March 7, 2011
If you haven’t yet seen, the video of Courage Campaign members Derence Kernek and Ed Watson has spread like wildfire. It’s been posted by The Washington Post, The Advocate, Towleroad, Andrew Sullivan, AfterElton, Pam’s House Blend, Queerty, Joe.My.God, Good As You, Crooks and Liars, The Dallas Voice, and Equality Matters.
By Arisha Michelle Hatch
I tried to prepare myself as I began to make the drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs to meet Derence and Ed to film this video two weeks ago. I knew their story – grabbed a box of Kleenex from the gas station – and was on my way.
We met at a public library.
Derence, with his full, white beard greeted me with an easy smile and then we walked to meet with Ed who was waiting in the car. Derence arranged a spot for us to film in the courtyard about 100 yards away from the parking lot, which meant that Ed would need his walker. Together the three of us walked 10 steps at a time and then rested all the way to the courtyard, while Derence interjected short anecdotes from their lives together.
As we walked, I realized that theirs is a love story that has spanned decades that – although they now have been placed in a waiting room along with thousands of other gay and lesbian couples in California who want to marry – Derence and Ed have lived a full life together.
In footage you haven’t seen, Derence talks about a time when they were looking for a home together in Kansas City – how they were warned to pick a location that the KKK couldn’t easily access.
When the camera stopped rolling, I told them of a time when I was five or six – my earliest full memory perhaps – when the Klan was having a cross-burning ceremony just outside of my grandmother’s house in Texas. There was a sea of red brake lights as drivers watched the robed ghosts walk in a line just beyond the trees; those red brakes and the orange fire from the cross were the only two things lighting that country road. I was told at some point that the ghosts didn’t like black people. I had nightmares, back then, for weeks.
With Ed’s Alzheimer’s advancing, I don’t know if the couple will have the opportunity to make that memorable trip down the aisle. I pray they do. Driving back to LA, tissues in hand, all I could think was that given all they’ve been through – a life of trying to find homes on the outskirts of towns – that they deserve a few good memories.
Andrew Sullivan said it best when he asked “How are these men a threat?”