Bear Community Leader Mourned

CHICAGO – Gerardo Montemayor, a Chicago activist and founder of the Bears of Color mailing list, died June 27 following a brief illness.

The Chicago Free Press reported that Montemayor, 36, worked at Rape Victim Advocates. The newsweekly also reported that he was active in the leather community and other community organizations.

Most people found out about his death during the Chicago Pride Parade when participants in a vehicle held signs memorializing them.

Many people were shocked and surprised at his sudden death. He was remembered as a person who took action when he felt people were ignored or discriminated against. “I remember about 1 year ago going with him to a march against violence in South Shore, a predominately African American Chicago community,” said Chris Womack of Chicago. “The purpose was to ‘reclaim the night’ and show solidarity and unity against violence to women at a time when a number of rapes and attacks had recently happened in the area.  Seeing his sense of responsibility to be active against any type of injustice showed me social problems are never too big where doing nothing is a solution.”

“I will always remember Gerardo as a person that tried to bring people

together in the community that may not ever be at the same “table” for any other reason,” said Will, a member of the Bears of Color mailing list Montemayor founded and moderated. “For the Bears Of Color group, he was the “unofficial” Leader and as a good Leader, he cultivated the group for the future so that down the road, many years from now, there would be a place for Bears of Color and their allies to have a forum to talk about issues that they uniquely face and also a forum so that other global issues that exist in the G/L/B/T/Q community would also be heard.”

Montemayor had founded the mailing list to create a community for people of color who were also members of the bear community. He had organized regular get-togethers for members of the list in Chicago and held special “coffees” during the Bear Pride/IML festivities during Memorial Day weekend.

Members of the group were saddened by the sudden loss, but do plan to keep the group going. They have already planned new events to bring together members, including attending a book signing by gay African-American author E. Lynn Harris.

A memorial service will be held for Montemayor on Sunday, July 26, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Ann Sather’s Restaurant at Belmont and the Red Line.

The Bears of Color are at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BearsOfColor/.