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GA Voice - - Georgia News -

The na­tion’s largest schol­ar­ship-grant­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion for LGBTQ stu­dents con­tin­ues to ex­pand its foot­print in At­lanta, and as part of that, it is bring­ing in famed civil rights ac­tivist David Mixner for a one-night-only ben­e­fit per­for­mance of his crit­i­cally ac­claimed “Oh Hell No!” on Oct. 29 at the Woodruff Arts Cen­ter.

The Point Foun­da­tion was founded in 2001 and pro­vides not only schol­ar­ship money, but also men­tor­ship, lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment and com­mu­nity ser­vice train­ing for LGBTQ stu­dents of prom­ise.

At­lanta fi­nan­cial plan­ner Louis Gary is a Point Foun­da­tion board mem­ber who helped form a lo­cal pro­gram for the group two years ago. His in­volve­ment stemmed from his and his long­time part­ner’s ap­proach into semi-re­tire­ment and the bat­tles yet to be fought af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court struck down same­sex mar­riage bans na­tion­wide in June.

“When we are at this point in our de­vel­op­ment in equal­ity, some of us need to put down the signs and the torches and pass them along to a highly ed­u­cated group of in­di­vid­u­als that are go­ing to take those charges and move for­ward,” Gary tells Ge­or­gia Voice.

Mixner wanted to be part of pass­ing that torch, hav­ing logged 50 years as a civil rights and anti-war ac­tivist. Newsweek once called him “the most pow­er­ful gay man in Amer­ica.” His per­for­mance of “Oh Hell No!” will be an evening of sto­ry­telling from a life in ac­tivism.

“I’ve al­ways be­lieved that if we be­lieve we have no history, then we re­ally feel like we come out of noth­ing. And far from not hav­ing a history, we have one of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary his­to­ries of any com­mu­nity around,” Mixner says. “Un­for­tu­nately, most of our sto­ry­tellers died of AIDS. Most of our men­tors died of AIDS. So I’m try­ing to reawaken an in­ter­est in those sto­ries, I’m try­ing to raise money for schol­ar­ships and also to make sure that those who are not here are not for­got­ten.”

Oc­to­ber 16, 2015

Dani Planer is one such stu­dent who is ben­e­fit­ing from be­ing named a 2015 Point Scholar. Planer, who iden­ti­fies as trans­mas­cu­line and prefers they/them/their pro­nouns, is a grad­u­ate of At­lanta’s The Gal­loway School and an ad­vo­cate for trans­gen­der rights. Among other things, they helped des­ig­nate an all-gen­der re­stroom op­tion at the school, raised aware­ness about non­bi­nary and trans­gen­der is­sues within the aca­demic com­mu­nity and led sol­i­dar­ity cam­paigns.

Planer has com­bined their pas­sion for so­cial jus­tice with an artis­tic side, us­ing writ­ing, po­etry and crit­i­cal es­says to ad­vo­cate for trans- gen­der rights. They did not ex­pect to make it far when they first ap­plied for the Point Foun­da­tion schol­ar­ship. But de­spite their con­cerns af­ter sub­mit­ting per­sonal es­says that they felt pushed things too far, Planer kept pass­ing through to fur­ther rounds in the process.

“It was this feel­ing of be­ing like, peo­ple are re­ally get­ting what I am try­ing to say even though I didn’t think it would make much sense to any­one but me,” says Planer, who started their fresh­man year at Mount Holyoke Col­lege in Mas­sachusetts this fall.

“I felt re­ally priv­i­leged and re­ally shocked. I was just re­ally ex­cited to know that I’m go­ing to in­ter­act with peo­ple I met [through the Point Foun­da­tion] and have a men­tor when I go to col­lege. I would have this whole com­mu­nity be­fore I even get there, which is a re­ally great feel­ing.”

Coun­try singer, Broad­way per­former join Mixner

Mixner came up with the idea for “Oh Hell No!” af­ter fall­ing crit­i­cally ill a year and a half ago. Doc­tors gave him an 8 per­cent chance of get­ting out of the hos­pi­tal.

“I re­al­ized that I had many sto­ries that I hadn’t shared with the next gen­er­a­tion about our strug­gle, es­pe­cially from 1976 when I came out to 1996 with DOMA and I thought it was very im­por­tant to, in an en­ter­tain­ing way, present the in­for­ma­tion so that they would un­der­stand that they came out of some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary,” he says.

But while he was more than ac­cus­tomed to giv­ing speeches, putting on a per­for­mance like this was an en­tirely dif­fer­ent en­deavor.

“It’s a huge change of pace and I was scared shit­less,” he says. “But the cast and I met be­fore­hand and said, ‘You know what? If it works, it works, but if it doesn’t, we’ve raised the money.”

It worked. Shows sold out in New York and L.A. and they re­ceived rave re­views. Mixner will be joined by les­bian coun­try singer Chely Wright and Broad­way per­former Chris Bolan (“Mamma Mia”) at the At­lanta show, and will fol­low that up with another per­for­mance in Chicago next month.

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

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