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Dr Jean V. Hardisty: Memories of Friends and Comrades

March 25, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2015 —Jean Hardisty, lithe and slight of frame and a daughter of the genteel South of Maryland and Washington DC, lived in two great cities in the United States. Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, opened itself to Jean when she studied political science at Northwestern University, earning a Ph.D. and setting her on a path of social justice analysis and research of the right wing movements in the U.S. and the world. Later, Boston, the Hub of the Universe, would be her home, where she opened the permanent offices of Political Research Associates, her lasting contribution to progressive and left movements in this country.

Jean Hardisty

Jean Hardisty

Jean Hardisty’s gigantic intellectual shoulders made her a hub of the universe of LGBTQ and other progressive organizers as we worked to better understand the anatomy and physiology of virulent right-wing movements that challenged us at every turn. Jean’s thinking and writing would become seminal for the Task Force Fight the Right Project, among other organizing entities.

The genius of Jean turned on fundamental aspects of her personality and charisma: Jean’s witty and plain-spoken perspectives were laced with human kindness and magnanimous empathy for we who wanted to crush the right wing movements. She taught us that it is the leadership of these movements that need to be crushed, not the rank and file followers, even while they did the dirty deeds that their leaders asked of them. She schooled us to avoid hate and vitriol and to veer towards compassion and heart-driven conversation with rank and file followers, while doing our best work to expose right wing leaders for their callous manipulations of the insecurities and economic distress of their followers. Her mentorship of all of us shaped our thinking, our organizing, our strategies and tactics, and our very lives.

Jean’s spouse of 16 years, Peggy Barrett, related in a memorial post:

In the weeks before her death, Jean, her deft humor ever intact, said she wanted to die “the way Jackie Onassis did: be with family and friends and then just go.” She managed to die just that way. She was a storyteller, a champagne drinker, and a lover of life. All of us who loved her will carry on her legacy.

Jean presented at Creating Change conferences; worked with Task Force staff on the Fight the Right Project in the early ‘90s; testified in 1993 on the political and religious right wing in the preliminary hearing in the ultimately successful challenge of Amendment Two in Colorado; participated in the Moral Values Project convening in 2006, a Task Force project; and was a donor to the Task Force. Jean’s web site, http://www.jeanhardisty.com/, is a treasure trove of incisive political analytical writing. For historical perspective on Jean’s influence of our work, read The Right Response, a Task Force report summarizing the work of the Fight the Right Project, 1993: http://www.qrd.org/qrd/orgs/NGLTF/ftr/the.right.response-ngltf.report.

Friends and comrades remember Jean:

We have lost one of our best and brightest, Jean Hardisty. My generation of progressive community organizers owes our analysis of the virulent and anti-LGBTQ right wing to Jean. Her work both anticipated the massive power of the right wing in our country as well as provided us with the tools and information we needed to combat right wing forces at the local, state, national and international level. Jean was a visionary, an intellectual heavy weight who could speak in plain English, and she was a really funny and kind person.

–Kerry Lobel, Task Force Deputy Director, 1995 – 1996; Executive Director, 1996 – 2000

As the LGBTQ nation learns of the death of our beloved Jean Hardisty, there will be many who are not aware that her extraordinary work of revealing and analyzing the right wing has affected every queer life. Jean was a mild-mannered, tough-as-nails-warrior and a proud open lesbian who exposed the Right’s attack against LGBTQ people and all social advances in this country. And she charged us with taking on the fight as relentlessly as she did.

I share one remembrance of this precious woman that captures her spirit. On our last call nine days before her death, Jean said that she so wished she had the health to finish writing her piece on Neoliberalism and Poverty. Then she said, “When I get to the Pearly Gates, they will say, ‘You commie lesbian bourgeoisie!’” To which I replied, “Jean, I thought you would hear ‘You commie lesbian!’—and you would reply, ‘You got THAT right!’” In the great spirit of friendship and politics, we had a good laugh.

–Suzanne Pharr, organizer, movement mentor, and author of In The Time Of The Right: Reflections On Liberation and Homophobia: A Weapon Of Sexism

Jean Hardisty was a powerful influence on the Fight the Right Team. She was among the first of our community leaders to recognize the threat posed by the religious right. At the Creating Change Conference in 1993 in Durham, North Carolina, Jean was presented at a session on the right wing incursions taking place all over the country. Jean quietly waited her turn as each presenter spoke. But, eyes were glazing over at the complexity of the movement against us. Then Jean spoke. What she said galvanized the crowd: she talked about the right wing strategy, its the leadership and their plans, and the important role that LGBTQ people across the country were about to play in confronting and defeating the right’s anti-queer campaign. She made it clear that the danger to us was real, but the stakes in these fights were much higher, having to do with an attack on civil rights in and a much broader and vicious social and economic agenda. What I remember most is how she humanized the followers of the right. She spoke to the fears the right exploits, and to the very real problems and concerns undergirding those fears. Jean called us to compassion rather than to demonization. She made it clear that in order to win this fight, we needed to understand that the “other” in that fight were human beings, reminding us that you can’t win over people you hate. Jean was a gifted thinker, a brilliant research strategist, and a great communicator, but, first and foremost, she was a kind a caring person. She managed as few are able to fight the good fight without picking up the master’s tools.

–Scot Nakagawa, Task Force staff, 1992 – 1997, first writing the Fight the Right Action kit, then serving as Fight the Right Project organizer and, later, Field Director
–30–

To learn more about the National LGBTQ Task Force, visit us online: thetaskforce.org

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