LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 28, 2019) — University of Kentucky's Carol Taylor-Shim, director of Bias Incident Support Services, and Reinette Jones, special collections librarian and African American studies academic liaison for UK Libraries, will be inducted into the Lexington Fairness Hall of Fame at tonight's awards ceremony.
Lexington Fairness is an organization that advocates for and educates the community on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. Since its conception in 1992, the organization has tirelessly advocated for the LGBTQ community and organized several events that have created new rules and regulations that make life easier for members of the LGBTQ community. Today, the organization continues to grow and work toward increasing visibility to aide in the progression of fairness for those who identify as LGBTQ.
"This honor means so much to me because this is my community, my family that is saying to me, 'Thank you Carol,'" Taylor-Shim said. "I have always tried to do right by my queer and trans people of color community (QTPOC) and my LGBTQIA community. So, to have this kind of acknowledgement is special. None of us who engage in this work do it for the recognition, we do it because we believe in equity and justice. We understand that none of us are really free unless all of us are."
Taylor-Shim, who earned her master's degree in social work from UK, came out as queer in 1999 and became involved with Fairness around 2001. She felt a little lost at first, but her new community welcomed her with open arms.
"Activism for me is showing up in spaces as my full authentic black queer self," Taylor-Shim said. "It also means speaking truth to power, no matter the risk. For someone like me, the risk is incredibly high. Whether it is offering workshops and trainings on the experiences of QTPOC, speaking about how interpersonal violence impacts QTPOC and the LGBTQIA community, or rallying crowds before marches, activism is and always will be a critical part of my life and my existence."
The selection for the Fairness Hall of Fame was moving for Jones as well. “It is an absolute honor to be recognized by Lexington Fairness," she said. "This is much more than an individual recognition. Many indispensable people of the past set the pace, and we keep it moving. Multiple communities of individuals and organizations are working hand in hand, adding new bricks to a foundation that will one day be spacious enough and safe enough for all of us to be our true selves all day, every day, anywhere. This award is a gauge of the progress we have made in Lexington, Kentucky.”
Jones, who holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in library science from UK, came out in her 30s after her daughter went to college and was introduced to Lexington's LGBTQ community through a coworker. As a faculty member at UK, she has created a research guide for lesbian studies, and co-founded and continues to manage the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, now in its 16th year of operation. She is also a founding member of UK PrideCats. Four years ago, Jones became involved with Bluegrass Black Pride Inc., where she helps advocate, educate and stand up for the rights of African-American LGBTQ+ people to be a part of both the black and LGBTQ+ communities as the organization's co-chair.
"I'm proud to be out at UK. … It's allowed me to meet people. It's allowed me to gain access to spaces … and maybe help somebody who doesn't want to be out or wants to come out or wants something different. … I'm really proud to be able to do that, to be able to give back to others regardless of what their race may be," Jones shared in a 2018 interview for the OutSouth LGBTQ* Oral History Project, a collection maintained by UK's Office of LGBTQ* Resources and the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.
Along with Jones and Taylor-Shim, Lexington Fairness will induct three additional honorees: The 1999 Fairness Steering Committee, Lexington businesswoman and UK alumna Pat Gerhard and Lexington Urban County Council member Susan Lamb. Members of the Fairness Hall of Fame have demonstrated outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ community of Lexington over an extended period of time and are nominated and chosen by the Lexington Fairness Board of Directors.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for," and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.