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Vernita Gray
Illinois Activist and Cook County State's Attorney's Lesbigay Liaison
Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame Inductee 1993

Vernita Gray who came out in 1969, is credited with running the city's first unofficial gay community center out of her South Side apartment, offering support and a place to stay to innumerable gays and lesbians who came to her for help.

Gray was also among the first group of Black women and their families who came together at the Belmont Rocks in the 1970s for an informal picnic during the Pride Parade. What began with a few families has grown to become the second-largest African American gathering in the city.

Vernita Gray has served Chicago's lesbian and gay community with distinction for over 20 years. She was an early activist serving lesbians and gay men in Chicago's African American community since the late 1960's.

After attending Woodstock and learning of the existence of the "gay liberation" movement she returned to Chicago and began organizing support groups at local colleges, and with friends, organized and hosted in her home support groups for lesbians. In 1969 she participated in the development of a telephone hotline at her home for members of Chicago's gay and lesbian community. With her well known sense of humor, the hotline telephone number was FBI-LIST. Interest in the support groups and hotline was so intense that Grey eventually had to vacate her apartment to obtain a modicum of privacy and peace of mind.

Given the the hostility in the African American community towards lesbians and gay men her activities were undertaken at some personal risk.

Gray was instrumental in forming the first Lesbian Caucus of the nascent Gay Liberation organization in the early 1970's and the first Chicago lesbian newspaper Lavendar Woman.

Chicago business owner for 11 years operating the "Sol Sands" restaurant and a company developing audio visual materials for children.

A Graduate of Columbia College with a degree in creative writing and communications Gray has published Sweet Sixteen, a volume of her own poetry and currently working on a novel.

Vernita Gray has had a consistent presence in Chicago's gay and lesbian community and continues to be a highly regarded role model and an articulate and effective spokesperson for lesbian and gay concerns.

Her organizational affiliations include IMPACT and Mountain Moving Coffee House.



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