Chicago lesbian activist Renae Ogletree died Friday after a long battle with lung cancer, the Windy City Times reports. She was 59.
The native New Yorker moved to Chicago in 1980. Most recently, Ogletree was the Chicago Public Schools' Director of Student Development. Since spring 2009, she had been meeting with LGBT students about harassment and bullying.
Ogletree was associated with numerous groups and projects, including Gay Games VII, Chicago Black Lesbians and Gays and many, many more. Inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, Ogletree was also instrumental in trying to organize the city's black LGBTs In one of many video interviews at the Chicago Gay History Project, Ogletree recalls a 1990 incident\:
"In 1990, there was only one 'gay' community, that was the white gay community that began and ended on Halsted Street. As a lesbian I didn't see it any different. I remember one day looking in one of the gay papers and there was this big ad. And by now [black LGBT leaders] had several meetings and we think we're getting a reputation for ourselves. And there was this big ad that said 'Leaders of the gay community endorse Richard Daley for mayor.' And there was not a person of color in that picture. I was personally offended and ... called other people and said, 'Are you angry? Let's write a letter.' And my life has never been the same."
The video interviews with Ogletree were conducted by Windy City Times Editor Tracy Baim. They are a treasure trove for those interested in hearing about early gay life and activism, homophobia in the black community and her battle with cancer.
On a personal note: I met Renae a number of times and even interviewed her in the 90s when I was field producing at NBC-5. She was very outgoing, had an infectious laugh and a great memory for names. It was too soon but you deserve your rest, Renae.
Photo: Windy City Times