A Tribute to Rodney Lofton
September 9, 1968 – March 14, 2022
The date was Wednesday, March 16, of this year. At university, a colleague brought in a newspaper from where I lived with my, the city of Richmond, Virginia. He entered my office without knocking and opened the paper and laid it across my desk. I turned from my computer screen and glanced at where he pointed with his finger. A memorial obituary for an acquaintance of mine – Rodney Lofton. He had died from complications with lung cancer on Monday, March 14, in Phoenix, Arizona.
He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in November, 2021. He was pronounced with HIV in 1993. A Richmond, Virginia, native, he returned to the city of his birth after living in New York City for several years. It was while living in New York City that he learned of his HIV status. He immediately became active in HIV+ awareness, education and services not only in Richmond but in Washington, D.C., as well.
Rodney worked to revive and then became a member of the City of Richmond Human Rights Commission. He served two terms in that position.
Rodney served on various boards and commissions nationally and throughout the states. His service in the City of Richmond, Virginia, and for the Commonwealth of Virginia (the focus here for this post), was both beneficial and profound. He was the very first African-American to serve as a senior staff person at the community GLBTQ+ advocacy group, Diversity Richmond. In this capacity he was vice-president and then deputy director. He was instrumental in opening doors previously closed to persons of colour in the former capital city of the old Confederate States.
In his time, he created the Black and Bold Awards to honour the contributions that Black GLBTQ+ persons made to the City of Richmond and to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Later, he created a similar award programme for the Latino community.
In 2015, Rodney was the recipient of the OUTStanding Virginia award presented by Equality Virginia to a person who dutifully positively represented the community in the public eye.
Among his numerous volunteer efforts, he also actively participated in the Red Cross HIV/AIDS prevention education programmes. I will deliver more on this topic in the second part of today’s post here.
Rodney Lofton was the author of two books. The first book entitled The Day I Stopped Being Pretty: A Memoir was published on October 16, 2007. This memoir chronicles his life journey from childhood to adulthood in honest and riveting detail. He relates his bad times, good times and all the moments in between. He bares his soul and affords us the perspective of a gay Black male recognizing his uniqueness in the unfolding world of the “New South.”
His second novel was published two years later on June 30, 2009. His second book entitled No More Tomorrows: Two Lives, Two Stories, One Love. Lofton’s second book is a novel relaying the bromance and drama of two contemporary same gender loving men and their relationship. Both titles were nominated the year of publication for a Lambda Literary Award.
The current City of Richmond City Council unanimously passed a Statement of Tribute in early March, 2022. It was signed by Mayor Stoney and delivered to Rodney in Phoenix, Arizona, shortly before he died. In the statement, City Council noted: “Rodney served for many years as a local and national GLBTQ+ leader and compassionate voice.”
Rodney Lamont Lofton is survived by his husband, Faron Niles.
A Personal Thought on Rodney Lofton:
As teenagers, my identical twin brother, Alex, and myself – once we understood our same gender attraction – would frequently visit the riverside park in our city, especially the “gay beach” area where we could “hang out” with our own kind. Twin and I liked the fact that we could be clothes free here while on summer vacation from our residential Deaf school. This was where we met Rodney. He and Twin became friends while Rodney and I remained acquaintances – we’d pass notes while together but that was the limit of our relationship.
Fast forward to the middle 1990’s. Due to the HIV/AIDS crisis, I became a very active volunteer in prevention education with my local chapter of the Red Cross. I worked primarily with teenagers and young adults in outreach efforts to raise knowledge and understanding among their peers. As a Deaf instructor-trainer in the Red Cross HIV/AIDS curriculum, I was frequently sought by the national organization and the various local chapters for advice and service.
I served as a co-chairman on the programme to create, develop and implement a focused curriculum for teens in HIV prevention strategies and techniques. This two-year project culminated with a four-day training conference involving 150 teenage training candidates and the project developers/educators. The name determined for the project was Teen Voice. This provided me the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with Rodney Lofton.
For the duration of the educational sessions, Rodney and I were room-mates at the facility used for the training. At nights after our sessions, we passed notes while naked in our shared room and smoking our cigarettes, expelling the smoke through our open window. Because of our note exchange, we kept the room lights on. At the reception at the end of our programme, one of our co-instructors commented privately that he enjoyed watching the two of us smoking nude in our room at night! We both shared laughter at our “exposure” at the Red Cross Teen Voice conference!
Over the nights and notes, we developed a casual friendship and an understanding of our roles within the Red Cross HIV/AIDS project. We also recalled days at the riverside park in Richmond hanging out nude and skinny-dipping in the river.
The Memorial Service
I attended the above memorial service for Rodney. Twin wanted to attend but had a professional commitment that he needed to participate. There was no interpreter present so all I could do was observe the mourners present. It did me good to be there and offer my sentiments internally.
A shared past and our shared nudity!
Rest in peace, Rodney Lofton!
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next planned post entry here is for Monday, April 18, 2022, and the proposed topic is: “April Appeal: Nakations!”