Partial Transcript: Horace V.: Thank you. It's a privilege to be interviewing you. So I guess, to
start, could you just start by telling me a little about when and where you grew up?
Barbara Bell: I grew up in White Plains, New York, outside of New York City, left
there and went to nursing school in Chapel Hill in 1963, and when I graduated, I
never went back to New York. Stayed in chapel Hill for a couple of years, and
then came to western North Carolina, working for the VA. Was here for four
years, and then I moved through the VA system in several different positions in
several parts of the country. Then was able to come back in 1988 and finished my
career in 2002.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses her past and her passion for LGBT+ activism.
Keywords: 1963; Chapel Hill, NC; VA Hospital; Western North Carolina; White Plains, New York
Partial Transcript: Barbara Bell:They are a wonderful group of people, and I have treasured them. I
now volunteer at Loving Food Resources, a food pantry for people with HIV and
AIDS and anyone in home hospice, and many of my patients from the VA are still
clients at our food pantry.
Horace V.:That's really great. What's it like working at that food pantry? I
actually hadn't heard about it before.
Barbara Bell:Clients are referred by the Western North Carolina AIDS Project or
the Western North Carolina Community Health Services and the different hospice
organizations. We call ourselves a little pantry that can. We are set up like a
small grocery store so that people shop without paying for the food we provide.
We have levels on each shelf, and they leave with anywhere from 40 to 75 pounds
of food each week.
Barbara Bell:One of our differences is that we are open every week and our
clients can shop every week. Some food pantries are open every week, but some
clients can only go once a month. If someone comes on the bus, we have
volunteers that will take them home so they don't have to struggle on the bus
with a big box of food.
Horace V.:That's awesome.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses her work with the LGBT+ population, her passion for working with those affected by HIV/AIDS, and the food pantry she has worked with for over two decades. She also discusses why she has stayed in the Asheville area for much of her adult life.
Keywords: AIDS; HIV; Loving Food Resources; Western North Carolina Community Health Services
Partial Transcript: Barbara Bell:Two of my dearest lesbian friends have a son. I'm the honorary
grandmother, and that child has been raised with more love and more care than a
lot of children I know. Both moms are teachers, and everything with him growing
up was a learning experience, but he never knew that's what it was. He didn't
know they were teaching him things. It was part of their life, and that should
be the right of every couple, same-sex or not, to raise their child and be
respected for who they are and what he does and what they do.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses a moment that shifted her perception as a straight person, and explains what being an ally truly means.
Keywords: ally; gay marriage; lesbian; the Bible Belt
Partial Transcript: Horace V.:Awesome. Would you say that stigma is less pronounced today than it was?
Barbara Bell:I think so, or the bigots are more discreet, and I think that's a
lot of it. Some people know that ... I can't really go around saying things
about people, so I keep it to myself or in my family.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses the stigma in Western North Carolina around HIV/AIDS.
Keywords: AIDS; HIV; VA Hospital; bigotry
Partial Transcript: Barbara Bell:I've gotten a lot of friends to various concerts that the chorus
does. It's like, "I never knew they existed!" I said, "We advertise." You just
have to think outside your box. And that's what I hope my straight friends will
do, is to think outside their box.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses her privilege of being straight and white, as well as her involvement with the Asheville Gay Men's Chorus.
Keywords: Asheville Gay Men's Chorus; Donald Trump; Ku Klux Klan
Barbara Bell:I think a lot of my inspiration has been from LGBTQ patients that
I've had, and the struggles that they've had to go through, the paranoia that I
mentioned in my patients lived in Clay County. It's not as pronounced here.
Volunteers always wonder what will happen if they see one of the clients in the
community. A lot of them spot me first, and they come up and they either hug or
say hello. I call them by their first name, but we don't have to talk about the
food pantry or them being my former patient at the VA.
Most of the clients I've run into, and I've run into a lot of them. I don't have
any qualms about doing that. And I've heard volunteers say, "Well, I ran into
so-and-so and he didn't seem to mind." I said, "Well, you're not going to talk
about his illness or his coming to the food pantry." Like I said before, I think
it's been a double whammy for a gay male who had HIV. And I think there have
been a lot of struggles, job-wise. I would say that all of my LGBTQ friends
inspire me, because they are honest people working to have a better life for
themselves and their families. I don't see any difference in what we're trying
to do. We're trying to live our lives. The only difference is when we love, we
love a little differently.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara explains that many of the LGBT+ patients she has worked with are her inspiration for her activism.
Keywords: AIDS; Clay County, NC
Partial Transcript: Horace V.:For sure. I definitely heard you mention how a lot of people in the
community right now are trying to make things better for younger LGBTQ folks. Do
you think that that's definitely going to be changing different things than it
would be for the older generations of the community?
Barbara Bell:I think so. We have youth out right now, and the more established
organizations like North Carolina Pride, the chorus, and other groups are
supporting them as they learn to live their lives. They have some wisdom to
share, but the younger folks have to make choices too. It frightens me from one
standpoint. And then back to the AIDS thing, because I hear kids saying, "Oh.
Well, there's medicine. There's a pill I can take. It's not a death sentence.
I'm not going to be dead in two years if I get it." And that frightens me
because there's no reason to get HIV now, and unfortunately it still happens.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses the attempts to make life better for LGBT+ young people, as well as biases against LGBT+ people that continue to exist amongst some parts of society.
Keywords: North Carolina Pride; Youth OUTRight; physician; sexual reality
Partial Transcript: Barbara:Well, I in the past have always worked at the booth for our food pantry,
Loving Food Resources. But I've had time to walk around and talk to other
nonprofits. I've been glad to see that more churches have a booth there and are
trying to be more inclusive. Because I think it's important that LGBTQ persons
are welcome in what you might call mainstream organizations like churches.
Because many have been badly hurt by the church in the past and have turned away
from the churches because of that. So I'm glad to see that more churches are
making an effort.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses her involvement with Pride, and the joining of what she calls "mainstream" organizations to the LGBT+ movement.
Keywords: Blue Ridge Pride; Blue Ridge Pride Festival; Christianity; Pride; church; food pantry
Subjects: Barbara discusses her involvement with Pride, and the joining of what she calls "mainstream" organizations to the LGBT+ movement.
Partial Transcript: Barbara:Well, as I said a few minutes ago, they can meet the community. They can
attend the Blue Ridge Pride Festival. They can attend an Asheville gay men's
chorus concert. Get to know people, invite them to gatherings that they're
having with mainly straight people. Now don't invite them as a token. Invite
them as your friend.
Segment Synopsis: Barbara discusses ways that people can be allies to the LGBT+ community.
Keywords: Asheville Gay Men's Chorus; LGBT+ ally; allyship