Dayvin Hallmon, a Gay African American Making History in Kenosha
Some people strive to make history. They’ll climb a mountain or decree a ban on immigrants knowing full well the world is watching. Others make history without the narcissism of intent. Dayvin Hallmon, a gay African American Kenosha County Board supervisor is in the latter.
Born, coincidently enough, on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Jan. 15, Hallmon was raised in Racine and came out when he was 18. His family didn’t take it well. Over a decade later, he calls his family relationship “in recovery.” He attended UW-Parkside where he became involved in LGBTQ issues, becoming the president of the UW-P Rainbow Alliance. A trained classical, jazz and gospel musician, Hallmon has also made his name in the local arts and music scene.
An inadvertent politician, a friend recruited Hallmon to run for office a decade ago. First elected to the Kenosha County Board in 2008 at age 23 (half the age of his colleagues), he immediately made an impression. At his first board meeting, the young upstart chastised his fellow supervisors for coming unprepared to the board’s session. Since then he has been reelected four times. He also ran unsuccessfully for state Legislature in 2012. He continues to respond to the county’s complicated social and political demands. Today, Hallmon still makes headlines and challenges his colleagues.
His achievements in the Kenosha area’s LGBTQ community development include obtaining domestic partnership benefits for county employees (before marriage equality), co-founding the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin and Kenosha Pride. Of course, as a county board supervisor his political advocacy is all-inclusive, dealing with healthcare, mortgage and foreclosure issues as well as employment and economic development. He has written legislation for joint city and county sustainability and most recently submitted a resolution on hate crimes and violence toward minorities.
As a gay African American and with his own litany of experiences to draw on, he is acutely aware of the issues of discrimination and racism. He recounted an instance when he confronted Congressman Paul Ryan. In a meeting with black community leaders, Ryan refused to talk about racism. Hallmon called out the congressman saying “over the course of that meeting you mentioned five times that you were Irish Catholic but wanted to hear nothing of the black experience in America. I was appalled by your audacity...and your casual yet blatant disregard for the lives of black people that are your constituents.”
In a recent WRJN Radio interview, one exchange defines Hallmon’s take on social justice. Asked whom he thought was most persecuted in the LGBT community, Hallmon deferred. “We do not rank who gets most discriminated against because that causes gaps,” he said. But the interviewer persisted until Hallmon stopped him with an impassioned vehemence, saying “People have to learn to stop doing that! Everyone is worthy! That’s why some people get rights and some don’t. That’s how you get advances for LGBTQ but nothing for people of color; something for women but nothing for the poor.” He told me he observed the studio sound technician lowering the volume slider, twice.
Hallmon easily admits, “The county board doesn’t know what to think about me.” But it should seem abundantly clear to any leader, in today’s political environment, he is the model to follow.