of the three original, he
  • decided that he would be-- he was
  • fine with being out and being the person noted and stuff.
  • And so he agreed to go with me to meetings and stuff
  • like that.
  • And we wrote in the tabloid an article about gay lesbians,
  • an alumni group, and that if you were interested to--
  • and we decided that it would be my name in there.
  • And so literally that thing hadn't been out for a few days,
  • and we had something like--
  • over the period of that first week and a half,
  • we had probably over two hundred phone calls.
  • And my phone was ringing hot and heavy.
  • I had phone calls.
  • And I kept track, because I worked with a woman
  • in the public relations office that edited,
  • that wrote that thing.
  • And she was all for it.
  • She was thrilled.
  • Of course, at the time, her boss was kind of like, are you sure?
  • But he knew our work and he knew that it was professional
  • and all that kind of stuff.
  • And so he went along with it, and particularly
  • since my name was the one that was in it.
  • And so we kept a-- we figured we'd have some inquiries.
  • And we did.
  • So like I said, over time, I think we had about two hundred.
  • Denise told me later that in her time of being there--
  • which she'd been there about twelve years and had been doing
  • that editing--
  • in that twelve years, that was the one
  • issue got the most response of anything
  • she'd ever written about.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Wow.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Now, over 90 percent of those calls
  • were, "You've got to be kidding me.
  • I never believed this institution would do this."
  • That were mostly gay.
  • And I had more gay men coming calling me than I did women.
  • I remember it got to kind of be a joke, but--
  • I mean, it was.
  • But I got calls from--
  • I remember the one that probably touched me
  • the most was a man from the class of 19--
  • I think-- '42 or '43 who said that in his wildest imagination
  • he could never have ever believed
  • that his alma mater would recognize him.
  • He had been at the university, gone off to war,
  • came back, and finished on the GI Bill.
  • And he said he felt then that he was different
  • and later recognized what it was, but never ever felt
  • that his institution would--
  • he just never believed it would happened.
  • He had moved out West.
  • I think he was--
  • I think after he graduated in the mid-forties--
  • well, I guess he--
  • he actually had gone there in '43.
  • And then they went to war.
  • And then he came back.
  • So it was at the end of that era.
  • And he-- I can't now remember.
  • This is horrible.
  • This is where my memory is not so good.
  • I'm sorry to say this.
  • I don't remember if he was one that
  • had married and then divorced.
  • But he had moved out West.
  • And I think with the--
  • I remember him telling me about Stonewall,
  • coming back in New York, and then the one in San Francisco.
  • I'm trying to think of what that one was called,
  • one of those big movements, one of the first gay pride--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I'm wondering if it was any of the Harvey Milk
  • stuff.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: I don't remember.
  • I don't remember now for sure.
  • Because I remember--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: The NAMES Project maybe or the Quilt.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Well, that I remember.
  • But he had gone out West.
  • Anyway, he went out to San Francisco
  • and found that to be a much more open environment.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: (unintelligible).
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Exactly.
  • So his partner had died from AIDS.
  • And so we-- it just was--
  • my heart just ached when he told me
  • that he never thought his institution would recognize
  • him.
  • And he wrote me a letter and stuff.
  • And it was just really very heartwarming for him to--
  • he really-- he cried on the phone with me.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: When you said 90 percent of the calls
  • were people asking that they couldn't believe
  • that you're doing this--
  • couldn't believe you were doing it in a negative way--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Positive way.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --or a positive way?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: No, positive way.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Alright.
  • OK.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Positive way.
  • Oh, I had the negative ones.
  • I'll tell you that too.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh, sure, yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: I had those too.
  • But I'd say nine out of ten though were very positive.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: And mostly just gay men saying--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Mostly gay men.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --thank you for doing this.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: I had one man
  • who lived just north of Boston.
  • He's married.
  • He was.
  • I don't know if he still is, but was at the time, cross-dresser.
  • And he sent me pictures.
  • I thought, OK, this is a little too much sharing.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: This is not what I really need.
  • Thank you very much.
  • So I got the real run of people's stories and stuff.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: But it does speak highly of your connectedness
  • with these people.
  • People don't open up to strangers.
  • I mean, they just don't.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: OK.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: So there must have been something
  • that you communicated, either by your voice or by your manner,
  • which was affirming and accepting
  • and didn't put them off.
  • Otherwise--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Right, right.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: --no one--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Well, I think
  • the fact that it was in the paper is what caused it.
  • They didn't know who I was from Adam or Eve.
  • And so they called.
  • and when the calls came in, I would
  • like to think I was very--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Because sure, as I think about some
  • of the calls, there was probably some degree of trepidation,
  • really wanting to know what was going on and what it was about.
  • And as I described it and why we were doing it,
  • there was very much an outpouring of it.
  • And people wrote letters to us.
  • And then I had a few phone calls of basically, "What
  • in god's name are you doing?
  • This is the worst thing in the world that could happen.
  • How could you be doing this?"
  • And I just said to them, "Excuse me,
  • I'm more than happy to listen to you.
  • But if you're going to raise your voice with me,
  • I'm going to have to hang up."
  • And one or two of them lowered their voice and we talked.
  • And we agreed to disagree.
  • Several of them kept their voice up.
  • And I said, "I'm very sorry, but I'm
  • going to end this conversation," and as politely as I could.
  • I didn't want to, for the university's sake.
  • And that's just not who I am to hang up on someone like that.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: I have two questions.
  • Did you get a similar response or the amount of phone calls
  • for the black alumni group?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: With the black alumni group,
  • what happened was instead of--
  • my name was in the newspaper, but Michelle also put her name.
  • And so Michelle, who lives here in Rochester-- and there's
  • still a lot of alumni of black who live in this area.
  • And she's very well-connected.
  • She and her husband, who ironically is--
  • well, now he's dead-- white, they ran a camera shop.
  • They had a store.
  • And so they were very well known as storefront-- store owners,
  • business people in Rochester.
  • So I think a lot of people, when they saw her name, contacted
  • her because of that.
  • And that was the era.
  • She graduated, like I said--
  • I think it was in--
  • I'd have to ask her to confirm it.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, I'm just kind
  • of wondering if she would have gotten
  • any call of people saying--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: She got--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --what do you guys think you're doing?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Well, she got a lot
  • of calls of, what is this?
  • Is this serious?
  • Are they just trying to do a cover?
  • And Michelle was very good at like, no, this is serious.
  • I didn't put my name to it until I met with--
  • and then she talked about having met with me and what we did,
  • how we did things.
  • I basically really had to prove to her that it
  • was something very sincere.
  • And when she felt comfortable, that
  • was when we had the article.
  • And then when people contacted her, it was fine.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And so people
  • were- if they didn't contact her,
  • we had people-- because again, this is before email.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: People could cut out a little coupon
  • and write their name and contact information and send it in.
  • So we would get people to do that.
  • And that's how it happened.
  • I think on the gay lesbian, it was still early in some ways.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Sure, sure.
  • My other question is a little bit more personal.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Um-hm?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Why were you so committed
  • to creating this alumni group for
  • gay and lesbian communities, the gay and lesbian alumni?
  • What is it within you--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: That is that way?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --that is something that kind of
  • drove you to do this?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Good question.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: You're a highly educated woman.
  • You could have taken a whole different path.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: But see, I grew up.
  • OK.
  • I grew up, like I said, in a very activist--
  • what I thought-- at the time, I didn't know it was.
  • But when I look back on it, like I said, with one exception,
  • I didn't know of any Republicans until I got to college.
  • And the gay lesbian thing wasn't back when I grew up
  • in the fifties and sixties.
  • Oh, my god, that wasn't at all.
  • But my parents-- or not "but"-- and my parents taught all
  • of us.
  • We were raised in an American Baptist Church, went to church.
  • My parents were church leaders.
  • And "love thy neighbor as thyself"
  • was very much a part of their life and our life growing up.
  • We did precursors to what was now probably food shelters.
  • But they weren't called that back then.
  • We did clothing drop offs, but again,
  • before they have a name back then.
  • We did pancake breakfasts at our church.
  • So I saw different people.
  • Our church was white.
  • Let me not (unintelligible).
  • Because in my town, they called it "colored town."
  • But I knew 90 percent of people in "colored town," quote
  • unquote.
  • I remember when I got to high school,
  • because my grammar school, grade school, was all white.
  • And when I got to high school, then all of the--
  • because my town was only fourteen thousand people.
  • It was really small.
  • And all the grammar schools went to one high school.
  • And when I got to high school, my aunt and uncle, obviously
  • white, my mother's sister and my uncle,
  • they hired a woman as a maid, one of the few
  • in town that had a maid.
  • And Julia was black.
  • And my aunt and uncle were extraordinarily kind
  • and would not only pay her but do other things for her family.
  • And probably now I'd question some of it.
  • I don't think my aunt and uncle were bad,
  • but I meant not necessarily in terms of--
  • well, that's a whole question about racism
  • that we don't need to get into right now.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: But they did things.
  • And then Julia, she had two children, Nate and Debbie.
  • And a lot of times when I was in the summer out at my aunt's,
  • playing or doing whatever, Nate and Debbie would be there,
  • because Julia would have no place to take them
  • and my aunt was fine with her.
  • So for me, from an early childhood,
  • I grew up with Nate and Debbie around me.
  • When I got to high school, I remember-- it was probably
  • the first day of high school.
  • and this was fall of '65.
  • And I remember going into a study room
  • and seeing Nate in my study hour class,
  • in our study library hour.
  • And I said hello to him.
  • And people were just, how do you know him?
  • And I think-- and people of color, blacks,
  • were looking at him like, how do you know her?
  • You know?
  • And we just knew each other.
  • And he went-- he was in sports.
  • And back then-- something I don't really talk about a lot--
  • I was a cheerleader, because it was before Title IX.
  • And if you were athletic, that's all you could do.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: OK?
  • They wouldn't let you do anything else.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So the vast majority--
  • if you want to talk about stereotypes,
  • the vast majority of our football team,
  • probably 50 percent of them were black.
  • I can tell you on the basketball team, they were.
  • And back then, the way it worked when there was a--
  • in basketball, when you had a Friday night
  • game and a Saturday night game, one of them
  • was an out-of-town game, and you all traveled on the same bus
  • together, players in the front, cheerleaders in the back.
  • So they were doing those things with women.
  • And our coaches were there and everything.
  • But we just all got to know each other.
  • You'd stop at the root beer stand to get a hot dog.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So it was just who I knew.
  • And so it was just always comfortable for me.
  • And I think that in terms of the gay lesbian,
  • I don't know if there was a particular moment.
  • I know that at the time when I was in student affairs
  • early on--
  • no, actually it was around the same time.
  • I knew that-- well, when I was this undergraduate in Illinois,
  • in our group.
  • We had two people in our group who
  • were gay who that night broke down and told us.
  • It wasn't advertised on campus.
  • They were not out.
  • And none of us outed them.
  • That was the time.
  • So this group of eighteen of us were just really tight.
  • And so my evolution then when I became a staff member
  • in student affairs--
  • and of course, all the sexism that had hit me.
  • So it was like we got sexism.
  • It was the -isms, sexism, racism.
  • And I said, we need to throw in homophobia,
  • because it all seemed sequential.
  • It all seemed to be a part of that.
  • Later, when I started my work--
  • I have one of my brothers who is gay.
  • And when I started doing my work in the seventies, early
  • and mid-seventies, it dawned on me.
  • I kind of thought that my brother was probably
  • always gay.
  • This one brother was always gay.
  • But of course it was never talked about.
  • And so I just sort of assumed that.
  • And then when he moved, he was still in college.
  • And so we weren't living near each other.
  • And when we got home, it wasn't like I could pull him aside
  • and, are you gay?
  • You know?
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So when he moved to New York to work,
  • we got together, because I was working,
  • I was living in New Jersey.
  • And so after a couple of our visits,
  • we talked about the work I was doing.
  • And so he told me.
  • He said, "I guess you probably know."
  • I remember driving down the turnpike in New Jersey with him
  • in my little VW when he said, "I guess you probably
  • know I'm gay."
  • I said, "Yeah."
  • I said it wasn't anything I didn't know.
  • And so that was it.
  • But he said, "You know, well, I haven't told Mom and Dad."
  • I said, "Well, that's true too."
  • And so I said, "In time."
  • And that happened much later.
  • So you know that just sort of solidified,
  • not that it wasn't solidified before.
  • But it just sort of came to pass that it all happened that way.
  • Does that--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: --help?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, it's--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: But I do think a lot of the--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: It just gets to know you more personally--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --in why you were so committed to it,
  • rather than looking at it so analytical and so academically.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: No.
  • It just really was the way we were raised.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: I can remember my youngest brother.
  • We're eight years apart.
  • And I remember when I went off to college
  • and my roommate needed to take a child psych class.
  • And she needed to interview an adolescent twelve-year-old.
  • I said, "Well, I got one for you."
  • And she lived not too far from our hometown too.
  • And so she wanted to interview.
  • She said, "Can you arrange the interview?"
  • And so I said, "Yes," when she went home that weekend.
  • So she interviewed my brother.
  • Well, she came back that Sunday night.
  • And I said, "How did it go?"
  • And she goes, "Oh, my god, I can't believe your brother."
  • And I go, "Oh, god, what did he do now?"
  • And she just said about how thoughtful
  • he was, how he talked about helping others,
  • about when he grew up, the way he
  • saw blacks treated, and people that wouldn't ride
  • the bus because they didn't want to be teased,
  • and he knew that they were walking because they didn't
  • want to be teased, and it was because they
  • were of color or something, and how he would always
  • ask mom to--
  • and I didn't know it because I wasn't living at home.
  • But he would ask, because was he was eight years younger
  • than me.
  • So this was-- I was in college.
  • So this like probably '69, '70, when stuff was probably hitting
  • in my hometown and everything.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Oh, yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And when Mom would pick him up from school,
  • he'd always asked Mom if he could take these two kids home.
  • And they both were black.
  • And Mother would drive through "colored town"
  • to drop them off.
  • And she just was stunned that my twelve-year-old brother was
  • cognizant enough to do that.
  • And so those things happened.
  • But I'm just saying that was my mom.
  • And I asked my mom and my brother about that later.
  • Paula told me then.
  • I was sitting there going, "My brother said this stuff?"
  • Because for me, he was just a brat.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: But later in life,
  • as we've become good friends, I've asked him about that.
  • And we've talked about it.
  • And he said, "You know, it's just how we were raised."
  • And I said, "Did Mom question you?"
  • He says, "No.
  • She never did."
  • Because my mother, when she picked us up
  • from my aunt's, half the time, she'd
  • pick up Julia and her two kids and drop them off
  • at their house.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And then we would go home.
  • So it wasn't anything.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And I have to tell you
  • that I think my parents--
  • I've gotten to know my parents obviously later in life too.
  • I don't think they were--
  • they were strong Democrats who had a very big tent.
  • And that was really--
  • in that era, blacks were very much
  • a part of the Democratic (unintelligible), you know?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: There was not much of a middle class.
  • And so it was very much a part of the democratic group.
  • And also I think because of church
  • and our values, my parents--
  • I would hear my dad say, a black man or something.
  • And one time later in life, I said to Dad, Dad, he's a man.
  • He's a man.
  • He's a man and he's black.
  • He's not a black man.
  • And I tried to explain racism to my parents.
  • And I thought, OK, this isn't going anywhere.
  • So I just let him keep his language.
  • But I saw his actions.
  • I saw his actions.
  • And I'm a firm believer actions speak louder than words.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Sure.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And so I see that happening.
  • I saw that happen.
  • And so it was very much a part of us.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And anyway, I just
  • feel really blessed that it has been, extraordinarily so.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: So back to--
  • so that was-- did I hit on the alumni?
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah, so you pretty much
  • got it started, newspaper articles, phone calls coming
  • in.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Oh, what really--
  • I eventually left the university and made
  • sure that the two groups were going,
  • which they were for a while.
  • And the man that was chairing the gay lesbian group,
  • he also had a business here.
  • I have to think about his name again.
  • Isn't this horrible?
  • And he had good financial resources.
  • And so he-- we did a homecoming event for gay lesbians.
  • We did a panel.
  • The students' gay lesbian group got involved
  • and those kinds of things.
  • And I'll never forget--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: This would have been, what, '88?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Probably '88, '89,
  • '90, somewhere in that, between '88 to '89, '90,
  • because I left there in November of '90.
  • The year or two later, the university,
  • the Alumni Association began to have
  • alumni, their chapters in Washington and New York,
  • because this man--
  • I'll have to go home.
  • Maybe my husband or Deb can help me remember who it is.
  • I don't even know if he's still around.
  • It's horrible.
  • I know exactly what he looks like.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Um-hm.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: He knew people
  • in Washington and in New York, obviously who were gay.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: They were--
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And so--
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: --U of R alumni right?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yes.
  • And he contacted them.
  • And they were all kind of stunned.
  • And so they were--
  • and both of these men were active in the chapter.
  • And they were out, I think, but not
  • out as organizing a group for the university.
  • Well, anyway, when Washington had its gay pride parade,
  • the University of Rochester chapter marched with them
  • and carried the Rochester banner.
  • Because they sent me a picture of it.
  • I was just stunned when I saw that.
  • I thought, yes.
  • And then when the New York City one happened that
  • following year, they did the same thing.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And so that made me feel really good.
  • And then this man and his partner,
  • when they kicked off a campaign in the early nineties,
  • they had a trustee counsel at the time.
  • It was like a preliminary-- it was like a board to be on.
  • It was like the alumni board, but it
  • was called Trustee's Council.
  • And it was kind of like you were a trustee in training.
  • If you did really well, they'd put you on the board.
  • And if you didn't or whatever, you
  • went off the board just as an alumna or alumnus.
  • Anyway, he got on the committee, because we arranged
  • for the alumni board on the trustee council
  • to always have a seat for those two representational groups.
  • And he did that.
  • And then he was asked to stay on as a member
  • when his term was up, as the president of the gay alliance
  • group or gay group, whatever we called it.
  • And so there was a picture of him under the tent--
  • I remember seeing in the Rochester alumni news
  • section of the magazine--
  • with him and his partner and the president, which I thought
  • was great.
  • And it said that.
  • And I thought, my gosh, we really have come far.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: And he wanted
  • to start at the university an endowed chair in--
  • I think it was in-- sociology probably for gay studies.
  • I remember sending money in.
  • But I don't think it ever really got anywhere.
  • And I'm sure that--
  • I don't think they've ever--
  • I've never followed up to see whatever happened to it.
  • But I don't think they have it.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: There is some gay studies,
  • but it's Incorporated in their sexuality studies or something.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: There's probably something now.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: This was really early on,
  • much before things had been--
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Yeah.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: --much before that word PC ever
  • became out and before academics were
  • organized in different ways.
  • But I remember there was a fund drive to try and get
  • a chair established.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: Right.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: In what moment in all of this--
  • I think you mentioned it, but I'm just
  • going to call it back here for a second.
  • In what moment or particular time
  • did you look at what you were doing
  • and what you've done and realized, yeah, we did it?
  • What was the most defining moment for you,
  • whether it was your work with AIDS Rochester or U of R?
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Well, I think that it was--
  • I'll tell you.
  • It was for the AIDS Rochester.
  • We had left Rochester.
  • And like I said, Paula had been hired and was already working.
  • And we came back to Rochester for a visit
  • maybe a couple of years later.
  • And their office wasn't where the--
  • not the warehouse, but it was another one before that one.
  • And we went to visit her.
  • Or maybe it was by then at that place.
  • Remember that warehouse that was on--
  • I call it a warehouse on--
  • University.
  • KEVIN INDOVINO: The University (unintelligible), yeah.
  • EVELYN BAILEY: ARI.
  • CYNTHIA WOOLBRIGHT: Yeah.
  • Anyway, I remember coming back.
  • And Bill and I decided we would go see how Paula was.
  • And I remember going in and like blown away by the fact
  • that there was an organization, because I can assure you
  • previously I wouldn't have called it that.
  • There were people in this positions.
  • And there was the beginnings of a staff.
  • My whole baby was early on with Paula.
  • And I remember meeting him.
  • Of course, he's been with ARI, well, now AIDS Care.
  • he's been there some twenty-two, twenty-three years.
  • So I remember feeling like, oh, my gosh, with Paula
  • and just feeling like my god, this