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Midgett is living life to its fullest

by Heather Cassell

Pride Freedom Award honoree Mary MidgettPhoto: Courtesy SF Pride<br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
Pride Freedom Award honoree Mary MidgettPhoto: Courtesy SF Pride






  

Mary Midgett has lived a full life, and at 78 years old, she isn't stopping. A ball of energy, one can hardly believe she's nearing 80 and continues to devote her life to the LGBT community.

This year the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee is honoring Midgett, a lesbian, for her commitment to the community with its Heritage of Pride, Pride Freedom Award.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Midgett, as she's known by those close to her. "I want to thank the community for acknowledging my existence."

Midgett came to San Francisco in 1974 with her two young children in the heat of what was then called the gay liberation movement. After settling into the City by the Bay and getting a job as a teacher at Booker T. Washington Center in the Western Addition, she jumped right into the action. She got involved with Operation Concern, counseling people with addictions, and co-launched Bay Area Black Lesbians and Gays and the NIA Collective, a retreat for lesbians of African descent.

She followed up that experience with facilitating and running workshops at the Becoming Visible conference and other organizations such as Lesbians and Gays of African Descent for Democratic Action, New Leaf: Services for Our Community, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change and many more during her nearly 45 years of activism in the Bay Area.

"History, history, wonderful history. I'm so happy that I was able to be around during those times, because those times are no longer now," said Midgett, who loved being around so many women and continues to date.

Midgett retired from teaching full-time in 2007, but she continues to be an in-demand substitute teacher, she said. She's also very much involved in the LGBT senior community through Openhouse.

Midgett is the author of Grandma Brown , a collection of black lesbian erotica, and has had stories published in volumes I, II, and III of Hot and Bothered .

Currently, Midgett is working on a memoir, NY Flava with a San Francisco Beat, and an inspirational book, Girlfriends, I'm 78 and Still Having Fun , focused on life after 60 and addressing issues like mental and physical health and employment.

For the past eight years, Midgett has written a monthly inspirational column, Midgett's Corner, for the Western Edition , a newspaper that caters to San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood.

Midgett's books have been used in university classes and she continues to talk about LGBT issues at San Francisco State University, where she's been a regular speaker for 20 years.

"One good thing about my life is that I do enjoy it. Everybody can't say at my age that they are enjoying their life," said Midgett, who has 12 grandchildren between her own children and stepchildren and continues to live a full life.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts into a West Indian family, Midgett, the second oldest child, joined the Army for a bit after high school against her three brothers' wishes, but she was having a great time being surrounded by women, she said. When she got out of the Army three years later she moved to New York, where she met her first husband, a gay man, with whom she had her son, and her second husband, with whom she had a daughter, after briefly returning to Boston and living in Cleveland, Ohio, intermittently.

She left the East Coast for good when she decided to follow her dream to live in San Francisco and never looked back.

"The nicest thing in my life was that I made a decision to have children, but it didn't stop my life," said Midgett, who never stopped partying and being politically active.

Midgett has also received the Pat Bond Award for her community activism.

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