Monday, April 11, 2011

Editorial: D.C. Benefit For A Young LGBTQ Activist In Need

Ben Shallenberger, (Foreground) & Friends
Photo via The Advocate
There is a gentle giant I met a long while back when my friend Kevin Lynch, the manager of the Human Rights Campaign's Store & Action Center here in Washington, asked me to help volunteer at an event the HRC Store was participating in. What impressed me the most about this young man was his earnest dedication & commitment  to LGBTQ issues.
Now, I realise that may sound like a standard toss-away statement, but I can assure you its not, especially in this instance. As we worked together that day, I got to know the young soft spoken Texan and was impressed with his simple humanity, dignity, and most of all his self deprecatory sense of humour.
Ben Shallenberger, at the time that I met him, was working part-time for Kevin at the HRC Store coupled with volunteer hours over at HRC headquarters and like most young folks his age, had his eye on a bigger prize, landing a position that would help chart his future path and career. For Ben, the ultimate goal was working full-time at HRC's Rhode Island Avenue headquarters in his chosen profession of media production work.
When he and I had a conversation regarding an opening as a video editor at HRC, he was excited and pleased that this opportunity had been presented as he admitted that working only part time at the store with an occasional side job wasn't quite covering the bills and he thought that if he wasn't able to land something soon, he would have to return to his native Texas. Not long after, I found out he had landed the position and I congratulated him when I happened to run across him at the store just before he took up his new full time job.
I haven't seen Ben much after that and I've often wondered how he was doing although the fruits of his efforts as a skilled video editor have been pretty much evident in the HRC work product that I have watched. Today though, I was pained and dismayed to see this appear in the Advocate:
LGBT advocates in the nation's capital are coming together Wednesday evening to benefit a young colleague recently diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.
Ben Shallenberger, a video editor whose entry for the video competition "Film Your Issue" won him a national award, has worked with the Human Rights Campaign and was highly involved in D.C. marriage equality efforts.
Colleagues and friends of Shallenberger have organized a Wednesday evening event in Washington, D.C. to raise funds and awareness for his illness. He is scheduled to travel to Texas for upcoming treatment.
This was followed by a press release which I will add below. But, I wanted to acknowledge that Gentle Ben and pun intended is richly deserving of the loving attention he is now spotlighted in courtesy of his friends, his colleagues, the Advocate, and now myself.
I can only hope that Ben works his way through this daunting personal trial with the same dignity and sense of humour that I've come to know and respect. If you can help Ben, please do so, he is an outstanding example of a decent, quality, human being.
~ Brody Levesque
Press Release:
Join us this Wednesday [April 13] as we show our love and give back to our friend Ben Shallenberger who was recently diagnosed with Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer.
Over the years, Ben has made numerous contributions to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. He first crossed the radar of the Human Rights Campaign by winning a national video competition called "Film Your Issue." As Ben later explained, "I wrote a poem about the personal struggle with being gay and a Christian. I spoke from the heart about my experiences. The whole thing took under 4 hours, but the effects of it will last forever." You can watch the video here.
When the battle for marriage equality was taking place here in the District, Ben offered testimony as a resident of Ward 5 in support of the The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009. In his words: "I’m not even involved in a relationship at this time. To be completely honest, I’ve never even been on a date. But I do know that someday, I will be ready to commit my life to someone, and I want the opportunity to get married in the eyes of God and the state."
Through his work at the Human Rights Campaign and his time and talents in the field of video editing, Ben's work has been seen by anyone who has ever visited or attended an event. His favorite video included an interview with Darlene and Candy — married in the District of Columbia.
Now, it's time for all of us to show our support as he travels very soon to Texas for treatment.
Nellie's Sports Bar,
900 U Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
7:00 p.m. Cocktails
8:00 p.m. Program
$10 suggested donation / all proceeds will benefit Ben Shallenberger