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Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in a family committed to justice and education, Kathleen Saadat graduated from Chicago’s Farragut High School in 1957 and from Reed College in 1974. Kathleen’s grandmother taught her to sing; and since her arrival in Portland in 1970, Kathleen has raised her voice in positions from janitor and quality control chemist in a drug company to executive director of Oregon’s Commission on Black Affairs and director of affirmative action for the state of Oregon. Perhaps most simply and fittingly, Kathleen has been called “the social conscience of Oregon”.

For over 40 years, Kathleen has served Oregon’s LGBTQ community as a mentor and confidante. In 1976, she and six others organized Portland’s first gay rights march. Later, she helped craft Portland’s civil rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gay and lesbian people and income-based discrimination. In 1992, she served on the steering committee for the campaign against Ballot Measure 9, a profoundly divisive ordinance that would have effectively defined Oregon gays and lesbians as second-class citizens.

Kathleen’s activism has extended far beyond queer issues. She’s been a constant and vocal advocate for people of color, women, and the economically disenfranchised. Kathleen has helped plan Portland’s International Women’s Day celebrations, has been a member of the Oregon American Leadership Forum, a 1992 fellow with the Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C., and was invited to participate in the Hedgebrook Women's Writers Retreat. Oregon Business magazine put her on their list of ‘100 Who Lead in Oregon’. In 2012, Kathleen returned to her alma mater Reed College as the speaker for SEEDS Centennial Day of Service.

Kathleen’s passions, areas of activism, and honors go on and on. But one of her gifts is less often highlighted: her sublime singing voice. She was invited by Pink Martini to perform the classic song Love for Sale on their Je Dis Oui! CD, and subsequently released her own CD of standards, also called Love for Sale, backed by pianist Thomas Lauderdale and Pink Martini.

Today, Kathleen lives with her wife on a quiet street corner in Portland’s Rose City Park neighborhood. In person, she is reserved, but a quiet anger still simmers under the surface. You get the impression she’s learned to conserve her energies for the seemingly trivial, but actually important justice issues that cross her radar on a daily basis. As long as Kathleen has been fighting, she’s not done yet.  
Lulu Gargiulo: [00:00:00] And we're rolling.
Mason Funk: Okay. So do me a favor. Start off and state and spell your first and last names.
Kathleen Saadat: My name is Kathleen Saadat. K-A-T-H-L-E-E-N S-A-A-D-A-T. People often put the a's behind the d. They go in front. S-A-A-D-A-T.
Mason Funk: Okay. Okay. Perfect. Please tell me your date of birth and where you were born.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:00:30] I was born in St. Louis, Missouri. September 3rd, 1940.
Mason Funk: So you mentioned a few people who were important in your former years. One was your grandmother.
Kathleen Saadat: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: I wonder if you'd tell me about her.
Kathleen Saadat: It's my father's mother.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. When I ask you about your grandmother, try to start by mentioning her.
Kathleen Saadat: Yeah. Yeah.
Mason Funk: My grandmother.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:01:00] My grandmother helped to raise my brother and I. This was during World War II. This was my father's mother, and she lived in St. Louis. We had lived in Cincinnati, Ohio until my dad went into the service. My mother and father separated, and we went to live with my grandmother. She was well known as a Christian woman. Very, very religious. Not overly. Not imposing, but living her life in such a way as to keep a certain level of integrity
Kathleen Saadat: [00:01:30] and a sense of community and a consciousness about the needs of other people. I remember so often her feeding people who came to the backdoor looking for work. She would give them some work and food and usually fifty cents or so. In the '40s that was pretty good. She was a person that believed cleanliness was next to Godliness so you got scrubbed a lot. She also took care of people in the neighborhood.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:02:00] She knew who was sick. She knew who needed their grass cut. She knew who needed food, etc. We were trained to take care of people and not require compensation. So it wasn't unusual for her to say, you go do this for Ms. So and So and if she tries to give you some money, you don't take it. That's all there was to it. She sang every day. Every day, almost all day. From the morning until dinner time.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:02:30] The few times that she did not sing, the neighbors actually came over to see if something was wrong because they could hear her singing in the kitchen most of the time. She had seven children. The youngest of which was my father. My father was clearly a spoiled brat according to his siblings. She was a warm, kind, gentle, but firm human being. There were rules in the house and you obeyed them. There was not a question about it because she was in charge.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:03:00] This is my screen door, don't slam it. From 1940 ... about 1944 to 1947, we lived in the house with her, my grandfather, my Uncle Les, my Uncle Charles, my Aunt Anna. Big house, St. Louis. Wonderful neighborhood. Aspiring to middle class
Kathleen Saadat: [00:03:30] is how I would characterize it. My Aunt Anna was a teacher. My grandfather had been a principal of the colored school in Farmington, Missouri, which is where my great-grandmother was emancipated from slavery.My grandmother had gone to normal school and was a teacher. The family is full of teachers. I don't know what else I can tell you about her except I miss her in my life. She was a guide. She was clear about her own principles,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:04:00] and she was not afraid to speak up when she saw something wrong.
Mason Funk: Do you remember when you said she sang ...
Lulu Gargiulo: Hang on just one second. I apologize I just need a little piece of plastic. You don't have to redo any of that but it's just enough to bother me.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Kathleen Saadat: I thought it was on me.
Lulu Gargiulo: Sorry. [crosstalk]
Kathleen Saadat: I tried to get this wild white hair out of my eyebrow this morning. I'm not sure ...
Lulu Gargiulo: [00:04:30] Okay. I'm back.
Mason Funk: And we're still speeding?
Lulu Gargiulo: Yes.
Mason Funk: When you say your grandmother sang all day, what did she sing?
Kathleen Saadat: My grandmother sang religious songs and then the war songs. I learned Over There from her. She sang songs from her own childhood. Evidently, when they were younger, living in Farmington, Missouri, one of the ways they entertained themselves was people came over and brought their musical instruments and they sang.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:05:00] So I learned everything from "Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do" to "Over There" to "Old Rugged Cross" and so I heard those over and over and over again.
Mason Funk: Did you inherit a love of singing from her?
Kathleen Saadat: Yes.
Mason Funk: Uh-huh (affirmative)
Kathleen Saadat: I actually almost sing every day. I don't sing as long as she did. When I worked every day, I sang almost all day every day. It's a way to comfort yourself, and it also is a way for me to know how I am feeling.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:05:30] Cause I listen to what I'm singing. Oh, you don't feel good today. What's going on? I actually am on the latest Pink Martini album singing "Love For Sale". That was quite an adventure to do that.
Mason Funk: I saw the poster.
Kathleen Saadat: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay, you'll probably wanna kill me but would you just sing for us a little bit?
Kathleen Saadat: Whoa. Well, that would be really hard.
Mason Funk: [00:06:00] Just something spontaneous that you might sing to yourself as you're moving around the house.
Kathleen Saadat: Oh. You caught me completely off guard.
Mason Funk: We can come back to it if you want.
Kathleen Saadat: Yeah. Let's come back to that. Let's come back to that.
Mason Funk: I know I love nothing better than to ask someone to sing who likes to sing. So we'll come back to it.
Kathleen Saadat: The thing about singing is I always did it for me. Thomas is the one that talked me into making a record. There's a whole CD that's me
Kathleen Saadat: [00:06:30] that hasn't been produced yet. But then he asked me if he could put this part of that on this particular CD. All that's new to me. I'm not an entertainer. I don't like it. I don't like ... I like the after effects, but I don't like singing in front of people.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right. I guess we can come back to that. Tell me about your dad, and specifically I just want to quote from your questionnaire. You said, "he taught you two particular lessons. One was the power of voice."
Kathleen Saadat: [00:07:00] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: What do you mean by that?
Kathleen Saadat: My father was a person who encouraged me to speak up. I was the oldest child, the only girl. I had a special relationship the boys didn't have because they wouldn't push him. I pushed him. He told me I could do anything I wanted to do.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:07:30] He also told me I needed to speak up and say what I wanted. I watched him. When he died, he had a whole wall full of civic awards and plaques and that kind of stuff because he spoke out. Because he spoke up for poor people. He spoke up for homeless ... well, not homeless, but people living in projects. I don't know if you know anything about Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis. It was a horrible, horrible, horrible, place to live. He worked in housing for a lot of his life.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:08:00] He worked for the state government in affirmative action positions doing affirmative action for the Missouri state government. He came home from the war, and he wouldn't talk about the war. I learned a thing from him about humanity when I was very young, and I think a part ... well, I'll tell you this story.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:08:30] I'm six years old. He comes home. He's got on his sailor's uniform. We're upstairs shooting at each other playing war. Then I ask him, How many Japs did you kill? He looked at me and he said, did you want me to kill anyone? I started to cry because he made me know something that all the other indoctrination had taken away,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:09:00] and that was the humanity of the people who were fighting the war. I started to cry, and he picked me up. I said, No, no, no. I didn't want you to kill anyone. That lesson has stuck with me all of my life about what it is that we're doing when we're killing each other. If he had been a bravado guy, if he had been somebody who was terribly, terribly wounded by it all and not able to talk to his daughter, I think I would not have gotten that lesson.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:09:30] I am forever grateful that he just asked me that question. It just brought it down to what is real in our lives about being human beings. He didn't like war. He came back and he wrote anti-war pieces for the local black newspaper. He wouldn't talk about what he did in the war. I know he was in Guam, but I have a letter somewhere in all the piles of stuff
Kathleen Saadat: [00:10:00] that I have from his friend that said, Now we go back to the states, and we won't get what we need. They won't be fair to us still. All of that was around my dad, and my dad saying, always, you can do whatever you want to do. You can be whatever you want to be. His voice in public ... like my grandmother, willingness to say, no, that's not right. We're not going to do that.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:10:30] His determination to teach his children to speak truth. Cause you get in trouble for lying. When you told the truth, you got kind of a break.
Mason Funk: Along the lines of speaking truth, you said that your dad taught you that your word is your bond.
Kathleen Saadat: Yes.
Mason Funk: What does that mean to you personally?
Kathleen Saadat: That when you make a promise, you keep it.
Mason Funk: Could you refer back to your dad again?
Kathleen Saadat: Hmm?
Mason Funk: [00:11:00] Refer back to your dad again.
Kathleen Saadat: My dad would always say your word is your bond. He taught all four of us that. I think it stuck with me the most. It was about if you make a promise you keep it. If you give your word, there should not be anything else you have to do. There's nothing else that should need to prompt you to do what you said. Your word has value. It is yourself speaking
Kathleen Saadat: [00:11:30] to something that has value. When I say to you I will be there for you, that's my bond. It's my word. When the time comes, I need to be there for you, or else I'm nobody. If you can't live out what you say, then who are you? I think that's one of the biggest struggles in life is learning how to live in a way that fits with who we think we are.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:12:00] Sometimes you find out you've given your word, and you can't do it. But the thing I learned is the next thing you do is you go to the person and say I can't do it. You don't just let it slide. You're always present, and you're always keeping your own integrity.
Mason Funk: Okay. Growing up, looking approximately at the years of your growing up until you came out to college,
Mason Funk: [00:12:30] which is a big span of time, what were some of the struggles you faced and dealt with?
Kathleen Saadat: Remember, I was born in 1940, so I think the most significant struggle ... the first most significant struggle in my life was my mother leaving. Divorce was not common. People didn't know how to work with us to help with the grief of a missing mother.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:13:00] So that was a struggle. My dad remarried and went back to college, and so we were pretty poor living in a trailer in Nashville, Tennessee on the campus of Tennessee and [inaudible] State. In a trailer, not a mobile home. A trailer. There's three kids and two adults in that little space. I remember the tension, the tension.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:13:30] Having lived with my grandmother where it was all where you could be a kid. This was a whole new thing. The idea of being gay came early in my life. I knew I wasn't like the other kids. I liked girls. Then I found out I wasn't supposed to talk about it. By talking about it, whoa, what's wrong with you? That was an internal struggle kept mostly to myself. Fearful ... just afraid of losing family,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:14:00] friends, connection. I was pretty young when that was happening. I mean, I knew by the time I was seven or six that I was different. When I talked to my biological mother much later in my life, she said, I knew something was different when you were three. I said, how did you know? She said, Well, you quit calling me mother, and you started calling me Rebecca, and you started telling me what to do as though you were in charge. I just laughed. I said, Well, I don't know what all that means, but she said, Yeah, I knew you were a different kid.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:14:30] She didn't have any big analysis to put on that. Of course, her first response to finding out that I was a lesbian was what did I do?. She said, Is it because I left you? and I said, Shut up. We're not going to have that conversation about your leaving. This is too late to have that conversation. Other things around ... I didn't have any real racial struggles until I went to an integrated place.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:15:00] I was raised in segregation. There are real benefits to segregation, and I don't know that we talk about those enough. They give a real good foundation and a real good sense of who you are, where you come from. I learned black history at home. I learned it at school. When you say something to me about Paul Robeson or Marian Anderson
Kathleen Saadat: [00:15:30] or George Washington Carver, any of the historical figures, black figures, I'm very comfortable about them. I'm knowledgeable about them and I learned about them at home. It wasn't a struggle to learn about them. Also, the teachers were black and they encouraged you. When I went to high school in Chicago, which was my first integrated school, the first school was Hyde Park. I'd never been to an integrated school. I was absolutely enthralled by all the differences I saw around me.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:16:00] I wanted to make friends with everybody who knew things I didn't know, which put me in a bad place with some of the black kids. They thought I was overstepping my bounds, and I shouldn't be hanging out with the Puerto Ricans. It also put me in a bad place with some of the white kids who thought I was overstepping my bounds, and I shouldn't be hanging out with the white kids. Then I went to the west side of Chicago to Farragut High School. My first day there,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:16:30] there was a janitor scrubbing the steps, and he was scrubbing up the words No Niggers. I stepped over him and went to school. It was a rewarding experience to go to that school because there were lots of different kinds of kids who didn't want any part of that. They were Mexican. They were Polish. They were Puerto Rican. They were Black. We formed our own little group of people who liked each other.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:17:00] But I took a lot of heat for it from the black kids and the white kids who thought I should be only with the black kids.
Mason Funk: If you were born in '40, of course, you were, this should have been right around desegregation. Like just a couple years right after Little Rock.
Kathleen Saadat: This is '55.
Mason Funk: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Kathleen Saadat: 56.
Mason Funk: So this is right at the heart of desegregation ...
Kathleen Saadat: Yeah.
Mason Funk: ... of the schools.
Kathleen Saadat: You know, I can't tell you that. I think that happened a little later.
Mason Funk: [00:17:30] Oh, okay.
Kathleen Saadat: In Chicago, the school had always been integrated. They were segregated by law in Missouri, so I don't remember when ... I'm not a good time person.
Mason Funk: Oh.
Kathleen Saadat: I think that was '67, but I'm not sure.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Kathleen Saadat: I just don't know.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Okay.
Kathleen Saadat: It may have been '50s.
Mason Funk: What else do you remember of that period in the mid to late '50s and heading on to the early '60s of Civil Rights of what was going on in terms of ...
Kathleen Saadat: [00:18:00] What I remember is Emmet Till. I was in Chicago when he was killed. Wow. What I remember is the feeling of the city. The fear and the anger and her determination to have her son's casket open.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:18:30] And remembering the summers I'd spent in Madisonville, Kentucky, and how we were not allowed to go anyplace out of the black neighborhood by ourselves and realizing that's why that was. I remember that.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:19:00] When I graduated from high school in Chicago, I went to Jeff City, Missouri to school. A historically black college that my grandfather and my dad and aunts and uncles had attended. Lincoln University. Went into town with a couple of friends. Went to the Woolworth's Five and Dime. Ordered a shake and sat down to drink it and was told I couldn't. I was infuriated.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:19:30] It was another friend with me. I think her name was Lola. I was ready to turn it upside down on the counter and just get really mad, and she said No. Come outta here, come outta here, now. Come outta here. I was shocked. I'd been living in Chicago, which was fairly open. You could run into discrimination in Chicago, but for the most part you could go almost anywhere. I remember how furious I was. Then I found out if you went to the movies you had to sit upstairs.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:20:00] Well, I hadn't done that since we'd been in Nashville back in '47 where you had to sit upstairs. I remember when... I guess it must have been 1960. I was living in St. Louis again. I quit school after a year and a half and went back to St. Louis. I had some friends who ... the Luttonsluggers who went ... he was in medical school,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:20:30] and he went down to Louisiana to do his residency, and they'd had two kids. They invited me and couple of friends down to visit and then they wrote back and said, Don't come. We're afraid for you. Don't come. They were white. I remember thinking that I could not do what Dr. King did. I could not do what people did
Kathleen Saadat: [00:21:00] who went south and who allowed themselves to be harmed. I realize later how much courage that took than what I did, which was to stay out of it ... stay out of that part of it. I became an admirer of his and of the people who went south. I remember marching in St. Louis. I remember wondering what I was going to do with my white friends because I lived in a border neighborhood.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:21:30] Over here was drugs and a lot of crime. Beyond that was residential black folks. Over here was really high end gated streets and this is 1960 whatever, but those streets had always been gated as long as I can remember. Wondering what I was going to do with my white friends. Wondering how I was going to hide them out, because we were not in a place where they would be unnoticed. But those same people came out
Kathleen Saadat: [00:22:00] and marched and sang and they did more of it than I did in that point in time. What I remember feeling is anger. Just almost rage. I didn't know a lot about the kind of hardships that were visited on people in the concrete. I knew it in the abstract. My grandmother talked about it.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:22:30] I tried to help a friend find an apartment. She had kids. Black woman. The places she was offered were horrible. You go to a rental place, and it's got mold all over the wall, and you ask about having it removed and they say this is as-is. Places where the ceiling had fallen in and it's as-is to rent.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:23:00] I realized how protected, number one, I'd been. But also how even as poor as we were, there were things that we didn't have to go through. A part of that was living in segregation, because neighbors helped each other. People knew how to do more than one thing at a time. And because people put together help. Rage, anger,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:23:30] also feeling like an outsider as a human being, all of it coming together. Figuring out that a lot of the way I was treated had to do with being a girl. A lot of the way I was feeling had to do with being a lesbian. A word I didn't have until I was grown. None of it made sense to me although I didn't have the words.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:24:00] I couldn't articulate. I think that's a part of the sort of impotence of rage. A reflection of impotence. When I got more words, when I learned more words and my vocabulary increased and I got better concepts and better control over language, then I was ...
Mason Funk: Sorry. The door.
Lulu Gargiulo: [00:24:30] Yeah.
Mason Funk: Is that Carol?
Lulu Gargiulo: Yeah she just left and so it's just at the very ... that last little bit.
Kathleen Saadat: I don't know what I was saying.
Mason Funk: Yeah. When you got a better concept, when your vocabulary ...
Kathleen Saadat: Oh yes.
Mason Funk: Just hold that thought. Is she gone? Has the door closed?
Kathleen Saadat: I don't know.
Lulu Gargiulo: Doors closed.
Mason Funk: Okay good.
Lulu Gargiulo: Do you want me to give you a tap if I see her again?
Mason Funk: Yeah. Do you think she's going to be coming in and out?
Kathleen Saadat: I don't know. She has a doctor's appointment some time today and I don't know if she gone to that or what.
Lulu Gargiulo: Looked like she was leaving.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:25:00] Okay. She's probably going to the doctor's appointment. I have no idea what time it is.
Mason Funk: It's 10:45.
Kathleen Saadat: She's gone to the doctor's appointment.
Mason Funk: Okay. So just pick up with when you began to kinda words ...
Kathleen Saadat: When I got more words, I was better able to express myself. Then, the rage or the anger could be directed better and articulated better and I didn't feel so much tension in myself. The piece about being black
Kathleen Saadat: [00:25:30] has always been a mixed bag for me because as a kid, a light skinned kid growing up, I got beat up by the black kids because I was light skinned. When I got into integrated situations and the white kids wanna hold off because you're black, and so none of this stuff makes any sense to me but it was all very fascinating to me. I also had an uncle who married a Mexican woman, so there's a bunch of Goodson's that are all half black, half Mexican.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:26:00] I'm related to all these different kinds of people. How does that work for me personally? I just decided I belonged anywhere and they belonged anywhere and now I have to do something about it. I did my first discussion on race in high school at the west side Farragut High School in a civics class run by Albert Orenstein.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:26:30] I asked him if I could have the class for a day, and he said yes after I told him what I wanted to do. I wanted to have an open discussion about the questions of race in our community because there was a lot of tension there. That No Niggers sign was there. He said yes, and anybody who wanted to leave, could. One person left. That young man was later murdered on the south side of Chicago
Kathleen Saadat: [00:27:00] by a group of white kids in a car looking for a nigger to kill. They beat him to death with a ball-peen hammer. This was just a few months before graduation from high school. If I keep talking I'll probably remember hundreds and hundreds of incidents that affected me in life. That was one every once in a while ... there is a website, when I go look for it I can usually find him that has his name on it. His name was Alvin, I think.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:27:30] I remember what he looked like, and I remember he was just this happy go lucky young man who was finally starting to get taller. He carried a pocket watch. That made him feel big. He was standing on the corner waiting on a bus, and these kids got out and beat him to death. They never spent a day in jail. They never spent a day in jail. They never spent a day in jail. They killed him.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:28:00] All that comes rushing back right now. I'm up to here. I'm sad. Throw in getting older and being an old lesbian who's getting arthritis, and thinking that by now we'd have a much more rational world,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:28:30] and I'm very sad. The whole part of introducing the idea of being a lesbian really came to the forefront when I was a teenager, and I learned I had to stop talking about how I felt about other girls. My cousin said to me you're a [inaudible]. I felt so bad, and I realized I needed to stop talking about that. I got to college, and I got the same message. Although I had not really been with a woman,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:29:00] I just knew that that's what I wanted to do. I got to college the first year and I got picked on a lot. I didn't want a boyfriend. What was great was that year there'd been an over enrollment, so they took what they called the pajama room, which was a room they ordinarily used for visiting women's teams,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:29:30] like for basketball or whatever. It was like twelve beds in it or something like that. That became our room, a bunch of us. I'd been picked on so much that my dorm mates all just gathered around me and supported me. They didn't care. They were different too, in that like they were a couple of basketball players and people who didn't fit. They took care of me.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:30:00] It was really great. I was drinking heavily, and after a year and a half, I quit. I was doing well in physics. Doing well in history. I didn't care anything about much else. I wasn't doing very well. I quit and went back to St. Louis where I still drank and struggled through this whole identity thing and trying to figure out how all this stuff is supposed to work
Kathleen Saadat: [00:30:30] and how could I be straight and trying to get ... going out with guys. Then at some point just saying this sucks. I can't do this. I don't want to do this. Then not knowing how to do the other either. Just flapping around, all mixed up with whiskey. Scotch, usually.
Mason Funk: [00:31:00] From my point of view, I don't know if you had a sense that there were some things you could change, some things you might have been able to change, and other things you couldn't change. You couldn't change your skin color. You couldn't change your gender.
Kathleen Saadat: Yeah. Right.
Mason Funk: Maybe you thought, well, my sexuality
Kathleen Saadat: Yes. I did. I wanted it to change because I didn't want to feel like this.
Mason Funk: Say what you wanted to change.
Kathleen Saadat: I wanted not to be gay. Gay was the word then. It wasn't lesbian, it was gay. I wanted to be straight.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:31:30] It just wasn't working for me. I had guy friends, and I loved them. I would just hang out with them, but the romantic, sexual, actual bonding part in that area of my life just never worked. It didn't happen. I went into therapy at some point early on because I was just really depressed. Actually ended up going to
Kathleen Saadat: [00:32:00] Renard Hospital in St. Louis, which is mental health, mental health facility. I was there for a while and learned a lot about myself in terms of a need to be still and a need to talk more. I was also very quiet. I didn't talk very much. I didn't tell people what I was feeling very much. I came out, and I started introducing myself to people. I quit being so shy. Walked over across the room,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:32:30] scared to death all the time. Hi, I'm Kathleen, and expecting to be rejected because I was such a bad person or I was such an unworthy person. Whatever all that stuff is you have in your mind. What I believed is that I could come out of that because of the stuff I got early on in my life about being a good person and a wonderful person. My grandmother just told you, you're wonderful, and you're just this, and oh, just make over you, and I think all of
Kathleen Saadat: [00:33:00] that lays a good foundation for a kid. At some point in time, I could reach back and grab hold of that and say, Wait a minute. What is all this garbage I'm doing to myself? It took a while. I got better when I came to Oregon. I was thirty years old. I came here with a partner and five children. Her five children. Five of her seven children. Two of whom I'll see on Friday.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:33:30] Right away, life started to change for me. I quit college after a year and a half, and now I was back in college at Reed. We lasted another year or so after we got here, and then we broke up. I, for the first time in my life, felt intellectually challenged and was loving it, just eating it up like Cheerios. It was so good
Kathleen Saadat: [00:34:00] to be able to use my mind in a different way and discover that class really affects how you're taught. What you learn at Reed is how to think, not what to think. And what you learned at other places that I'd gone to school, and I never stopped going to school off and on, was what to think. I'm freed up. I'm happy.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:34:30] There's a gay rights movement here that where I'm going, Whoa, look at this. While I was in school, I went to the women's ... there was a woman's bookstore here then. I went down there. Of course, there was the racial thing there. It's like you can't go anywhere without some barrier right in front of you. They're saying, we want our women of color to come and be friends. Well, I went down there, and nobody would speak to me. I didn't think it was malice. I thought it was fear,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:35:00] so I started making them speak to me by saying hello first. I'd been called a bitch. I'd been called aggressive, all kinds of stuff that those women put on me. I stayed there because I believed I could be anywhere I wanted to be, and they needed to deal with me. It was not easy.
Mason Funk: [00:35:30] Can you amplify the circumstances whereby, for example, you were called a bitch or you were called too aggressive by women who were allegedly your friends and your allies. Can you paint me a picture?
Kathleen Saadat: Yeah. Going into the women's movement in the '70s was quite an experience for me in that I had come from St. Louis.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:36:00] Now remember, St. Louis people are a lot more assertive than Oregon people, or Pacific northwest people, okay? I could say ... people would be going around saying their names, I'd say, I'm Kathleen, and somebody would ... that was too much. The way I said it was too much. If I said no as a straight out no as opposed to polishing it and shining it and making it sound really nice.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:36:30] I just say no, and people took that as a kind of aggressiveness. I still find that. I've been here since 1970, and I still find that there are people that respond to me that way. Part of this is I'm big and I'm black, so that intensifies whatever thing it is about me not being nice. 'Cause I'm not nice. I don't need to be nice.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:37:00] I'm just clear. I found going to those meetings, there was always the expectation that I would be the one to respond to any racial thing or ... oh God, it was so frustrating. So there was this one meeting where one woman called ... I don't know what I said. One woman called me a bitch, and she's sitting across the table from me.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:37:30] I thought if I get up and go over there and slap her, that's what everybody expects me to do because I'm the big, bad, black dyke. I just sat there and looked at her and I finally said, Well, that's a personal opinion, but not a very good political analysis. Would you like to try again? Everybody laughed, and she got up and left. It challenged me to find ways to be with people
Kathleen Saadat: [00:38:00] and illuminate what was going on, to make clear what was going on. I learned a lot about not lecturing. Putting the responsibility for your behavior on you means asking you a question rather than telling you what you should think. Like, How did you get there? Oh, what makes you think that? So how does that fit with this? People learn from that. Sometimes they're embarrassed by it.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:38:30] It doesn't matter what the issue is. I remember working for the city and standing next to my friend Richard, and this other guy comes over and says, Kathleen, how does the so and so work? I'm working with five agencies. I'm doing the interface policies, etc. I said Well, okay. It works like this, boom, boom, boom. Boom. Boom. And then dah. He looks at my friend Richard and says,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:39:00] Is that right, Richard? I said, Shut up, Richard. Didn't say anything. He looked at me and said, It's not what you think! I said, I'd never said what I thought. He went off, stormed off. The next morning he came and he said, It was what you think. I'm sorry. The trick was not to say anything. To let him hear himself. I learned that only through learning that trying over and over again to logically present an argument
Kathleen Saadat: [00:39:30] and have people not hear it because they don't hear themselves. If you give them a chance to hear themselves, they learn something.
Mason Funk: Wow. All of that is so ... I think of this project in part like putting together a tool kit ...
Kathleen Saadat: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: ... that can be transferred. I can take a few of that and give it to younger people. That's all so practical ...
Kathleen Saadat: It is.
Mason Funk: ... that I love.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:40:00] It works. If you let people hear themselves, their own answer to what it is they're doing, they go, Oh. Oh. Sometimes they're ashamed they thought whatever it was, and sometimes they just get illuminated.
Mason Funk: What makes me wonder even, for example, the woman who called you a bitch across the table, or people who are intimidated when you say no very forcefully.
Mason Funk: [00:40:30] I think they're just envious to a certain degree. I surmise that some people just wish they could be as clear as you are. Do you think that?
Kathleen Saadat: People say that to me. I wish I could be as clear, and I say, you can. Just don't decorate everything you do. You don't have to explain everything. You can just say no. If people want an explanation, they can ask for it. I don't know
Kathleen Saadat: [00:41:00] what makes for those regional differences, and people who have told me that I intimidate them because I am clear and I tell exactly what I'm thinking. Why should that be intimidating? It's a relief to me to hear that. Then I know where you are, and I know what kind of relationship we can build. I don't know if envy is it or fear is it or I want you to be like me and when I'm around people who aren't like me, I'm uncomfortable,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:41:30] or you have no business, black woman, being that confident or I don't know. I try really hard not to put that on anybody. I try not to do an analysis of somebody else sitting there. I might ask them. I might ask them, Is there a reason why you're talking to me that way? I don't care if they answer because they'll have the answer. I don't need the answer. The confidence, or not the confidence ...
Kathleen Saadat: [00:42:00] the presentation of self for me has to do with, especially working in the political areas, it has to do with doing it right. I don't care if you like me. I think that's what people wish they had, that they didn't care so much about what other people think. I don't care if you like me. I want you to like me, but if you don't, tough.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:42:30] If it requires me getting you to like me in order to support an issue, it feels like I'm lost, feels like I've lost. The issue is separate from me. The issue is separate from you. You don't have to like me, and then I can convince you that gay marriage is okay or marriage is okay between same sex couples. Let's talk about this thing here. Let's talk about how it relates to our values.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:43:00] Let's talk about how it relates to our lives. But whether you like me, I don't care. I've got enough people who like me, and they're the ones who tell me when I'm going off track. They're the ones who tell me when I'm doing good, and I listen to them. But as long as you're worried about how other people regard you in terms of the issue,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:43:30] I think you lose. I'm not saying that means you get to be rude because I don't think you get to be rude. I don't think you get to call names. I don't think it serves any purpose. I don't think you get to be self-righteous. Well, once in a while. Mostly, it doesn't serve any purpose. It doesn't help anything. It doesn't move anything forward for me to tell you what a bad person you are.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:44:00] I love this thing I heard years and years ago. What do you think a guy hears after you call him a male chauvinist pig? The answer is nothing. That's true. When you call somebody a racist, what do you hear from them? Nothing. You want him to hear you? Find another way to get your point across.
Mason Funk: Excellent. This is all, like I say, excellent stuff. Now I want to talk about something specific from your questionnaire, which was Ballot Measure 9. 'Cause we're capturing history here.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:44:30] Okay.
Mason Funk: Here we go. Tell us what Ballot Measure 9 was and tell us what you did. What you and a lot of other people did.
Kathleen Saadat: Ballot Measure 9 was a measure put on the ballot by the Oregon Citizens Alliance. It would have by law relegated gay and lesbian people to second class citizens. In other words,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:45:00] there were certain jobs you wouldn't be able to hold, certain activities you could not ...
Mason Funk: Down the wrong pipe.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay. Let's start again. Ballot Measure 9 was a ballot measure put on the ballot by the Oregon Citizens Alliance back in '91, '92. Hey, I did good.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:45:30] It would have removed rights from gay and lesbian people. It would have said you couldn't hold certain jobs. It would've also said that people who supported you couldn't hold certain jobs. They would lose their job. There was an inference within that ballot measure that said you would not be able to advocate for yourself to reinstate yourself. You were deprived of the right to even argue the position on some level.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:46:00] People came together from around Oregon to talk about what we were going to do about it. Now, preceding that there had been Ballot Measure 8. That was an anti-gay measure. No, that was a challenge to Neil Goldschmidt. I was working for Goldschmidt at the time. The challenge to his executive order that declared that state agencies could not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:46:30] That happened, not a whole lot of response in the community. Ballot Measure 9 came along ... big response. Went to Eugene. A bunch of us there and people wanted to form the steering committee. I was elected to the steering committee along with several other people of color. It was interesting to me to be elected, because nobody knew if I had any experience on a campaign.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:47:00] The message I got from the people there was they wanted people of color in the leadership. I stuck. A couple more of us stuck. We came back to Portland. There was a person hired to do the campaign manager and all that. I was on the... sort of the advisory, whatever you call it. The campaign committee. Race raises its head there. Nobody wants to pay attention to
Kathleen Saadat: [00:47:30] what's going on in the communities of color. I'm arguing that there needs to be some focus there, na, na, na, na, na. So, I'm the crazy person there. But I stuck.
Mason Funk: Sorry, before we go on. Can you say more about what you were asserting, and what people did want. What were you saying exactly?
Kathleen Saadat: My assertion, and a paper I wrote on it.
Lulu Gargiulo: Sorry, she's leaning forward and the audio changed quite a bit.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:48:00] Oh okay. So I need to stay back here.
Lulu Gargiulo: Well ...
Kathleen Saadat: Alright, okay. My assertion was that ... my assertion to the committee was that we needed some focus on the black community and other communities of color. I was told directly and indirectly that was not necessary or needed. I wrote a paper saying the language being used here
Kathleen Saadat: [00:48:30] is code, and it implies a racial aspect or words used in the racial divide. The whole argument around special rights had its roots in the idea of affirmative action, and when you push for that, you could get that out of people.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:49:00] So, part of what was happening was people were afraid of affirmative action programs for gay and lesbian people. Now, you're talking about people who don't know anything about gay and lesbian people, a lot of them. Anyway, what I did was say, okay, guys you don't want to play. I'm gonna start a group over here. I went and got representative Margaret Carter, Ava Gordley, the head of the housing, about seventeen black people, twenty people, black people, many of them well known leaders,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:49:30] and I said we have no face here. They said let's have a face. That was African Americans Saying No I'm Not. That was the name of the group. They took a stand. We had the things that struck me were we had a common ... we had a consistent seventeen out of the twenty people who showed up at all meetings, all took work, and all did what they said they were going to do.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:50:00] Now, that's unusual. During that time, two people were killed in Salem about a few blocks from where I lived when I was in Salem. One of them was black, and the other one what I think was developmentally delayed. I'm sorry for the language. Okay. I'm old. There's a lot of charge around race,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:50:30] and I'm saying we need to go in the black community, get there, form a group. That group takes on educating the black community doing air stuff. We got black preachers together to oppose this Ballot Measure. There were black preachers who supported it, but it was important to have black preachers who opposed it. We did that. Meanwhile, I'm still working with this larger group who has become more and more hostile toward me. At some point, I remember being in a room with them and saying,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:51:00] I understand what the right is doing. I have no idea what you're doing, and you scare me more. It had to do with a denial about the existence of people of color in this movement. And they didn't want to talk about pedophiles. I'm saying we've got to make this clear. We're being accused of pedophilia. That's a different issue. I stayed on the committee in order to be able to raise some of those issues.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:51:30] I used to love the one about affirmative action. I would say, Okay, how many of you concerned about an affirmative action program for gays and lesbians? You get a little response, and I say, How many times do I have to sleep with a guy before I lose my job? Whos gonna monitor this? Who is it that's gonna be in place looking in the window to see with whom you sleep? I don't think this is a viable option.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:52:00] People relaxed around that part of it. When you raise the issue of pedophilia yourself, you're taking care of yourself. When you make clear the difference between being consenting adults and abusing a child, people get it. But if you don't give them that information because you're afraid to raise the issue, then they don't have it, and you can't work with them.
Mason Funk: [00:52:30] Other people in the movement were afraid of even addressing even the fact that was written into the Ballot Measure?
Kathleen Saadat: Right. Yes.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk]
Kathleen Saadat: Yes, yes, yes, yes. They didn't want to address it. Then when they did, over in Northwest Portland in a church basement... you may have to edit this. Bonnie Tinker was still alive, and I don't know if you know who Bonnie Tinker was, but she was the person who founded Love Makes A Family. She was killed a few years ago in a bicycle accident on the east coast.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:53:00] We're listening to this guy who has come to ask to be included in our group as a pedophile. These people start having a discussion like it's a rational request. I think I was the first one that stood up and said, Okay, everybody in this room that believes in fucking babies raise your hand. Nobody raised their hand. Bonnie Tinker got up and gave a two or three minute diatribe about,
Kathleen Saadat: [00:53:30] No. This is not what we're about, this is not what's going to happen. So, I shut it down for several meetings, but they would show up periodically, and we needed to tell them no. Not because ... I mean, I understand that there may be some arguments one way or another about age of consent. That's a different topic. That's not what we're talking about. There were people who didn't wanna engage with
Kathleen Saadat: [00:54:00] or acknowledge people of color. I was treated poorly. I was treated very poorly. I finally got some folks on my side. I was being accused of undermining and blah, blah, blah. Finally, I got the attention of another board member, and I said, Pay attention here. He, for the first time, when I got that accusation, he said, That's not what Kathleen said at all.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:54:30] That started to change it a little bit. I came home lots of nights and just cried. I just cried. Then I made myself go back ... it's like it has to be a person there. There has to be somebody just making this noise. I got support from people around me. Some of them I didn't even know.
Mason Funk: Wow. It's so great because what you're talking about is much more than just Ballot Measure 9.
Kathleen Saadat: Right.
Mason Funk: You're talking about the stuff that was happening inside.
Kathleen Saadat: Right.
Mason Funk: [00:55:00] As you said in some ways what was happening inside our communities scared you more than the identifiable ...
Kathleen Saadat: Right. [crosstalk]
Mason Funk: ... over there, which is as present and real today than it ever was. So I just want to stick and stay in that moment a little longer. Looking back at the difficulties you faced, what are some of your takeaways?
Kathleen Saadat: [00:55:30] Ethical dilemmas are incredibly hard. I'm working with a group that is manifesting racism, but is trying to ensure the rights of gay and lesbian people, which includes me. I had to sit down with myself and make a conscious decision to stay. By that time I had already been on the Governor's staff, so I had some credibility
Kathleen Saadat: [00:56:00] and I had some visibility. I was getting calls from people saying are we safe in donating money to this group. That's what made me have to sit down. The choice was scream, no, they're racists, or work within it to deal with and try to deal with the racism and let's move forward on the gay and lesbian thing. I don't know if I'd do it the same way again.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:56:30] I don't know. What I know is that it still hurts, because I was forced to make a choice between aspects of me. That was the biggest takeaway for me, but this was the biggest ethical dilemma I had in my life.
Mason Funk: [00:57:00] So this is a huge topic, obviously, but you know, you write it, you write it, you write, it as a woman, as a woman of color, as a lesbian woman of color. You are the intersecting identity.
Kathleen Saadat: Right.
Mason Funk: You have to choose, I guess, ultimately where your allegiance was going to lie in that moment. Is that true?
Kathleen Saadat: I had to choose ... what I had to choose was where my public allegiance was going to lie.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:57:30] People who know me knew where my allegiance was. I found out later it was a friend. I was getting these anonymous postcards. We're watching, we know that this is hard for you, thank you for staying there, blah, blah, blah. Just postcards. They were so uplifting to know that somebody was watching and somebody understood what I was going through. They were coming from a friend who never signed her name.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:58:00] Later, I found out it was her. I figured out it was her. So it was about choosing to rat out this effort as having fundamental racism, which everything does in it, or to go with it and try to bring race into the mix. I did. That's why I sat down and wrote the paper. I said this is what this looks like and this is where this is going, and its using racial concepts to help fight against people who are gay and lesbian.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] In the meantime, you're probably also getting the message that as a woman, you shouldn't be angry, you shouldn't be aggressive.
Kathleen Saadat: I ignore those messages all of the time. I just ignore them. I asked that question of my father when I was very young. I said, Why is it that when, and I had three brothers, why when one of those guys gets mad it's okay, but when I get angry everybody gets really upset. He had no answer for me.
Kathleen Saadat: [00:59:00] He didn't have any,B But it's one that stuck with me and it was like, I don't care anymore. I don't care. I'm pissed and I'm gonna let you know it. I had lots of support at the same time, and that's what I think is important to say. There's lots of people of all colors who gave me support for staying there. It let me stay there, and it let me be able to bring up issues of pedophilia, people of color, what it is that we're talking about
Kathleen Saadat: [00:59:30] when we're talking about justice for all. I can't ask for what I won't give. I have no right to demand that I be treated like a human being unless I'm willing to treat others like a human being. That's the bottom line for me.
Mason Funk: Do you think the queer community, LGBTQ or queer community, today
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] with regard to internal racism, are we more fundamentally still stuck at that same place or is it possible that we may be on the edge of kind of evolution. In terms of coping with and addressing internal racism.
Kathleen Saadat: Where the movement is today in terms of ...
Mason Funk: Tell me what movement you're talking about.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:00:30] The gay and lesbian ... GL ... I actually call it the bacon, lettuce, and tomato movement. The LBGTQ movement is today regarding race, what do I think. First of all, it's not a monolith, so we can't talk about this community as though it were. Class plays a part in how people think. Their degree of comfort limits their vision sometimes,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:01:00] unless they've actively worked on seeing more than they're required to see. I have hope in the younger people. I actually had a couple of the young people of color who are leaders in the community here. We sat and talked, and I said, You know, this is the movement that cuts across all lines, all races, all classes, all abilities, interests, and we have a powerful force if we will use it.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:01:30] I asked them to start to think about the kind of leadership that's needed to move forward as a powerful force that can be a unifying force and take leadership as to what needs to happen in this country. They've started, but my fear is they don't have the knowledge
Kathleen Saadat: [01:02:00] and experience that would help them really do a good job. I'm hoping that they will call on people, use other people's brains, and begin to synthesize something that looks like a leadership body on a national level. We need a movement
Kathleen Saadat: [01:02:30] that educates on every one of those little boxes that you want to check: gender, ability, all of it. We need that, and who better to do it than the people who are so diverse and have so many aspects to us. Those people have to be willing to teach,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:03:00] to learn, and to be hurt, because they will be. People will hurt your feelings. They have to be courageous enough to keep ongoing, but I believe those people are there, and I believe that its with the young people. I think the role of younger people is one that I've been trying to work on with some other folks. The problem is getting the young people there to listen, or to talk, or to exchange.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:03:30] I've got a head full of stuff here that I would like to hand to somebody and say Hey, use what you can, but come back and talk to me in two weeks or a month, and tell me what you learned, or ask me something. There needs to be a dynamic relationship between those generations. It's not there, or I don't see it. Until that happens, until people bring it together,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:04:00] we're gonna stay in a stuck place where, you know, I'm just going to say, the white guys with money run a lot of the show. The people of color who are advocating for Black Lives Matter, I hear those people also talking about gay lives matter. I mean, they don't put that on the banner but they're saying, they're inclusive, and I'm thrilled by that,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:04:30] but I'm also concerned that they understand what coalition building actually means. That it means something more than words.
Mason Funk: I feel like today people have learned a lot of the quote, unquote right things to say.
Kathleen Saadat: Right.
Mason Funk: But it's sometimes like you're listening to United Airlines, and if you file a complaint, ... if you say something you don't like, we're so sorry you're experiencing inconvenience today.
Kathleen Saadat: Yes.
Mason Funk: I could poke you in the fanny and you'd explode.
Kathleen Saadat: Yes, yes.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] So words are one thing.
Kathleen Saadat: Words are good. Now you need to sit down and figure out what you mean when you say those words. I introduced at one meeting the question of - and this was a group of ministers - I asked them to please consider the role of forgiveness in any movement forward. How do we move forward without the concept of forgiveness?
Kathleen Saadat: [01:05:30] You can't have any stable group or relationship without forgiveness, because somebody's gonna mess up, and it might be you. You need to have people who will say, Okay, you messed up. This is how you don't do that again. We forgive you, let's move on. Otherwise, you can't move on. You just stay stuck and angry. I think a lot of what goes on here is, we get all mushed up and mixed up about,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:06:00] first of all, what are myths, and that's the hardest part of all these fights. The myth is that certain people are inferior to other people because of color, sexual orientation, age, ability ... that's the myth. Why are we fighting about the myth? We don't go back far enough to ask the basic question. What is the nature of this fight? What are our reasons for having it? What are the goals?
Kathleen Saadat: [01:06:30] Somebody just wrote me on Facebook, what did I think about people who were throwing bricks and starting fires, and I just went back to ... I didn't finish it, but, let's start with what's the goal? If the goal is to throw bricks or start a fire or to destroy something, fine. But if the goal is something else, let's see what it is, and then you develop your strategies and tactics. I think a lot of young people have picked up
Kathleen Saadat: [01:07:00] is the tactics from the '60s and assumed that you could just bring them in to 2017, and they work. If you don't understand what you're fighting, and we don't, or else we would not have had the last election that we did, the results. People are looking now at a system or the shadows of a system, and they're kind of going, how did this happen?
Kathleen Saadat: [01:07:30] Well, you helped it happen. Passivity, ignorance, refusal to insist upon the schools having good civics courses, refusal to ensure employment for people who are chronically unemployed. All these things that are below the surface that support the whole idea of bias and bigotry. So what are you doing about all those things? Well, we kind of speak up
Kathleen Saadat: [01:08:00] when the occasion kind of permits itself. You can make the occasion. Are you waiting for somebody to come and ask you to speak on this subject? Or can you take it up at your dinner table, which is the hard place to take it up.
Mason Funk: Let's take a little break.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay.
Mason Funk: Because I'm gonna swap that card out. It's a data card, start transferring it. Stretch. [inaudible]
Lulu Gargiulo: Yep.
Mason Funk: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lulu Gargiulo: We are.
Mason Funk: Okay. Just carry on that thought.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:08:30] Current events have given me a lot to think about in terms of how we define ourselves, and the kinds of things we need to think about in order to be sure with ourselves that that definition is clear. One that we can stick to. I think you can ... I don't think you have to be out there in the front with Joan of Arc with the spear and stuff. I think you can decide you can't go that far, but I think you need to decide it. Or that you choose not to go that far. I think you need to consciously decide it,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:09:00] and then put your efforts to wherever it is that you're going. Some of us are loudmouths, and we're always gonna be out there and say, Hey, here, you know. Do it this way or this is what I think. Everybody's not like that. I am having a discussion online on Facebook about the people who show up with masks on their face that are supposedly fighting the right.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:09:30] I think they are called the Antifa or Antifascists. I don't like it that they don't have their faces uncovered, 'cause most of the people who are targets of these people have their faces uncovered. You're not helping me out, and that's how I feel. That's a whole nother level of discussion.
Mason Funk: Since we have limited time, let me tick off some questions. [crosstalk]
Kathleen Saadat: [01:10:00] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: You know this is just to enter their name on the record and you have to say a couple of things about them because one of the good things about this kind of interview is that you will like to guide me[inaudible] For example, it's kind of what you mentioned and talked about. [inaudible]
Kathleen Saadat: Yes.
Mason Funk: The first question is ... are we supposed to be ...
Lulu Gargiulo: I was [inaudible]
Mason Funk: Okay.
Kathleen Saadat: What does speeding mean?
Lulu Gargiulo: The cameras were rolling.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay. All right. Yeah right.
Mason Funk: Tell us first, say a little bit about Rupert Kinnard.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:10:30] My friend Rupert Kinnard is a cartoonist, graphic artist, and an activist around racial issues and gay and lesbian issues. He started to speak more in public, but he's been hosting a group in his home, I think for some years now, that has to do with interracial couples. He's been an outspoken champion for gay rights and lesbian rights.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:11:00] He's black, from Chicago, lives here in Portland, has been here for ... I don't know, I don't know how long. 1980, something like that. He's in a wheelchair now as a consequence of an automobile accident. Thoughtful, kind, firm like a rock in terms of his commitment and his willingness to be a part of anything
Kathleen Saadat: [01:11:30] that is positive and helps us grow. I admire him. He's one of my heroes but don't tell him.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right.
Kathleen Saadat: He did, what is it ... Cathartic Comics is one of his publications, and his character is The Brown Bomber and the woman is Diva Flambe Touche, I think is her name.
Mason Funk: [01:12:00] Sounds awesome.
Kathleen Saadat: It is.
Mason Funk: Okay. Awesome. How about Antoinette and Keith Edwards?
Kathleen Saadat: Antoinette and I worked together for the county maybe 20 ...
Mason Funk: Say her full name.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay. Antoinette Edwards and I worked together at the county maybe 20 years ago. Her husband Keith, I met him through Antoinette, they have a son who is gay, Kahlil.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:12:30] They became quite active on his behalf and in support of black, lesbian, and gay people. They were the people who helped to start the very first chapter, black chapter of PFLAG in the country. They've been consistent. They've been wonderful. They've been always willing to give and support this community.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:13:00] Not just the black community, but the wider, broad gay and lesbian community. It's from the black PFLAG group that I got a Lifetime Achievement Award. It's in there somewhere. It's also named after me, and I think that's probably Keith and Antoinette who came up with the idea. I don't know, but I think so.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:13:30] They're committed parents. They're committed friends. They're smart, and they're courageous. They do things that are hard to do. Keith, I don't remember which Ballot Measure it was, but Keith went into a barber shop to talk about gay rights, but he was run out. He was almost hurt. He was determined to go in there and talk. That's the kind of people they are.
Mason Funk: [01:14:00] Great. Lastly, Donna Red Wing. Lastly in this little section.
Kathleen Saadat: Donna Red Wing, another shero for me. Donna Red Wing ran the lesbian community project here for several years. She was around during Ballot Measure 9. Smart, courageous, these are people that step out, step up, speak out, speak up. She's now in Iowa. I think she's ... it's now Iowa First
Kathleen Saadat: [01:14:30] that she's head of. She may be retiring soon, I'm not sure. A person who is aware and analytical looking at the world, not just from her own personal view but inclusive in that view. A part of my admiration for her is she's had the courage to step out over and over again and speak to people on the right.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:15:00] Engage people who would not ordinarily ... we would not ordinarily talk to unless we went out of our way, and she's gone out of her way to do that. She has, even when she was here, made friends with Republicans. She's made friends with Republicans who other people wouldn't talk to. But she stayed her course. She's clear on what her agenda is.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:15:30] She also really works well with people of faith. Willing to do that and does a good job with it. She just stays true to her. She's a lot of fun, in addition. I want to go back and say a little bit about Rupert. Rupert was also a part of the group that started Brother To Brother here, which was black gay men taking care of black gay men. Some of that focus on HIV/AIDS.
Mason Funk: [01:16:00] Okay. Great. Thank you for those three names. Who do you, at this kind of critical time ... in particular I'm referring to the LGBT. I really love what you said about we have a potential as a unified force. 'Cause we've kinda crossed over all other divided divisions.
Mason Funk: [01:16:30] At this critical time when maybe we can step into the breach in some way, shape, or form that we haven't figured out yet, who do you see doing really good work? Other particular individuals here in the northwest or elsewhere?
Kathleen Saadat: Nobody comes to mind right away, probably because I'm not keeping up as much as I used to. I'm sure there are people doing really good work. I think the people who are here are doing really good work. I think they're doing really good work per their organizations.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:17:00] The problem here is being a leader of an organization does not necessarily give you what you need to be the leader of a movement. If you're talking about leaders of organizations, there's lots of them. If you're talking about movement leaders ...
Mason Funk: I'm sorry. Whatever the dog is doing ...
Kathleen Saadat: Probably trying to come in now.
Lulu Gargiulo: He just went out.
Mason Funk: Oh he did?
Lulu Gargiulo: It's okay.
Kathleen Saadat: But she'll come back in.
Lulu Gargiulo: [01:17:30] Okay.
Mason Funk: That's all right. We'll deal with that. So, being a leader of an organization ...
Kathleen Saadat: Being a leader of an organization does not make you a leader of a movement. What I'm looking for is somebody that is gonna get visible really quick and say, we are altogether, we are altogether, we are altogether. We must be together. If you don't want to be together, go away. Don't come in here and tell us why you don't want to be together. Go away. There needs to be an intelligence
Kathleen Saadat: [01:18:00] about coalition building and diversity and how those work. I believe there needs to be a leadership body, and I've said this for years, made up of ten or twelve people that are the leadership body in the area. So anytime anything happens, those twelve heads pop up and say, Hi, here we are again, so that we're looking at a diverse leadership. Maybe it's six, I don't know,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:18:30] but you're looking at people who do not all look the same. People who may present different perspectives on an issue, but who are always responsive to what is going on in our world. When Donald what's his name tweets that transgender people cannot serve in the military, I would have loved to have seen a group of people immediately call a press conference
Kathleen Saadat: [01:19:00] and say what they thought. I mean it's great that Earl Blumenauer says something, it's great that Jeff Merkely does too. Those are elected officials. They have a different job. Our job is to bring people together at the community level. That's how I see it as an activist. What happens? Can we get six people to just always be ready for a press conference, to always be ready to say something, and to say the thing
Kathleen Saadat: [01:19:30] that needs to be said in the moment? And what needed to be said is, You're wrong, shut up. You're wrong. We already served. What is your goal? I don't see why we can't do that. Our ideas on leadership are stuck in history as the consequence of an individual, and that's not where history comes from. You look at our president and you say, he, he, he.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:20:00] No, it's they. There's a whole group of people supporting whatever is going on in this country or else it wouldn't happen. We need to get more they. We need to get more they. We need to also look at who has more interest in this. I'm not looking to make a million dollars. I mean, if I win the lottery, I'd be happy, but I'm not looking to make a whole lot of money on what I do,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:20:30] but I am looking to have some things done right. I'm looking to have some things done that involve people, that consider how people think, and their life experience is what influences their thinking, how do those things link together?
Mason Funk: Okay. Great. A lot there as usual. I mean its just such a time where we're still ...
Mason Funk: [01:21:00] I forgot what expression to use ... where it's almost if we know what the issues are, and the problems we haven't figured out. It's like finding that[inaudible] take us forward. But before we go, say more about that, I want to still check through my list here. You said two things that I maybe want to finish with except for another unrelated set of questions. Try to keep ... 'cause these are broad topics, and you've talked a lot probably about them. Kind of in a shorter fashion, you mentioned the use, the importance of using anger to inform strategy.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:21:30] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: Can you just give us again, like a tool kit. How do you use anger as a tool?
Kathleen Saadat: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Anger's a force. It's power. Boom. It usually covers something else like fear. If I'm angry,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:22:00] then I sit down and think, okay, Kathleen, what are you afraid of? Then I figure out from there what I need to do. It's that simple for me. If what I'm afraid of is people marching up to my front door and taking me away, what do I do? Do I talk to my neighbors? Do I bar my front door? Your strategy comes out of what it is. What do you think is reasonable, and what do you think will be successful? It requires a power.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:22:30] It requires something to put you in motion, and anger is often that emotion that puts you in motion, that says okay, I've got to do this now. That's how I see it.
Mason Funk: Okay. What do you do or say or suggest to someone who doesn't have that anger inside of them, but who wants to still help or be affected?
Kathleen Saadat: Well, I would ask them, why do they want to help? What is it that's driving them to want to help? I would ask them,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:23:00] are they helping because they wanna help themselves or they wanna save me? If they wanna save me, I tell them to go home. I don't know that there's much I can do to rely on you or trust you if you're not in this for yourself. These are life and death issues, they're not ... it's not a soccer game, it's not croquet. It's life and death. If you're coming to be my ally,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:23:30] fine. I want to know what your investment is in the success of whatever it is we're doing together. So, you know.
Mason Funk: Okay great. And lastly, you mentioned something you've picked up along the ways. How do you use a spectrum of political attitudes to our advantage?
Kathleen Saadat: The left, let me tell you about the left here - and I include anyone in there that wants to be included -
Kathleen Saadat: [01:24:00] cuts itself off. This is what is right. This is the boom. Boom, boom. There's a whole spectrum that leads from the left to the center of political beliefs, and we can tap into those. We ignore people. I can tell you this: when I went to Salem to work for the governor, there were more than one day I walked out on the front of the capitol building saying, where the hell is the left?
Kathleen Saadat: [01:24:30] Use me, use me. When you have someone who is willing to work with you to shape policy, the connection between that person and the person in the street who is yelling, demanding that policy be changed. That connection needs to be made. There needs to be a discussion there, but instead, oh, you sold out, you work for the blah, blah,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:25:00] you make too much money, you dress wrong, whatever it is that lets us separate ourselves off destroys us. We are not the most effective if we won't take what Black Lives Matter is saying and somehow get it into the system so policy can change. Policy and law are what drive the whole country. It's foolish to not talk to somebody
Kathleen Saadat: [01:25:30] because they are a Republican or a Democrat. Go see what you can get. Go study them. Go find out, and then go talk to them. You may not get anywhere. Maybe you only neutralize them. But that's good.
Mason Funk: All right.
Kathleen Saadat: Absolutes don't exist except in our mind. We need to know how to work with people all along that continuum.
Mason Funk: Great. Excellent. Four final questions.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:26:00] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: This is the same four I ask everybody. If somebody comes to you this afternoon and says I'm thinking about coming out, whatever that might mean to that person. What simple, concise words of guidance or wisdom from your own experience do you offer them?
Kathleen Saadat: I don't know if I have anything simple. I'd ask them why they're thinking about it and why they haven't done it. If I was gonna give any advice, I'd say, Okay, who's your support? Talk to your support first.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:26:30] Figure out that you're gonna get rejected sometime, and other times you're gonna be surprised at who puts their arms around you.
Mason Funk: Great. So funny 'cause yesterday, both people, totally different people, both of them the first two words out of their mouths were: do it.
Kathleen Saadat: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: Which is kind of a classic answer.
Kathleen Saadat: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: That surprised me. I've heard your answer more actually from people, like do it in a thoughtful, studious, careful way.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:27:00] Do it so you can take care of yourself. I'm not saying don't do it. I'm saying know why you're doing it, know what you need to survive what's gonna come at you, some of which is gonna be good, and some of which is not gonna be good.
Mason Funk: What is your hope today, what is your hope for the future?
Kathleen Saadat: [01:27:30] Hope. First of all that I can sustain hope. I feel assaulted by all that goes around me. I had another Facebook conversation with, my niece wrote essentially, Am I crazy? This is the first time I have wondered if the white people around me are gonna hurt me.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:28:00] My hope is to see more and more people of ... I think the dog is bothering you again probably.
Mason Funk: Yeah I think she came in, so now just start over ... my hope is.
Kathleen Saadat: My hope is that more and more people will stand up and say what's going on here in this country is wrong. Then be able and willing to follow through on those things they believe necessary to make a difference. It's not enough to just say that's wrong. It's like that ad for monitoring.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:28:30] Hey, the banks getting robbed. Okay, what do you do about that? People have to come together, sit down, think about what they need to do, and do it. The hardest places to do it are among those people that you love and that love you, and is that dog bothering you again?
Mason Funk: I'm afraid so. Im sorry.
Lulu Gargiulo: It wasn't too bad. It'd be nice if ...
Mason Funk: [crosstalk] it's a little clickety clack is a little bit loud.
Kathleen Saadat: Michaud. Michaud.
Lulu Gargiulo: [01:29:00] Can I just pause?
Mason Funk: Yeah I would pause.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay.
Lulu Gargiulo: Now I'm ready.
Kathleen Saadat: My ...
Lulu Gargiulo: Oh wait. I'm sorry. Can you scooch your chair a little bit ... yeah there you go.
Kathleen Saadat: My hope is that people will come forward, identify what's wrong, name it, and then act on the need that this presents. So if you think the problem is intolerance,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:29:30] racism, poor schools, whatever that is, get involved with making a difference there. The right's been doing that for over thirty years, which is why they are sitting on the school boards and deciding which textbooks children will read, which is why you're passing laws that are against women and a woman's right to control her own body.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:30:00] My hope ultimately is that there's someone who can step forward, or someones who can step forward, and become a guiding body for the people in this country to reach another level of understanding who we are. That's gonna be painful. It's not gonna be easy. It's gonna be painful. The argument, the fight.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:30:30] My friend who is an American Indian ... I'm sorry about the phone, I turned it off. It's still too loud.
Mason Funk: Just wait til it stops ringing. It stopped.
Kathleen Saadat: No.
Mason Funk: Oh.
Kathleen Saadat: It'll be about three more.
Mason Funk: Yeah the phones ... the answering machine is ...
Kathleen Saadat: It'll ring a couple of more times.
Mason Funk: Oh.
Kathleen Saadat: It tells me who it is. That should be it.
Mason Funk: [01:31:00] Okay. Your friend who's an American ...
Kathleen Saadat: American Indian. He said you know, Indians were tossed ...
Mason Funk: Sorry. Start at the beginning.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay. My friend who is an American Indian and I were talking, and he said you know there is a difference between the fight between Indians and white people and white people and black people. He said, we were taught that white people were the enemy. They invaded us.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:31:30] Black people and white people seem to have more of a family fight. I just laughed and I said, yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right. We're in people's homes. We carry some of that white blood in us. We are also the people who took care of the children and the sick, and yes it is that. That makes it an even more contentious fight. It's like a Civil War where it's even heightened. The hatred is even heightened.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:32:00] More emotional. I would like to see somebody who can talk about all of that and still let us be a family. A family doesn't mean you like everybody, but it does mean you respect people. Those are my hopes. I know they're really way out there, but that's the point in having a hope.
Mason Funk: [01:32:30] Yeah. Exactly. Why, especially since you have decided not to do any more of these interviews, why is it important for you to tell your story?
Kathleen Saadat: Maybe it helps somebody. Maybe it makes some, especially young, person feel a little more comfortable. Maybe it helps to address some of the confusion about the intersectionality of all of these oppressions,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:33:00] and you notice I don't use that word very often. There is a confusion, and there is a tendency to want to rank order stuff. I don't get rank ordered. I'm all me. I'm here all at the same time and people ask me what do I feel most about discrimination. Is it because I'm black or because I'm gay? I'm saying it doesn't matter.
Kathleen Saadat: [01:33:30] Probably people respond to my color more at first because they can see it first, but ultimately it doesn't matter. Whether it's 'cause I'm black or a lesbian or fat or old, it doesn't matter. I should not be treated poorly. I don't know if that answered your question.
Mason Funk: [01:34:00] Yeah. This project OUTWORDS, which is essentially this trying to reach and get into the main nooks and crannies of our country, off the beaten path. Arkansas, Mississippi, Seattle, where I was last month. What do you see is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS?
Kathleen Saadat: Expand on what I just said about my individual contribution. There's more different kinds of people, and people need to know that. Somebody in Mississippi needs to know there's somebody in Mississippi who went through some of what they went through,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:34:30] cause being in Mississippi is a lot different than being in Oregon. I think there's a value to having an available history, an available narrative, a lens through which to view the world. I think you learn from that. If we can teach people again how to synthesize information as opposed to chunks of, you know ... I'm just reading Amusing Ourselves To Death,
Kathleen Saadat: [01:35:00] where he talks about where television breaks everything up. So you have a tragic story right here, and then next thing is a comedic story, and then next thing is sports. Well, we gotta start looking at stuff in a more dynamic way. Our lives are not isolated pieces of existence. They're integrated. They're dynamic. I think one way that we'd get to
Kathleen Saadat: [01:35:30] that is to see lots of different expressions of life. Expressions of how we got over, how we did better.
Mason Funk: Great.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay.
Mason Funk: That's fantastic. We're literally ... that's perfect because we're gonna have to wrap up and get you out the door.
Lulu Gargiulo: Can we do the ...
Mason Funk: Oh yes. We're gonna do room tone, which is the sound of this room with nobody talking for about 30 seconds, and while we do it if you would just stare directly into the lens and Lulu's gonna call room tone and then the 30 seconds will start.
Lulu Gargiulo: [01:36:00] Okay and this is room tone.
Lulu Gargiulo: [01:36:30] Can you look out that window and then look back at the camera for me? That was it. That was perfect. Just that little and I think we got plenty of room tone.
Mason Funk: Good.
Kathleen Saadat: Okay.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Lulu Gargiulo
Date: August 16, 2017
Location: Home of Kathleen Saadat, Portland, OR