A Familiar Place
By Benny Cartwright
It feels strange and also exciting to sit down and write a column again, something I did regularly for many years starting at about 24-years old. Now, at 43-years old, it has been three-and-a-half years since I last wrote a column – that column was called “Benny on the Block” and actually appeared in this paper on Jan. 17, 2020.
For so many years, I have been given the privilege to share my thoughts with the community in a variety of ways and publications and I’ve found that it’s something I really enjoy doing. In fact, I started out by creating an email list in 1999 to connect with San Diego State University’s LGBT community, which really had very few other outlets on campus. Using my Hotmail account (which at the time was appropriately “[email protected]”) I would send out weekly updates about upcoming events of interest on and off campus, links to news articles related to the local LGBT community, and other resources. Back then, Hotmail only let users send to 50 email addresses at a time, so as my list grew to over 500 subscribers, I’d have to send out the same email multiple times. We eventually transitioned to Yahoo! Groups, which made this much easier, and I was so glad to see that the Lambda Archives digitally saved all of these emails in their collections.
I interned for the Gay & Lesbian Times starting around 2003, and in 2005, I wrote my first official column for Update newspaper, called, “Out With Benny.” When I was offered the column, I remember visiting the paper’s office in Bankers Hill to meet the staff and discuss details like deadlines, how much I would be paid, and such. I’ll never forget the publisher, Tom Ellerbock, saying to me, “Benny, we’re going to make you a star!”
While my work in LGBT media certainly hasn’t brought the fame or stardom promised by Ellerbock, it has elevated me into a trusted source in our local community, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. As the years progressed, I wrote for a variety of other publications, including The Lavender Lens, LEZ, Rage, Rocket, GED Magazine, SDPix, Gay San Diego, Uptown News, and my longest tenure with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News (sdgln.com – later sdlgbtn.com) before it ceased publication in 2021. As we all know, the world was turned upside down in 2020, and since then, our local LGBTQ media has been in flux as well, so I am so honored to be a part of this next phase for LGBTQ San Diego County News.
What am I going to write about in my upcoming columns? I’m honestly not quite sure yet. My past columns have been about everything from my love life, to nightlife happenings, to observations on the people and organizations that hold power in the community. It’s likely that my future columns will be a mix of these things, as well as sharing opportunities for people to get involved in the community.
In fact, in all my years of participation and activism in the local community, I am most proud of being able to connect so many others and then seeing them thrive years later. It can be hard to get involved in the community, but there are many ways to do so depending on how you want to be involved. I’ll look forward to sharing opportunities throughout my columns and other work with this publication.
Before closing this first column, I wanted to share a couple of upcoming events that I’d like to invite everyone to participate in:
#HillcrestSanDiego Day at the San Diego Zoo
In the spirit of events like Out at the Fair and Out at the Park, Rick Cervantes and his popular Instagram account @HillcrestSanDiego, held an unofficial meet-up day at the San Diego Zoo on Saturday, June 3. This was really just a day for our Hillcrest community (and beyond) to get (slightly) out of the neighborhood and explore our amazing Zoo, which is literally just steps away from home. Participants were encouraged to purchase their own passes/tickets and could come and go throughout the day; the Zoo is open from 9 am to 9 pm. At 2 pm, a big #HillcrestSanDiego photo was taken at a spot in the Zoo, as well as a couple other meetups between 12 noon and 3 pm. Head over to @HillcrestSanDiego on Instagram for all the details.
County Supervisor District 4 Community Forum for Hillcrest
I’m really proud to be organizing a forum for our neighbors and others to learn about the candidates vying for the County of San Diego District 4 Supervisor seat in the Aug. 15, 2023, special election (this is the election to replace Natahan Fletcher, who recently resigned).
The County Board of Supervisors is an incredibly powerful body that has quite a bit of influence over our day-to-day lives, especially in the areas of support for mental health and social services, as well as homelessness.
On Monday, June 26, 2023, Rick Cervantes, @HillcrestSanDiego, and I are organizing a forum, so our neighbors can meet and ask questions of the three confirmed candidates: Janessa Goldbeck, Monica Montgomery-Steppe, and Amy Reichert. The event will be held at Rich’s San Diego on the outdoor patio, located at 1051 University Ave. Seating will begin at 6 pm and the forum is from 6:30-7:45 pm.
Everyone, including all ages, is welcome! Keep an eye on my Instagram page @BennyC80 for more information.
It’s a thrill to be back writing for my community again and I look forward to sharing so much more in the months ahead!
–Benny Cartwright is a longtime activist and community leader. Reach him at [email protected].