2008

NATIONAL GATHERING ILOS ANGELES

California Dreaming – Building a Better World for Every Old Lesbian
July 30 – August 3, 2008
Hacienda Hotel
Los Angeles, California

Observations of an OLOC Virgin

As we say in OLOC, I’m Marcia Perlstein, age 63, from Puget Sound, Washington and SF Bay Area chapter/groups of OLOC. My virginal national experience was the OLOC “California Dreaming” Gathering this summer.

At my first National Gathering of OLOC, I found passion, hopefulness, warmth, and sincere efforts to educate ourselves about all the “isms” which permeate our larger culture and can find our way into our group. I’ve never been part of a group so attentive to the personal and political concerns of its members than our OLOC. We attempted to deal with ageism, racism, classism, and ableism. We talked openly about preparing for inevitable increasing disability and eventual death.

We were respectful of differences and moved seamlessly from heartfelt emotion to joyful celebration. We honored our founders, foremothers, Steering Committee, conference organizers, and the folks who served our food and set up our rooms. We asked for what we needed from accessibility and practical concerns to hugs and “remember to tell me how beautiful my sparkling shirt is!”

The Memorial Service, led empathically and adroitly by our own Shaba Barnes, brought our deceased sisters and late foremothers into the room with all of us. Though the workshops were too numerous to re-cap in this brief article, it is important to note the range, breadth, and depth of knowledge, skills, and compassion we have amongst us.

Suzanne Bellamy from Australia’s Lost Culture of Women’s Liberation was quirky, original, funny, and outstandingly artistic. The talent show included playwright/actress Terry Baum’s excerpt of her one-woman show, Ivy Bottini’s stand-up, and Susan Wiseheart’s belly dancing. The rest of us had spirited vim, vigor, and chutzpah underlying our moments at the microphone. Another very special contribution was the 30-year reunion of the Los Angeles Women’s Community Chorus. They came together from points afar in honor of our Gathering. OLOC singers assembled on site and sang several pieces with the Chorus.

More talent was showcased through Mothertongue Feminist Theater, with their performance of their Disability script. In the usual tradition of this group, it was poignant, funny, courageous. They wrote and performed complex thoughts, casting a lens on the multi-faceted prism of living with grave difficulties. The performance generated an intimate conversation in a group of more than 200 women. People in the audience still remembered Mothertongue’s performance at the 1st National Lesbian Conference in Atlanta in 1991!

Other notable contributions continue long-term. The project with the greatest longevity is Arden Eversmeyer’s Old Lesbians Oral Herstory Project. The artfulness of the Steering Committee and other conference organizers was that their hard work and focus on abundance of detail appeared seamless but we all know the multitude of hours of contact and preparation this final result took. While the details need to be determined, we are all aware that we will continue the work we’ve been doing for many years, for the life of our organization.