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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning symposium offers speakers, award-winning play, multiple discussions

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KINGSTON, R.I. –March 16, 2005—This year’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Symposium, “Lives in Transition: Examining Realities and Perceptions,” hosted by the University of Rhode Island’s GLBT Center is designed to be thought-provoking, community-building, and entertaining. Now in its 11th year, the symposium will offer participants a variety of speakers, topics, and entertainment including an award-winning play, James Baldwin-Down from the Mountaintop. URI’s annual event is one of the oldest in the country, according to its organizers.

This year the symposium runs from Wednesday evening, March 30 through Saturday, April 2. All events, which are free and open to the public, will be held on URI’s Kingston campus. Go to www.outri.org/symposium.htm for a detailed schedule.

“Organizers of the symposium try to pick topics from proposals that show change as well as continuity in the GBLTQ community,” comments Al Lott, professor emeritus of psychology and a member of the planning committee.

For example, this year a few sessions will focus on transgender issues, a topic that hasn’t been studied in depth. A transgendered person is someone, a male or female, who has gone through a medical procedure to change genders. Sessions will examine the health care industry’s response and the physical and psychological effects of the transition.

Beverly Jenkins, an activist and organizational consultant from Milwaukee, will kick off the series as the featured speaker on March 30 at 7:30 p.m. in URI’s Multicultural Center. Jenkins, a black lesbian, will discuss multiple identities within the GLBTQ community and suggest how to dismantle single-issue politics to bring the community together to work on social and economic justice.

The play, James Baldwin - Down From the Mountaintop, written and performed by Calvin Levels will be presented Thursday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m. in URI’s Edwards Auditorium.

Tony Award nominee Levels’ critically- acclaimed solo play depicts the rich and impassioned life of novelist, playwright, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin. The play traces the fervent life of the American writer recognized for his novels on sexual and personal identity, along with plays and sharp essays on civil rights.

In addition to his nomination for the Tony Award, Levels also received nominations for the New York Drama Desk Award and the New York Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in a Play.

Acclaimed author Felice Picano returns to family roots to share reminiscences of Rhode Island “on Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium. His presentation, “Three Ocean State Stories” will take the audience through three autobiographical pieces: his 1998 novel, Looking-glass Lives, the story Uneasy Spirits, and a nonfiction book about his uncle's unsolved 1923 murder in Thornton, R.I., when the author was 9.

Picano's first book was a finalist for a PEN/ Hemingway Award. His 2003 books were The New Joy of Gay Sex (third edition) with Charles Silverstein (Harper Collins) and a reprint edition of a memoir trilogy. A new memoir, Fred in Love, is forthcoming this April from the University of Wisconsin Press.

The Rhode Island Feminist Voices and the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus will also entertain on Friday.

For questions or further information, contact Andrew Winters at
401-874-2894 or at andrew@uri.edu.