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EXCLUSIVE: Spurned Oscar winner strikes back at alma mater

"Speak Out...Now is that time at PCC"

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Academy Award winner and LGBT equality advocate Dustin Lance Black responds with an open letter to the Courier on having his invitation rescinded as PCC’s 2014 Spring commencement speaker.

The college disinvited Black, a PCC alumnus, citing intimate photographs of Black with an ex-boyfriend which surfaced on the internet in 2009.

“For too long now I’ve sat silent on this issue. That ends here and now and with this sentence: I did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer,” Black wrote.  

“I had hoped to share the story of how I turned my Community College education at PCC into a fruitful career. I had hoped to share the message that each and every one of you is capable of the same. But now I must ask you to do something for me: speak out.”

Read Black’s exclusive letter to the Courier speaking directly to the students of PCC in its entirety below.

 

Dear PCC Students,

In 1992 my parents lost their jobs in the months leading up to my leaving for college. We could no longer afford the University I was accepted at, so I turned to the Community College system and Pasadena City College. I enrolled in honors courses, worked two jobs to pay rent and still found time to tutor both math and ESL at PCC. My mother taught me there is nothing more meaningful than serving your fellow man. It was a proud day when she watched me walk at PCC’s graduation with an AA Degree, an honors tassel and a Dean’s scholarship.

Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black.  (Photo courtesy Dustin Lance Black)

Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black. (Photo courtesy Dustin Lance Black)

November of last year, I received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Community College League of CA. In the presentation, my film work, Academy Award, WGA and Spirit Awards were all mentioned, but the accomplishment I was most proud of was my half-decade of work with AFER to strike down Prop 8 at the Supreme Court last summer and bring equality back to California.

After my acceptance speech I was approached by PCC Administrators and asked to speak at my old campus. A few months later, I received an invitation asking that I be PCC’s 2014 Commencement speaker. I confirmed the invitation, booked the international flights to get back to Southern California, canceled work and turned down paid invitations. This invitation was that meaningful to me.

This morning, I woke up to the headline that I have been disinvited to speak at my Alma Mater. The reasoning: that I was involved in a “scandal” in 2009 regarding extremely personal photographs that were put up on internet gossip sites of me and my ex-boyfriend.

For too long now I’ve sat silent on this issue. That ends here and now and with this sentence: I did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer.

In 2009 a group of people surreptitiously lifted images from my ex’s computer and shopped them around to gossip sites in a money making scheme. These were old images from a far simpler time in my life, a time before digital camera phones and internet scandals. They were photos of me with a man I cared for, a man who shared my Mormon background and who was also struggling with who he was versus where he came from. And yes, we were doing what gay men do when they love and trust each other, we were having sex. I have never lied about my sexuality. If you invade my privacy, this is what you will find. I have sex. It brings me joy, fosters intimacy and helps love grow. I hope anyone reading this can say the same for themselves and for their parents.

In 2010 I took the perpetrators of this theft to Federal court and Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled unequivocally that the defendants had indeed broken the law. The details of this case are readily available for anyone to read — including PCC’s leadership and Board of Trustees: http://archive.recapthelaw.org/cacd/449819/

In the eyes of anyone who has seen the devastating effects this trespass has had on me personally, creatively and professionally over these many years, in the eyes of my mother and friends who have held me as I’ve cried, and under the blind scrutiny of the law of this land, I am the victim of this “scandal,” not the perpetrator.

With this cruel act, PCC’s Administration is punishing the victim. And I ask you this: If I was a heterosexual man or woman with this same painful injury in my past, would PCC’s Administration still be rescinding such an honor?

Over these past five years, I have spoken at over 40 major universities including Harvard’s Kennedy School, Penn, UCLA, USC and recently spoke at UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television graduation. I’ve been the featured speaker at NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Conference), NACA (National Association for Student Activities), HRC’s National Gala, spoken to over 200,000 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at the March on Washington, walked up the steps of the Supreme Court to help win a fight for my people and been honored for my work for equality on the floor of the California House of Representatives. Never once, at any of these events has this issue ever come up. Not once. Not in the press. Not with the students. Not ever.

In fact, PCC is now only the second institution to ever blame me for what happened in 2009. The first was Hope College in Michigan whose Dean pro- actively made a statement openly admitting he did not want a pro-LGBT message on his campus. It seems to me that same animus is at play here now.

I congratulate all of the 2014 graduates. I had hoped to share the story of how I turned my Community College education at PCC into a fruitful career. I had hoped to share the message that each and every one of you is capable of the same. But now I must ask you to do something for me: speak out.

As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC. They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.

While I deal with the legal and financial ramifications of this injury, I urge you not to let PCC’s Administrators get away with sending such a harmful message. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the struggle for equality it is that when you are stung by injustice, you must find your pride and raise your voice. If you are outraged like I am, you must show it. You must speak truth to fear and prejudice and shed light where there is ignorance. Now is that time at PCC.

 

DUSTIN LANCE BLACK PCC ’94 UCLA ‘96

 

PCC CONTACT INFORMATION:

PCC PRESIDENT — Mark Rocha, mwrocha@pasadena.edu

NOTE: In a subsequent letter from Robert Bell, rhbell@pasadena.edu, who I am told lead the fight to rescind the invitation, no mention was made of the invitation or confirmation, but it is clear that he and others on the Board of Trustees were aware that this offer was extended and accepted. Their discussion of this issue (at time code 02:08:20) can be viewed at:

http://pasadenaedu.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=57&meta_id=

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15 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE: Spurned Oscar winner strikes back at alma mater”

  1. Ken says:

    This is NOT Alabama, Arkansas, or Mississippi! Enough is enough of all this hateful homophobic discrimination!

  2. Leo says:

    People have sex. Sometimes we’re reminded of that by photos.
    Get over it, PCC Board.

  3. marcus says:

    Pathetic. All persons of conscience should boycott this commencement. You have been robbed of the opportunity to be honored for your accomplishments by a man of intelligence and integrity. The PCC administration has neither of these attributes.

  4. Michael C says:

    I would hope any selected speaker to decline the invitation..in favor of Dustin Lance Black….based on the embarrassing and inappropriate remarks by some PCC Trustees…..

  5. Faculty Member says:

    The miscommunication at this college stems from when Rocha first got here — he reorganized the whole school slap-dash (just because) and the Board let him. The Board didn’t care if there was buy-in from the rest of the school nor did they look at all options, nor did they listen to the people who told them it’s not a good idea. Same thing with eliminating winter from the calendar, now we’ve lost students and will probably also lose funding. Thanks, Board!

    This sad situation with the commencement speaker is it is just another symptom of the real ailment at PCC: incompetent management + Board of trustees that haven’t been heeding the signs or holding them accountable.

    It’s time for voting constituents to contact your Board member and tell them you want the management (President + VP’s + all 95 other managers that are now running the school) to stop mucking up the school! Why the “miscommunication”????

    http://www.pasadena.edu/board/contact.cfm

    • Potential Target says:

      Your first paragraph nails it.

      Beyond realignment and the calendar, I’d add NCNs, Rosemead, block scheduling, and pre-wreck to the mix.3

    • disgusted faculty member says:

      “This sad situation with the commencement speaker is it is just another symptom of the real ailment at PCC: incompetent management + Board of trustees that haven’t been heeding the signs…”

      Amen! (Though I would add that while the administration IS incompetent, they are also unethical, reckless and at times downright malevolent.) I hope the press attention focused on the commencement speaker issue will extend to coverage of that larger ailment at PCC, a pathology that has seriously degraded the health of the college.

  6. Mr. Smith says:

    I think it’s funny that PCC is making such a big deal over these photos.

    The last time a scandal surfaced around explicit photos being allegedly shared involving gay men, the professor was reinstated.

    C’mon PCC, play fair.

  7. Bob says:

    As a 69 year old alumnus of PCC the action of the Board is totally disgraceful. The response of the invite is brilliant and shows exactly why he should have spoken.
    This entire board is a disgrace to equality and freedom of speech.
    When I went to PCC we had Viet Nam war protests, we had Peace marches and Civil Rights marches and the administration never once tried to squelch these.
    I agree with one of the posters, why was this one board member looking at these pictures, why is it any of his business and why should his “morals” be forced on the rest of us.

  8. Just wondering says:

    Just how did Trustee Anthony Fellow, VP Bob Bell, Mark Rocha come across these images? Do they regularly share such images?

  9. disgusted faculty member says:

    This board and administration are a disgrace to the people of Pasadena and to the students, staff and faculty of the college; their outrageous, destructive behavior has run amok for several years now. They have destroyed the college’s reputation.

  10. Don Patton says:

    Enough is enough. It is time for the voices of the majority to be heard. The board is not the students of PCC and we need to make sure we are heard to.

  11. Daze says:

    As an alumni of PCC I would expect PCC Administration to show more respect for a person’s achievements, let alone their lifestyle. I would have loved to have Dustin Lance Black speak at my graduation, considering that he is a UCLA graduate and would probably provide some insight for the graduating class. It’s unfortunate that the invitation was rescinded..that’s just plain rude. I am feel terrible for being the audience of such an embarrassing event.

    I also want to add that The Courier has focused its energy in writing stories filled with petty disagreements. And the “Reader View’s” poll? “No, he sucks” is such an immature poll response.

    Am I reading a pop-culture magazine in the super market aisles or am I reading a College Newsletter?

  12. Monica R. says:

    It would have been an honor to have him as our commencement speaker. My heart goes out to him. What a shame PCC.

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