A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color
The following was written in October 2001 for Breast Cancer Awareness month. At the time, neither one of us knew Christine's cancer was back.
Christine Adams Tripp is not only my best friend, she has also been my teacher and has taught me the meaning of the word “survivor.” Her life has been one survival story after another and to quote Maya Angelou, and still she rises.
She was born and raised in Watts, California. As an infant, she was handed over to surrogate grandparents when her mother’s husband came home from military service and found his wife had an infant that was not his child. As she tells the story, “she was playing around while her husband was at war, when he came back from the war, he told her ‘you need to get rid of that baby or I’m leaving.’ She got rid of me to keep him.”
and her husband were the surrogate grandparents who took both
Christine and her sister. She stayed with Nana from the time
she was two weeks old until she was nine. Unfortunately, her
surrogate grandfather began molesting her and the state
intervened telling her mother, either take the children back or
they would go to foster care. She reluctantly took the children
back and told them she was only doing this because she had to.
“She said she did not like us and the only reason why she was
taking us was so we didn’t have to go to foster care, so I had
to go live with her,” Christine recalls, “she didn’t like us and
we didn’t like her. This was the first time I ever met a woman
who was smoking and drinking and carousing in the streets.”
[Picture left, Christine and I At Nancy Wilson Benefit for Minority AIDS Project]
Her mother never encouraged her children to excel, quite the contrary, she did more to douse their dreams and aspirations than to encourage them. However, Christine still managed to overcome her mother’s damaging insults and became a voracious reader, a violinist, a member of the chess team, and a top student in school. “I remember coming home one day” Christine recalls, “I was a straight ‘A’ student. I came home one day with my good grades and she said ‘I don’t know why you’re studying this way; you ain’t never going to be nothing.” This is one of many examples in which Christine has had to overcome adversity in order to survive.
Christine knew, definitively, she was a lesbian at 13 years of age. Although, when she was 4 or 5 years old, there was this female minister at church she liked. She told her Nana she wanted to marry her. Her grandmother told her “you cannot marry her.” She, as children are wont to do, thought it was because she was simply too young at the time, so, at 8-year old, she asked her Nana, “now can I marry her?” Her grandmother’s answer was the same.
At 12, she fell in love with her gym teacher, Miss Johnson. As she describes it, “I walked in and saw this fine, fine woman! She said ‘okay, listen up girls . . .’ – I was in love. She had this pretty dark skin, she had on some white shorts, she was wearing white tennis shoes with white socks, she had on a starched white shirt and the collar was turned up just a little bit – she was a dyke’s dyke. That’s when I fell in love with butch women. When I found out she was the tennis coach, I took up tennis.”
At about 10 or 11 years of age, she and her brother (who is also gay) and a gay cousin started running the streets together. “I was about 12, 13, 14” she recalls, “I was the only girl with all of these gay guys at the ‘quads’ at school. My brother and my cousin introduced me to them and I went home with each of them because I was always someone’s girlfriend.” Sylvester was one of these young men.
Christine married young and the marriage was one of convenience – he too was a gay man. “I needed to get away from my mother and he needed to get away from his.” They tried to make it as a straight couple, but as Christine puts it “we tried it for a minute and moved on.” The couple had one son, Darrell.
[Photo left: Christine's son Darrell]
During this time, Christine became active in theatre, music, and became active in the Civil Rights Movement. She sang in the choir at James Cleveland’s church; performed with Ben Vereen for a year and a half in the Los Angeles Production of Hair; was in the Los Angeles production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Universal Amphitheater; sang with various theatrical productions; and sang with the Clara Ward Singers and the Caravans. She also did solo tours with USO during the Vietnam War, and marched with Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama in 1964.
On September 22, 1969, Christine received the offer to take the female Black role in Hair and to appear for rehearsals that evening. Within the hour, Christine received another monumental phone call from the Los Angeles Police Department notifying her of her husband’s murder. Her celebration was put on hold, but she continued on and the next week, she joined the company of Hair.
Christine did her first solo album entitled “Mr. Soul Brother,” produced by Robert Mercer of Cyclone Records, in 1970. Water and Power, a group comprised of both she and her brother and another artist, came out with two albums produced by Fantasy Records.
Christine became an ordained minister on March 22, 1972. Her ministry is focused on Social Justice and as a minister of social justice, Christine was active in community affairs and helped start many organizations such as Consultants for Community Programs; Peoples School of Law; helped to organize and was the Director of Pregnancy and Abortion Counseling of the Los Angeles Free Clinic and was a board member; organized Do It Now Foundation; organized and was first president of the Crenshaw Free Clinic; was the co-founder and first president of the Educational Center For the Deaf; and she established House of Concern in 1983. Christine is also a founding member of Unity Fellowship Church and the Minority AIDS Project. Unity’s first church meetings were held in her home in Los Angeles for approximately seven months before they moved to the Ebony Showcase on Washington Blvd. Currently, Christine is an Associate Minister at Christ Spiritual Truth Ministries in North Long Beach, California. This is the 48th ministry/organization Christine has been involved with.
In 1975, after graduating from UCLA with honors, she was accepted at UWLA School of Law. Upon entering the school, she discovered there was a “practice where the school graduated one Black student every year. Since I knew I was going to graduate, and I saw 45 other Black people that came into the same class with me, I knew I had to organize. In 1976, I founded and became the first president of the Black American Law Student Association at UWLA. In 1979, when I graduated as Vice President of the Senior Class, 17 other Black students graduated with me. That was the largest number of Black law students that ever graduated at that school. Subsequent to that, they now graduate between 10 and 12 Blacks every year.”
Christine was faced with another challenge in December 1990, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer: She recalls, “I was going in for routine checkups at the time because I had been diagnosed with a fibrocystic condition of the breasts in 1973. The doctors were taking approximately 60cc’s of liquid from each breast every three or four months. 10 years prior, doctors wanted to remove my breasts and suggested I get implants. They were sure I would eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer. I told them then that I’d take my chances and waited. In 1990, my doctor found an unusual cyst and performed a biopsy and it turned out to be malignant. First the doctors wanted to take one breast. After careful consideration and realizing I had the same condition in both breasts, I told them to take both. I thought this would be better than me walking around looking all lop-sided. I had the surgery (double mastectomy ) three months after diagnoses on March 28, 1991.” She waited, because she was involved in the planning of the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum conference in Atlanta. After the conference she went in “to have my titties cut off.”
Post-surgery, the doctors wanted her to undergo chemotherapy treatment. She asked, them, “what are my options?” They told her “if you take chemo, you will have a 40% chance of the cancer recurring. If you do not, you have a 50% chance the cancer will come back.” She didn’t like the odds, so she opted not to take the chemo and took her chances again. She did, however, take the drug Tamoxifin, which she took for seven years until it made her hair fall out. At that time, she decided to stop because, as she put it, “she decided not be bald-headed.”
Her Warriors – “I always had a firm belief I had warriors in my body. Whenever I felt ill, I’d call upon my warriors.” She started her healing process through the use of creative visualization and created for herself little warriors. “I’d load them up with vitamins,” she said, to fight the cancer cells. She imagined little bullets flying through the air attacking the cancer and healing her body. Using this creative visualization technique not only help her deal with her cancer, it got her back to work 3 ½ weeks after surgery. At the time, she was an trainer at CalTrans and she told her students she was going on vacation and would be back in three weeks. She gave them homework and within three weeks time, was back in the classroom. When she gets sick, she says she calls upon her troops – her warriors – to attack “whatever negative energy invades my body.”
In 1983, Christine established House of Concern (“HOC”). “I got this divine inspiration to create a place for gays and lesbians to go where they could learn that God loves them as they are and to develop their spiritual consciousness. As I was working on this, in 1984, I met the Reverend Carl Bean and he too was interested in doing the same.” She put her plans on hold to help him build this dream. He was a pulpit minister and she was a social justice minister not interested in being in the pulpit at that time. While working on his project, “I formed, under HOC, a women’s group called Makita for Black Lesbians. We had a weekly rap group and we put out a monthly newsletter, which continues today.”
HOC today is a nonprofit organization. One of the many programs provided is counseling services for those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. “We follow them from the early stages – the beginning – to the point where they feel they are able to proceed on their own. We are there before surgery, we are at their homes post-surgery to assist them, and we provide emotional support, because they’re bodies are mutilated at that point and it’s a lot to overcome.”
Christine is a true survivor. She has survived mental and emotional abuse from her mother; the loss of her husband; the loss of her breasts to cancer; the loss of her home in 1994 in the Northridge Earthquake; the loss a mother should never experience, the loss of her only child, Darrell, to a gunman in 1995; and due to staff reductions at CalTrans, she lost her job, in the same month she lost her son.
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, she too continues to rise. In 1995 – the year I met this remarkable woman – after losing her job, she started her own business and subsequently owns herself. She is a survivor – the personification of the word really – and even in her pain and through her pain, she can still reach out to assist another in need. I trust she has helped others to survive as well.
My "bestest" friend in the whole wide world (you were loved) – Christine Adams Tripp, J.D.
[Photo right, Christine
and A.D. Odom at the Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum
Meeting in Dallas, TX.]
Source: Angela D. Odom, FemmeNoir
CHRISTINE TRIPP, 56, an activist in the African-American and gay communities, died May 26, according to a press release from Christopher Street West, a West Hollywood, Calif., non-profit gay organization. A cause of death was not given.
Tripp was born Sept. 11, 1945, in Watts, Calif. In 1976, while studying law at the University of West Los Angeles, she founded and became the first president of the school's Black American Law Student Association. She was a singer and an activist.
She was involved in the civil rights movement and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1964, and became an ordained minister of social justice in 1972. She helped start many organizations and was a founding member of the Unity Fellowship Church and the Minority AIDS Project.
For many years, Tripp was actively involved with the National Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum and the United Lesbians of African Heritage. She recruited volunteers for the Los Angeles Pride Festival and Parade and for the last two years served on the Board of Christopher Street West as head of volunteers.
The Los Angeles Pride will be dedicated to Tripp's memory this year.
Christine In A
Couple of Her
The Easter Bunny For Unity Fellowship's Picnic
Santa Claus for Unity's Christmas Party