Photos and interviews by Alfred Dicochea III at East Campus
“I would work for Live Nations. They work with concerts, and that is my passion. I go to concerts all the time.”
Major: Chemical engineering
“Water treatment. I want to do something that helps. I want to take messes and fix them.”
Major: General studies
“What I’m doing now. I’m a missionary for a club on campus. It’s just what I love.”
Major: Associate of Science
“Astrobiologist. I’m fascinated by it. You stop and look up, and you can’t see what’s out there with your eyes.”
Major: Veterinary assistant
“To be a veterinarian, because I love animals. If there is an animal in my house, it is because of me.”
Amy Copler, 20
“I would like two things: more social events that take place on campus, and more tutors available to assist students.”
Eduardo Lujan, 21
Major: Administration of Justice
“I’d like to see more diverse student clubs, like a political science club or a criminal justice debate club.”
Joshua McLean, 19
“I’d like to see better customer service in the bookstore and in the new cafeteria.”
Kari Mattias, 20
“I would like to see the tutoring center more accessible on Saturdays. Basically, more tutors, longer hours.”
Monique Carillo, 26
Major: Computer Science
“I would like better communication between students and advisors. I’d also like to see better communication between advisors and between advisors and administration. Sometimes you get totally different information from each one.”
Photos and interviews by Emery Nicoletti on East Campus.
“I’m off to New Mexico to relax and visit friends and family.”
Jared Phillips, 25
“My friend and I are going to Rocky Point, Mexico. Jet skiing, horseback riding and a sunset cruise are all on the agenda.”
Alexandra Miller, 19
“I’m going boating with family and friends at Lake Pleasant and Lake Roosevelt. We’re going to get some wakeboard time in.”
Andrew McGlaughlin, 20
“I’m taking my dogs to San Diego so we can run on the beach.”
Amerillis “Emmy” Beager, 19
Major: Liberal Arts
“Some friends have a cabin in Idaho, so I’m joining them to go snowboarding.”
Allen Ganuelas, 19
Major: Aerospace Engineering
Photos and interviews by Emery Nicoletti on Northwest Campus
Check out video versions of The Word at AztecPressOnline.com
BY KIT B. FASSLER and JACK KEERS
Host families assembled at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus on March 2, eager to welcome an Up With People cast of 100 students from 20 countries. Rain that day surprised visitors expecting dry, warm weather in the desert.
The group came to perform, do community service and hold workshops for a week. One group volunteered at the Community Food Bank while others visited schools and conducted cultural workshops. The highlight of their visit was performing at the Fox Theatre downtown.
Up With People returned to Tucson to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its formation in the Old Pueblo. J. Blanton Belk founded the organization in 1965.
“I had a vision that it would be really good to harness the vibrancy of young students from all over the world,” Belk said. “Young people from different cultural background could bring the message of peace.”
Belk turned 90 this year and still lives in Tucson with his wife. He could hardly imagine that the group still performs around the world, including in Cuba in 2014.
“The show goes on,” he said. “As long as young people are there, there is hope for peace in this world.”
During the group’s Downtown Campus visit, a young, tall woman named Fia Binford chatted with peers while placing balloons on stage.
When approached by a reporter, she sat down and started telling stories about why she decided to join UWP.
“My parents met in the program 33 years ago,” Binford said. “At that time, the training center was still based in Tucson. The group traveled to Puerto Rico.”
Binford, who was born in Detroit but has a strong Irish heritage, holds dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and United States. She usually spends summers in Belfast.
This semester she is taking 12 credit hours on the road through Florida Southern College. Binford is studying a degree in music business with a minor in communication.
Her focus is on international communication and small group community service, including leadership and management skills.
“I learned to say ‘I love you’ in seven languages,” she said. “You always feel being a part of something greater than yourself.”
Binford likes to sing, and enjoys jazz music and rhythm.
“When you work with the group, you don’t think as an individual,” she said. “It’s about the cast, the message as a cast.”
Binford and other cast members said there are many stereotypes involving different countries and cultures.
Binford likes to talk about her joyful experiences with host families, and said the families are most welcoming.
“Being able to stay with host families in the local community is the most emotional and personal impact for me,” she said. The bonding that develops during the stay is incredible, she added, while the departure is sad.
On March 4, half of the cast returned to Downtown Campus for a cultural fair. They set up information tables and talked to students interested in joining UWP.
Cast member Rafael Schneider strummed a Brazilian tune on his ukulele with a welcoming smile while staffing a table. People couldn’t resist stopping by, and he happily posed for photos with the ukulele.
Schneider didn’t hesitate to talk about his country and his life while growing up in Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. He was 13 and his youngest sister was only 1 when his parents were separated. At that time, he was more worried about his baby sister than himself.
Eventually, he realized he had to do something better for his own life.
“The lessons learned made me become stronger,” he said. “I chose to be positive to get ahead of my life.”
Schneider decided to learn English in the U.S., and attended Maclay High School in Tallahassee, Fla. After he graduated, he returned to Brazil to attend college.
“When I heard about UWP I decided to join,” he said. “I like its mission and was also eager to meet students from all over the world.”
UWP taught him the importance of team building and how to appreciate other people’s cultures. In his spare time, he likes to sing and play ukulele, Brazilian style.
In the afternoon, the staff conducted a two-hour workshop on leadership, culture and understanding differences.
The activities led to discussion about interpersonal communication, cultural differences and how those differences affect interaction among individuals.
Yira Brimage, vice president of student development for Downtown Campus, said PCC is positioning itself for globalization and the visit by international students could build bridges of global friendship.
“The UWP cast doesn’t only perform,” she said. “The component part of it is community service that brings the message of peace. These international students visit our community full of vibrancy, enthusiasm and energy. I hosted a student from Switzerland who speaks five languages.”
UWP’s theme for its March 6 performance integrated music and dance from the ‘60s to the present. It featured colorful dances from South Africa, Hawaii, Japan, Cuba and the U.S.
During the emotional finale, the audience joined in singing the group’s theme song, “Up Up with People.”
Editor’s note: Pima Community College has replaced cafeteria meals with food trucks. Aztec Press is investigating the new options with fork in hand.
By ALEX FRUECHTENICHT
Jozarelli’s Italian Street Food is one of the sharpest looking food trucks parked out front of Pima Community College campuses.
While the concept is nothing new, Jozarelli’s separates itself from other food trucks by offering Italian cuisine ranging from pizza and calzones to pasta bowls and sandwich wraps.
When you order one of the many $6 to $9 dishes, you’ll be greeted with a smile and questions to ensure your selection arrives just how you want it.
Your food is made fresh when you order, which is great, but it may pose a problem if you are in a rush to grab a bite before class. Each dish takes around 10 minutes to make.
If you aren’t in a hurry, the truck has an outside television you can watch while your food is being prepared. Thankfully, if you have the time, the food is well worth it.
The dish I ordered, a spicy Italian sausage calzone for $7, was large enough to warrant the price.
The calzone was stuffed to the brim with cheese, basil, red peppers and, of course, sausage. The ingredients were fresh and still full of flavor, not old or bland, which was a worry for me going in.
The combination of friendly staff, a large menu, entertainment and quality of dishes really make Jozarelli’s a standout food truck at Pima.
Just don’t expect them to rush your order.
Interviews and photos at Downtown Campus by Emery Nicoletti
By EMERY NICOLETTI
Tenny Tenka, 63, sits upright, knees together, back arched and not quite touching the chair, seemingly positioned in the very manner of a proper Chinese lady.
The Pima Community College student made her way to the United States from Indonesia in 2010 after the death of her husband, leaving behind her entire surviving family and relocating to a place she had never been before.
The first thing she did upon arrival was find a school to learn English.
“It was my passion,” she said, beaming. “I took classes four days a week. I like to learn.”
Tenka would like to eventually master Spanish and French as well. Ultimately, she dreams of becoming a writer.
Her storied journey begins more than 100 years ago with her grandfather and parents on the southeast coast of China in Hokkien, known as Fujian Province. Her parents immigrated to Indonesia before she was born.
Many ethnic Chinese around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, trace their ancestry to Fujian.
Tenka lived through tumultuous times in Indonesia, including a series of uprisings in 1965-66 involving the 30 September Movement that killed more than 500,000 people. The secondary school she attended as a 15-year-old was seized.
Her husband died at age 61 after contracting what Americans refer to as black lung. He acquired the condition as a result of painting fenders on cars without protection or proper ventilation, and from working in an atmosphere filled with second-hand smoke.
After his death, Tenka emigrated to the U.S. through the applied efforts of her younger sister. Her sister arrived 30 years ago, and now lives in Sahuarita.
Tenka left behind three sons. Martin, 36, and Ricky, 33, moved to Australia a half-decade ago. Her youngest son, Renaldo, remains in Indonesia.
She has applied to bring Renaldo to the U.S., but it takes five-to-10 years for approvals from U.S. Customs and Immigration. Her own immigration in 2010 followed an approved application submitted by her sister in 1998.
Tenka grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese, a dialect different from the language spoken by her parents. She learned a little English as a child, but quickly forgot it.
She now attends English as a Second Language class at Pima’s West and Northwest campuses, and works in the deli department at a Fry’s grocery in Sahuarita.
Some co-workers and customers were initially impatient with her lack of communication skills, Tenka admits. That was both challenging and disheartening at times.
Her Fry’s supervisor, manager Bechir Sfaxi, says Tenka’s communication skills have greatly improved. “She knows her job and gets along well with her co-workers and customers.”
Tenka drives to her job at Fry’s but takes the bus to her Pima classes.
“I am a slow driver, so I only drive in Sahuarita,” she said with a renewed school-girl grin.
There are many things that Tenka misses about Indonesia, including the spices and the smell of the earth.
“It not same smell,” she says with a lingering accent not easily detected in earlier responses. “The beauty of the clothes, the fabrics, all different, not like here.”
She goes on, trying to paint word pictures to describe the type of woven fabric she is envisioning, how it’s made and how it shimmers. “Not like silk, better.”
Tenka remembers the beautiful foliage of Indonesia, and laments that her former engulfing color of green is wiped from her new landscape.
And lastly, the air. The air she breathes in Tucson doesn’t feel quite the same.
She also misses celebrating an esteemed annual tradition to honor family ancestors, held on April 5 at the cemetery and in July at the temple.
Tenka’s marriage was not arranged, as was the tradition in many areas of China, but her parents enjoyed a successful arranged marriage for 55 years.
Her parents never expressed outward emotions such as holding hands or kissing in public, but it was quite clear to Tenka that her parents were in love. “My parents were very happy,” she says.
Public displays of affection are prohibited in Chinese tradition and are against the law in Indonesia.
“Americans hold hands in public and always say, ‘I love you,’” Tenka says. “We don’t do that.” Does she miss her husband? “Yes,” she replies. “I miss him very much.”
Would she ever re-marry? Tenka remains silent for a moment, long enough to suggest that she either did not hear the question or considers it too personal.
She raises her head. “If I meet the right person, I would consider to get remarried. But have to be the right person,” she says.
“I’m rabbit in Chinese zodiac, which means I like safety and to be comfortable in my own space. Future husband have to understand that.”
“It was a scam from the American government. I think that the G7 Summit got together and decided to spread fear.”
Ruben Dario Cervantes
Major: Political Science
“People forgot about it. People didn’t care until it came to America, then they stopped caring again.”
“I think the biggest thing was people were panicking. It never really spread in the United States. It stayed in the hospitals.”
“I think they found a cure and people got a vaccine. I heard some people say that you could change into a zombie, like you get zombie-like side effects.”
“I don’t think it really existed. I just think they put it out there to scare. I think if it really existed, they would of found a vaccine.”
By TANISHA KNUTZEN
The automotive technology lab at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus is a world apart from the traditional classes offered at Pima.
The non-traditional learning environment is an ideal setting for students who are looking for something to take them outside of the confined walls of a normal classroom and into a place of partial freedom and full exploration.
Numerous cars and equipment have been donated by dealerships, colleges, manufacturers and individuals, to ensure that students have maximum hands-on opportunities.
Full-time instructor David Stephenson and his fellow instructors emphasize practicing skills through physical learning.
“In a typical classroom, you would have a lecture hall, where a teacher writes on a blackboard,” Stephenson said. “If you have a lab, you might go to the lab portion of it and have students gathered around one vehicle, touching it one at a time. All of this is independent instruction.”
Students from many different backgrounds, ages and lifestyles pursue the self-paced curriculum.
“Our curriculum appeals to the widest possible audience, but the level of instruction is consistent from student to student,” said Bryan Goldkuhl, another full-time instructor.
Hands-on work especially appeals to students who are auditory or tactile learners, Goldkuhl added.
The program offers flexibility for students who have a hectic life schedule outside of the school walls, by making a variety of instructional times available throughout the week.
Jimmy Pham, a first-semester student, enjoys being outside of a traditional classroom and in an environment where he has more opportunity to actively learn and practice his newly acquired skills.
“I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else,” Pham said. “You’re working while listening. It’s not very class-like.”
Pham is currently working towards earning his mechanic certification. He plans to return to his hometown in Vietnam, where he will use his skills and certification to open his own shop.
“Cars are something I like, and this is something I can see myself doing,” Pham said. “The car industry is booming in Vietnam and that’s where I plan on going.”
Students have an opportunity to earn either a technical certificate or credit toward an Associate of Applied Science degree.
“We train students on all the necessary skills to gain an entry-level position, and also prep them for taking their mechanic and technician certification,” Stephenson said.
PCC’s program is accredited by the National Automotive Technician Education Foundation/ Automotive Service Excellence, which requires an intensive on-site inspection every five years.
During the inspection, accreditors examine equipment, curriculum and the skills students are learning.
This type of accreditation requires instructors to consistently change and update their curriculum to match the newest skills and knowledge being produced in the technology and automobile world.
Upon completion of the program, graduates have a high success rate for earning an entry-level mechanic position at major dealerships and automotive shops, according to program statistics.
If being outside of a normal classroom, having a self-paced curriculum and being free to roam in an independent learning environment doesn’t appeal to students, perhaps the availability of one-on-one instruction will.
Instructors are available to answer even the simplest of questions.
“I like that I can ask questions, even if it’s something that has an obvious answer,” Pham said. “There’s always someone to help, someone to point something out to me or show me what to do.”
By EMERY NICOLETTI
When describing her start in the restaurant business, Donna DiFiore – owner of the iconic Delectables Restaurant on Fourth Avenue – has very specific work-related memories.
“One of my first duties,” she said, “was to pick up the fresh French bread every morning at La Boulangerie.”
She would carry out loaves of the freshly baked bread, and bungee cord the package to her motorcycle. Looking back, it seemed she was destined to become the owner of a restaurant that housed Tucson’s very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership.
Owning a restaurant was not what a young DiFiore thought she would do with her life, figuring that she would be a lawyer or a politician. Her early experience in the legal field dampened her desire to make that a career.
“I was a probation officer, and it did not suit me working in a field where people were sad and disappointed with their choices,” she explained. “I left that field, and decided to vacation in Tucson.”
That was 36 years ago, when DiFiore started her career at Delectables, as part of a small five-to-six person crew.
“When presented with the option of working at Delectables, I jumped and never looked back,” she said. “I started as a server, then to line cook, from there to manager, to business owner and then property owner.”
The business climate of Fourth Avenue has been nurturing and supportive for Delectables. It is a comfortable place and one of many businesses on the avenue have been taken over and purchased by internal staff. They include Delectables, Antigone Books, How Sweet It Was, and Desert Vintage.
Instead of opening a new location elsewhere, DiFiore focused on the Fourth Avenue location and purchased the property where Delectables is currently housed. She has fashioned the restaurant into a staple of its district. Delectables has often been described by DiFiore as “The heart of Fourth Avenue shopping, and entertainment, offering gourmet casual dining to nourish your life.”
Delectables is certainly an anchor business that draws many to the avenue it seems. Lasting relationships are a clear pleasure for DiFiore, one she nurtures in her staff, customers, and with everyone she calls “friend.”
“Staff is the key to delivering any product,” she said, adding that “the majority of the hundreds of folks that have worked for me would give me a warm hug.”
When asked to describe DiFiore, Delectables general manager Christopher Baldwin said she was always honest, and that you knew where you stood with her.
“She’s smart,” he added. “She’s our Mama Bear, sweet fuzzy and protective, and always willing to give you a third chance.”
Baldwin acknowledged a couple of diners leaving the restaurant, and asked if everything was OK.
“Always good,” said the patrons, as they headed towards the avenue.
“Donna clearly has a vision,” he continues. “She’s an alpha-personality, the queen bee; but that’s not to say that she can’t hear other’s input.”
He pauses. “She is a great entertainer and has good leadership and managerial skills which work well together.”
After 25 years, Baldwin – known for his signature vest and fedora – is a fixture at Delectables, much like the restaurant itself is a landmark on Fourth Avenue
Tara Martinez, a head cook at Delectables, described DiFiore as being fair, and nurturing.
“If you have a good work ethic, you’ll do well here,” she said. “If you don’t, then pay attention. She’ll teach you.”
As if recalling a past moment in time, she smiled and added: “She’s always willing to support you outside of work.”
It wasn’t always smooth sailing in the restaurant business over more than three decades of management and ownership. DiFiore had to demonstrate keen management skill in lean and uncertain times as demonstrated during the recent year’s long modern streetcar construction.
“In the best and worst of times, managing all assets is challenging and leaves little room for surprises” she asserts. “Controlling cost of sales and labor is critical and that job is never finished. I’ve learned how to narrow the product selection in lean times as well. For instance, do I really need three Chardonnays by the glass? Do I really need 11 draft beers?”
Despite what appears to be a successful completed street car project as evidenced by cars packed with riders, DiFiore is critical of the modern streetcar implementation, execution and its impact on the businesses on the Avenue.
“The construction part was the most painful business interruption I have experienced in my career with Delectables. The project should have been done in smaller segments so that all the merchant districts were not shut down all at once.”
There are other challenges as well, though all seem to be manageable for this successful business owner. DiFiore wishes that the city provide better insight and planning regarding parking, both on Fourth Ave and in the surrounding west university neighborhood.
But the challenges faced by businesses in changing times do not seem to intimidate those that have seen and done it all. The pleasures of owning a business far outweigh the small and large bumps in the road. Having a vision of success, anticipating what is needed to get there, and looking good while getting there are three tenets of business success espoused by DiFiore.
Also critical to success is the ability to be a good listener. Regarding traits that she learned throughout her life that contributed to her success, DiFiore said they are “listening and hearing your words and ideas completely – and when you are done talking, then I’ll talk.”
When DiFiore is not at work, she does find time to relax at home with family. A great evening is described as, “Working side by side with Mitchell (her husband) while he cooks us shepherd’s pie, chicken pot pie, fettuccine alfredo or one of his many great family meals at home, drinking a nice glass of pinot grigio, a nice scotch or a hearty cab, and all of us around the table telling stories.”
Having raised two college-bound children, nurturing a loving marriage and operating a successful business, DiFiore can claim to know a few secrets:
“Humor is mandatory at work and at home. Sitting at the dinner table with a delicious meal is a bonding unifying event that happens as often as is possible. Speaking factually about likes and dislikes is essential as well.”
For those seeking to open their own restaurant, DiFiore has this sage advice: “You have to be a multitasking, super-minutia-oriented, detailed person with a special hide, to train your staff, satisfy your guests, and do it every day.”
She also says it helps to do yoga and meditate daily “It’s food for the soul,” she said.
Although DiFiore as a young girl may not have envisioned a lasting career in the restaurant business, she still reminisces about summers in Cape Cod, the soft and sandy beaches, and it brings back vivid memories of superb lobster salad rolls. Clearly, her destiny was “Delectable!”
Address: 533 N. Fourth Ave.
Hours: Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
“I’ve been in love a few times. I thought that person was amazing, with flaws and everything. I just needed to be with them and didn’t really care about being with anybody else.”
Yes I have. I just think you just kind of do. It’s almost hard to put into words when you’re in love. When you can’t stop yourself from saying it to the other person.”
“I’m engaged to be married, so I am in love. You know how people say that you know, like you have a gut instinct? You have that. Once you meet someone that is just for you, you know.”
“Yes. I would say when you’re willing to put the well-being of that other person above your own well-being, no matter how much it inconveniences you.”
Major: Environmental science
“Yes. I know I am in love, because I want to marry this person. I’m engaged to him and I’m gonna move to another country for him. I want to share my life with this person.”
BY MARIANA CEJA
“If I was gay, I would marry a celebrity. I would say Shakira. She has a nice body, she is toned and she is pretty attractive.”
Major: Veterinarian assistant
“I would marry my best friend because we get along awesomely and that is one of the things I would prefer to have in a relationship with somebody, a personality I can get along with, and she is pretty.”
Major: Respiratory therapy
“To marry somebody requires a lot of time and thinking and I just don’t want to marry somebody out of the wind. I could tell you who I would go after, James Franco, Channing Tatum, all the usuals, but there is also Larry David, whom I find very intriguing.”
Major: Abnormal psychiatry
“I don’t know if you are into YouTube or not but there is this guy, Markiplier. He does a lot of charity stuff and he is just a sweetheart. He is super adorable.”
“Jack Black, porque él es chignon (because he is majestic.)”
By MARIANA CEJA
Laughter filled the gymnasium at Pima Community College West Campus on Sept. 19 as hundreds of mature job seekers walked inside.
Some were better dressed and prepared than others. Some arrived with basic education while others had bachelor degrees, but everyone carried the same hopeful spirit. They were open to whatever the Plus 50 career and job fair had to offer.
More than 60 employers and 12 resource programs were ready to provide opportunities to job seekers age 50 and above.
Potential employers included the University of Arizona Health Center, Tucson Unified School District, Lutheran Social Services, Wells Fargo Bank and Casa de la Luz Hospice.
Participant Richard C. Valenzuela said he has worked as a technician for 20 years and was looking for a change. He also encouraged college students to continue with their education.
“Hopefully, being young, you can continue your education,” he said. “Older people don’t want to go back to school, we just stick with our own careers.”
Job seeker Susan Johnson earned a social service certificate and was looking to work in that field. She is also taking classes in hopes of earning an associate degree in applied science.
“It was difficult at first to get back into the routine, but I adapted and I really enjoy it now,” she said.
Dean Elofson said he has a bachelor’s degree in business and enjoyed a successful career in sales and management.
“I am at the end of my career, and I am looking for something meaningful,” Elofson said. “I am not going to retire because when you retire, you stop working and you die, and I don’t want to die.”
PCC is home to two grant programs that help unemployed men and women ages 50 and older. Both programs are part of national initiatives.
Back to Work 50+ helps adults develop marketing and networking skills, and provides them with strategies to land a job.
Supporters include the American Association of Retired Persons, Wal-Mart and the American Association of Community Colleges
The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is part of the four-year federally funded educational initiative that was launched at 100 community colleges.
It helps students complete degrees and certifications by providing tutoring, computer skills and, eventually, job placement assistance. There are Plus 50 advisers at all six PCC campuses.
Details about the program can be found on pima’s website at pima.edu/current-students/advising/plus-50.html.
Roger Forrester, Plus 50 Program Coordinator, said he emphasizes the importance of networking, volunteering and internships.
“At the end of the line, we are preparing them and making them as marketable as they can be,” he said. “Often the best way to get a job is to network.”
Bradley Lancaster, who represented Jim Click Automotive at the job fair, said his company is willing to consider quality candidates of all ages.
“Jim Click doesn’t hire any managers from the outside, we only promote from within,” he said. “We are looking for people that want to make a career with the company.”
Tormay Newman, director of caregiver education and training for Home Instead Senior Care, said the company hires part-time male and female caregivers ranging in age from 21 to 80.
“They have to have compassion,” Newman said. “We can train people, but they really have to have the heart to help others.”
Nancee Sorenson, East Campus vice president of student development, oversees the Plus 50 and Back to Work 50+ grants.
“One of the things that people who are 50 and over are concerned about is that maybe their technology skills aren’t as sharp as they should be, or they haven’t had an interview for a job for a long, long time,” she said.
Forrester said part of his role is educating employers.
“Some employers say that if you are over 50, you don’t have any computer skills. Not true,” he said.
“You’ll be surprised at the percentage of people age 50 and older that are very computer savvy, but we have to make employers more aware of that,” he added. “They’ve come a long way.”
By JAMIE VERWYS
Nine-year-old Nevaeh Riss is already familiar with the concepts of equality and love that so many adults seem to struggle with.
“God would want us to be happy,” she says. “Instead of Him judging us, He would want us to have freedom and to love anyone we love.”
Nevaeh was raised to believe not to judge others and that we all have rights as humans to make our own choices. Her mother, Brystal Riss, was one of the many members of the LGBT community celebrating the legalization of gay marriage in Arizona on Oct. 17.
U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled the state ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional and ordered the state to “permanently cease” the ban.
Attorney General Tom Horne finalized the decision in a statement where he said he would not appeal the ruling.
“I have decided not to appeal today’s decision, which would be an exercise in futility, and which would serve only the purpose of wasting taxpayers’ money,” Horne said.
The ruling follows closely behind same sex marriage bans lifting in Nevada and Idaho on Oct. 7. With the addition of Arizona, 31 states have legal gay marriage.
Around the entire country, a wave of change has grown. But what does this change mean for Arizona and the people who have fought for gay rights?
Triumph for families
Riss has lived in Tucson for 12 years and works in marketing. She has been involved in Tucson Pride, the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation, Wingspan and TIHAN. For her, the legalization of gay marriage is a step in the right direction for equal rights for all.
“In general, I’m for equality for all people,” she says. “There’s already too much hatred. People need to start coming together more and realizing it’s none of your business, then we can get past that blockage in the conversation and move on to more deep conversations and know each other past certain stereotypes.”
Her daughter was a life-changing addition into her life and says the importance of acceptance is crucial for children in their developing years.
“As children, that’s such an important age for them because they are going to begin to choose if they allow the hatred and judgments people may put on them to bring them down,” she says.
“I don’t want her to grow up with people around her hating on me, judging me, saying I’m wrong for doing these things. That’s unfair for a child, especially when all I’m trying to do is bring love into her life. I hope that one day whatever she decides to do she has every right to do it and she won’t be bullied.”
Local drag queen performer Tempest DuJour is an active voice within the community. An associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television by day, he is a hostess for charity events by night.
DuJour married his husband while they visited family in Utah last year. The state lifted its ban during their stay. The couple has two children and stresses the impact gay marriage laws have on the family unit.
“In the state of Arizona, they only recognize me as the legal parent. So if something happened to me today, the kids would be taken away from my husband,” he says.
“Legally we have no protection for the kids. It’s a huge deal for us. The marriage, whatever. The kid part is absolutely essential for us.”
Now with the ban on gay marriage abolished, their children will be protected the same as children from a heterosexual couple would be.
According to a 2004 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, marriage provides at least 1,138 different benefits to spouses and their families. Before gay couples were allowed marriage licenses, these protections were unavailable to them.
Unmarried couples are not often considered next of kin in hospital or emergency health situations of their partners and are not entitled to property, assets or personal items if their partner passes away.
They are also denied automatic joint custody of children and joint tax returns and benefits.
Donnie Cianciotto, artistic director of local theater group Musical Mayhem, came out as a lesbian at the age of 13. Two years ago, he came out as transgendered, identifying as a male.
In 2004, he joined in a domestic partnership offered by the city of Tucson with his then-girlfriend and spoke about the very few protections it offered.
“I remember thinking ‘a domestic partnership, yay how exciting’ but it really didn’t do much for you,” he said. “It gave you some legal protections, but not the whole shebang.”
“Don’t placate us by saying ‘here’s your domestic partnership. It does nothing for you.’” he said.
“This affects the whole family. People don’t realize how many issues are affected just by this one thing. It’s more than just, ‘oh great, gays can get married.’ There’s a lot more tied up in it.”
Cianicatto has many friends within the LGBT community who have now married, including a lesbian couple with a baby on the way.
“It’s good to know my friends, people in the community who are good people and good parents have more protection. It baffles me that people don’t think of the kids in that,” he said.
“Now they are legally married and that kid doesn’t have to grow up thinking my mom doesn’t have the same rights as my friends’ parents.”
Allies in Tucson
Alongside members of the LGBT community cheering the ruling were large factions of Tucson.
April Moss is currently in her second year as Tucson Pride Alliance president and says Tucson has always been a leader in the fight for gay rights.
“The history speaks for itself that Tucson has always been very much supportive,” she says.
“Tucson Pride Alliance was developed in 1977. Tucson was one of the first communities in the nation to pass a law protecting people from anti hate crimes,” she says. “Tucson has always been a leader in stuff like that. The people of Tucson have always reached out and said here, let’s make a difference.”
Cianicatto says Tucson is on average for gay friendliness with other places he’s lived.
“There are some benefits about the LGBT community of Tucson. It’s pretty supportive of itself and relatively close knit,” he says. “We have the other side of the coin which is that it’s not very big, not well funded.”
For DuJour, Tucson is a city to be proud of.
“I’m prideful of diversity in the Tucson community. This is an amazing, warm and welcoming community,” he said. “It always has been, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Support for the gay community has a strong voice at Pima Community College with its own Pride Alliance. The group strives to create a safe space for LGBT and allied students to be themselves and become educated about the community.
They host various events at the campuses and have plans for future speakers, Q&A sessions, an LGBT film festival and a coming out stories board where students can share their own personal experiences.
Vice President Melissa Medrano-Jossler says she is happy to live in Tucson instead of another city in Arizona.
“I feel like Tucson is a lot more liberal than other places and more accepting,” she says.
Couples statewide flocked to the courthouses immediately upon the lifting of the ban.
According to the Pima County Superior Courthouse, clerks issued double the usual number of marriage licenses the day after the ban was lifted.
Local actor and singer Aaron Singleton was one of the Tucsonans to marry at the courthouse when the ruling came down. He met his partner online four years ago and they hit it off instantly.
Their choice to marry was based on their love and the benefits that come with a marriage license.
“We’re looking forward to filing joint taxes the most,” he says.
Though their marriage was a personal triumph, Singleton speaks on the greater good legalization has brought to the state.
“The ban lifting was not just a win for LGBT folks, but a win for the constitution. We are all equal under the law, and laws should reflect that.”
Ally Booker identifies as queer and had a ceremony with her partner to celebrate their love before the ruling. They plan to officially marry once children enter their lives. She opened her sexuality resource center and boutique, Jellywink on Fourth Avenue this year and offered discounts to gay couples with new marriage licenses.
“Our emphasis is on making sure everything is body-safe, educating our customers on what they should look for (and look out for), and providing a friendly and non-judgmental environment where people feel safe to ask questions and explore,” she adds.
“Almost every U.S. city already has a woman and queer-friendly shop like this, and my friends and I have felt a vacuum in Tucson when it came to something like this for a long time,” she says.
“Now Tucson finally has a woman and LGBTQ friendly sexuality resource center.”
Booker believes that the legalization of same-sex marriages will positively affect not only the LGBT community but the community as whole.
“Same-sex parents can now legally adopt their own children. We now don’t have to depend on the whim of individual health care workers to visit our loved ones in the hospital and make important life decisions on their behalf should the need arise. Gay marriage will also affect the business community. The wedding business is a huge industry.”
Moss questions businesses that seek the right to discriminate biased on orientation, race, religion or status.
“Business owners, sometimes I wonder about them because it doesn’t matter who’s spending the money. Whether you’re black, white, yellow, green, purple, interracial marriage, gay, single parent, the money all spends the same,” she says.
While many couples have married since the ruling, not all are rushing to the courthouse.
Riss does not herself intend on getting married, but is happy those who do now have the right to that choice.
“Personally I don’t believe in marriage due to my own dealings but the whole point of equality is that everyone has a choice.”
Motorcyclist and educator Pablo, who declined to give his lat name, rides with an all-inclusive motorcycle group called The Lost Boys. The Tucson Chapter of the group is made up of men, women, straight, gay and transgender members.
Pablo also does not know if he will ever marry.
““I may never get married and I’m OK with that but for my friends who have chosen to do that I think it’s amazing. It says a lot for our country that we have come this far in this amount of time.”
While people statewide are celebrating this historic ruling, there are still those within the community and local government who have continuously fought against gay marriage.
Attorney General Horne was one of the last holdouts in the state defending the right of Arizonans to only allow “traditional marriages.”
“A number of attorney generals have refused to defend laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I have not been among that group. I have fought to defend the laws as passed by the voters of Arizona, which I believe is the duty of the Attorney General.”
The law he previously fought to protect was Proposition 102, voted on by Arizonans on Nov. 4, 2008.
The amendment to the state constitution defined marriage as “the union between a man and a woman.”
Governor Jan Brewer also released a statement after the ban was lifted defending the decision made by 55 percent of voters several years ago.
“In 2008, Arizona voters approved a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Now, with their rulings, the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people and further eroded the authority of states to regulate and uphold our laws.”
The definition of traditional marriage is one backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Christian legal organization was created in 1994 “to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith in America and around the world,” according to their mission statement.
Lawyers of the alliance supported Horne’s team and in a July filing to the federal court they argued, “Only man-woman couples are capable of furthering the state’s interest in linking children to both of their biological parents.”
Horne’s decision not to appeal the ruling legalizing same sex marriage was one that surprised members of the LGBT community.
“My instinct was that he was going to appeal it,” Cianciotto says. “It’s a fight that so many people are willing to fight to the death, just going to choke the hell out of it and not let it go.”
Despite being happily surprised, he feels Horne merely “went with what was going to be easiest.”
“I have friends who say ‘email Tom Horne or go to the Facebook page and say thank you for him not appealing this.’ Why on earth would I thank someone who has a record of being very homophobic just because he did the right thing?”
Moss, the Tucson Pride president, says she commends Horne’s decision, though she feels it was an inevitable choice.
“I was glad he didn’t want to challenge it. He realized, ‘My job is done. I need to move on and get over this.’ I applaud him for that. I would shake his hand and say ‘Thank you.’”
With the number of states lifting marriage bans and religious affiliations stepping forward to show support, why is there any opposition left?
Moss says that the issue isn’t restricted to the LGBT community, but rather is about equal rights as a whole.
“People need to get their heads out of the bedroom and they need to accept people for who they are,” she says.
“What it is in all actually is about human rights. It used to be if you were African-American you had to sit at the back of the bus. If you were a woman you could not vote,” she adds.
“These things have all evolved and changed and that’s where it basically is right now for the LGBT community.”
Though the Bible is often cited as the source material defending “traditional marriage” supporters of marriage equality are challenging how it has been interpreted.
“I was raised in the church and was taught that love one another,” Moss says.
“You taught me to love and be accepting and that’s exactly what I am.”
Riss also came from a religious background and her father was a Jehovah Witness.
“The biggest thing I say is don’t judge. It’s huge for me because that’s what it says in the Bible,” she says.
“They seem to miss a lot of that for what they may be uncomfortable with and they aren’t ready for the change. A lot of people in society like their safety and their comfort. This is their life in a box.”
Her daughter Nevaeh gave simple advice to those wanting to place judgment upon anyone.
“I think that people who want to judge people should stick it to themselves instead of telling other people. They might be really sad because they don’t like how they are or they are jealous,” she says.
“You should choose your own path, you shouldn’t choose their path because then you would be sad and lonely.”
Final words of pride
The legalization in Arizona is a harbinger of change within our society as a whole. Though many feel the fight for equality and gay rights still faces obstacles and challenges, joy and pride are the feelings most prevalent among the LGBT community and its supporters.
Booker from Jellywink says there’s more work to be done.
“There’s still a lot of haters out in mainstream society and policies and attitudes that reflect that hate. And there’s also that age old problem of when a certain portion of an oppressed community is finally accepted within the folds of the establishment, they forget the struggle of the rest of the community.”
“Social change is a never ending process that ebbs and flows,” she says. “I’ll just focus on celebrating each achievement.”
She is offering a 40 percent discount at Jellywink through Nov. 6 to any newlywed gay couples who have read this article.
Drag superstar DuJour was surprised at how soon licenses were being issued once the ban was been lifted.
“Truth always wins. Love always wins. We always knew it would just be a matter of time but didn’t know it would be this quick.”
Moss hopes the change and equality continues to spread.
“I think that day is coming, hopefully sooner than later, slowly but surely, the states are coming around.”
Riss remains optimistic of society learning acceptance.
“It’s amazing to be able to see people able to be happy with who they are,” she says. “Once people see that the world is not going to implode they will see it is OK.”
For young Nevaeh, gay marriage boils down to a lesson most of us learned as children; treat others as you would like to be treated.
“I think it’s cool how we can marry whoever who want because what if someone loves someone and it wasn’t allowed? That would be very heartbreaking,” she says. “You don’t want to hurt people.”
Photos and interviews by Mariana Ceja on Downtown Campus
“I would take action on a book I’m trying to write, and get a job where it’s almost guaranteed I would make something of myself, in case my book fails miserably”
Major: Computer science
“Learn English well, because right now I am not speaking good English, and also learn computers.”
“I would be playing on the USA female softball team. Probably partying after.”
Major: Early childhood education
“One of my biggest dreams is to get my four-year degree, my bachelor’s degree in accounting, so I would be celebrating and reminiscing with family.”
“My goal is to be a pediatrician, so I guess I would just get right to it — accomplish my dreams, actually start working.”