Michael advocated for civil and LGBT rights in Yuma and throughout Arizona for more than 30 years. He was tenacious and fought hard and many times by himself so that we could all have better opportunities to live our lives free from discrimination, with equal rights and freedoms.
Michael fought, as we all know in an area with little public support and much conflict regarding equal rights. Rest assured, Yuma’s LGBT community had an “unequivocal voice” and Michael was always at the forefront of this fight; being called harsh names in the newspaper and even enduring a death threat letter. All the while, Michael shrugged the harsh critics off as he called Yuma, “splendid.” He knew the fight would be long and so was his determination, unwavering. He often said, that he was the army of one, and at times the army of many. For he knew that many of who he represented were fearful of standing out and he accepted their fears, all the while loved and nurtured them along the way.
Michael spent many years working for the Yuma County Democratic Party, was member of the Big Brother’s, Big Sister’s group, and member of the Yuma County AIDS network. He started the Yuma County Gay Rights Group in 2003, and when the Yuma County Sherriff’s office turned their backs on the murder of Amancio Corrales, Michael and Senator Amanda Aguirre were there to bring justice through public outreach, policy awareness, and the making of an internationally acclaimed film, called “Amancio.” The Amancio film put Yuma on the map, perhaps in a negative light but the film also showed the closeness and unity of the small LGBT community that lives and thrives in Yuma. A tribute to all LGBT throughout the world, living in small rural communities like Yuma with a clear message that “we know what you may be going through and enduring, and how you can make change happen, one step at a time.” The film also made people feel that justice can prevail if you stand up for it! Once the film was produced, Michael started the Amancio Project, a public website bringing awareness about hate crimes, suicide, depression, and offering mentoring to anyone that needed it.
Finally, Michael started a chapter of PFLAG three years ago; a much needed outlet for family and friends of LGBT, as well as an outreach source for the LGBT community.
Michael will be sorely missed but his legend lives on for all of the groups that he has brought together and the people that he has united. Let’s keep him close to our hearts, for he will live there forever!
Mr. Brandon Bennett
President & CEO
Back to the Basics Please, Inc.
Back to the Basics Please, www.bttbp.org
Generation Y 2000 Diversity Center, www.gy2kc.org