On November 12, Paul Glass and Charles D. Evans of Falmouth were honored with this year’s AARP Andrus Award for Community Service. It’s AARP’s most prestigious and visible state volunteer award for community service. They are the first married and black gay couple in AARP’s history to receive the award.

AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, is one of the largest organizations in the country, focusing on issues affecting Americans over the age of fifty with a membership of over 38 million members as of 2018. The AARP Andrus Award for Community Service is an annual awards program developed to honor individuals whose service is a unique and valuable contribution to their community and society, reflecting AARP’s vision and mission.

“I am beyond honored and grateful for this recognition. I feel we are not put on this earth to exist but to be of service to others and our community,” Charles told me.

When AARP Massachusetts was looking to honor the state’s top volunteer, Paul’s and Charles’s names rose to the top. They have made a difference in the lives around them, sharing their knowledge, experience, talent, and skills to enrich the lives of our community.

“Paul and Charles have channeled the many negative experiences they endured into positive, healing, and inspiring volunteer work and leadership,” wrote Barrie Atkin, of Swampscott, who nominated the guys. “Their signature work co-founding LGBTQ+ Elders of Color in 2013 in Massachusetts was innovative, unusual, and courageous. No such organization existed at that time. In collaboration with the LGBTQ+ Aging Project, they identified the need and turned the need into a reality. They didn’t just co-found the organization along with others. Their continued leadership inspires many others to be involved.”

People of color are underrepresented and underserved regarding aging services and resources. Paul and Charles understand the intersectional challenges and complexities of growing older as African-American gay men.

LGBTQ+ senior communities with multiple identities confront multiple challenges. Their organization, LGBTQ+ Elders of Color, fills the gap Massachusetts LGBTQ+ organizations and local, state, and federal public health systems missed. Outreach is essential because the challenges facing African American LGBTQ+ seniors intensify with age.

According to Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (Sage) and Movement Advancement Project (MAP), approximately one-third of LGBTQ+ elders live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, with 40 percent African Americans. These seniors often feel more vulnerable, invisible, and isolated by retirement. Historical and ongoing discrimination have created significant lifelong challenges for this demographic group: limited wealth and savings, low wages, few labor protections, housing instability, food insecurity, stigma, immigration, HIV status, and higher mortality from treatable conditions. All have contributed to a lack of well-being and lowered quality of life.

By 2050, POC seniors will comprise over 40 percent of the elderly population, with approximately 3 million being LGBTQ+. With this projection, specific cultural and linguistic competence training and nondiscrimination policies are needed to support a rapidly growing demographic group that has experienced a lifetime of health, educational, and economic disparities. In 2018, Massachusetts legislators passed “An Act Relative to LGBT Awareness Training for Aging Services Providers,” mandating LGBTQ+ cultural awareness training for all state-funded and licensed aging service providers within 12 months of employment. These challenges can only be remedied by policymakers and aggressive programs invested in expanding care and services specifically targeted to these racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse communities.

These Dapper Dans, as I fondly dubbed them, unique and invaluable resources and services for its LGBTQ+ elders of color reverberate throughout the Bay State. Since childhood, their indefatigable spirit to give back to their community was ingrained in them.

“Since relocating to Massachusetts on Cape Cod in 2002 and our subsequent retirement, we have enriched our lives with stronger connections to the community through outreach and advocacy,” Paul told the audience at the award ceremony. “To some, retirement may mean the opportunity to relax and take it easy. To us, retirement has provided an opportunity to find new ways to help others.”

Without the foundation Paul and Charles have laid for us LGBTQ+ elders of color, we wouldn’t be the vibrant, visible, and growing community that we are.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

member and Columnist, The Reverend

Irene Monroe is an ordained minister,

motivational speaker and she speaks for

a sector of society that is frequently

invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly

Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on

WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio

and a weekly Friday segment “The Take”

on New England Channel NEWS (NECN).

She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a

syndicated religion columnist. Her

columns appear in cities across the

country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also

she writes a column in the Boston home

LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and

Cambridge Chronicle. A native of

Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated

from Wellesley College and Union

Theological Seminary at Columbia

University, and served as a pastor at an

African-American church in New Jersey

before coming to Harvard Divinity School

to do her doctorate. She has received the

Harvard University Certificate of

Distinction in Teaching several times

while being the head teaching fellow of

the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister

in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is

the author of the best seller, THE GOOD

BOOK. She appears in the film For the

Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the

Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an

Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s

coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS:

40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social,

and Religious Pain and Trauma of

Growing up Gay in America" and in

"Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston

Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50

Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled

twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living

Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for

her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the

Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's

research library on the history of women

in America. Her website is

irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev.

Monroe and BC.

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