Lorne Izzard

Out, gay, black man who moved to Halifax from Truro in 1974. TheeKlub regular and DJ at CondonsBar in the GreenLantern Building; The Turret regular; HIV/AIDS activist.1

Reprinted from TheCoast June 7, 2018, "Coast 25: Queer, now and then"

In 1974 Lorne Izzard came to Halifax for a long weekend and never left.

Born in Cape Breton, Izzard grew up in Amherst and came out as gay when he was 16. “I was but a baby,” he jokes.

Nearly two decades later, the AIDS epidemic was in full force when the Halifax-based AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia asked Izzard to attend a meeting at their office. Though they were in the heart of the Black community on Gottingen Street, the posters on the wall were all of white people.

“Their question to us was, ‘Why aren’t Black people coming in to get any of the information that we have?’” says Izzard. “‘Well,’ we said, ‘have you gone out into the community? Do people even know that you’re here?’” says Izzard. “‘And if they do, if they walk up these stairs, and they come into the office, it’s a sea of white people.’ “They said, ‘Oh my god, you’re right.’” In 1991, the Coalition got a grant and created the Black Outreach Project. The project conducted a needs assessment, printed Afrocentric materials and went into Black communities throughout the Atlantic provinces. “We did a lot, a lot of work,” says Izzard. The project was staffed by Kim Bernard, formerly of the Cultural Awareness Youth Group and member of the African Nova Scotian a cappella quartet Four the Moment. (Bernard’s interview with the AIDS Activist History Project can be found on aidsactivisthistory.ca.) Izzard remembers Bernard speaking to a convention of the African United Baptist Association. “That’s how we were able to get into the church and have the elders specifically talking about how we were losing all of our young men,” he says. Izzard also hosted weekly meetings in his apartment for young people with AIDS (including young Black men) who couldn’t find a place to meet. Through the Canadian AIDS Society, Izzard and co. found other groups “of colour and culture” who were organizing in their own communities and started the Cultural AIDS Network. The network, of which Izzard was chair, also worked with Asian communities and translated their brochures into various languages. Less than a year later the network’s funding was cut.

But it wasn’t all work for Izzard, who was never much for the bar scene. He helped start Juka, a social group for Black gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Halifax. They met in members’ homes and held some dances.

“We may not have the same views but we’re here for the same reason which is that we have nowhere else to go where we can be with our own,” Izzard says of the short-lived group.

Throughout the 90s Izzard worked full-time for the CBC. Following a series of promotions at the broadcaster, Izzard had to pare down his volunteer commitments.

“It was the same group of people who were trying to head everything up so it was very taxing,” he says. Plus Black AIDS activists weren’t always welcome by the mostly white gay male groups. “We were fighting the racism inside there plus we were marching because we weren’t allowed into the bars.”

Izzard retired from is position as supervisor technical services for television news five years ago.

Forty-four years after that fateful long weekend, Izzard still lives in Halifax. He spends his days with his partner of 14 years, Phil, travelling and enjoying some well-deserved downtime.

Lorne wrote the editorial in the February 1993 WayvesMagazine.


1. BeforeTheParade "The Voices"