In Remembrance: Donald Suggs ’83 Died on October 5 2012

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Lisa Cortes ’82, Maia Ettinger ’83, and Lisa Jones ’83 write with heavy hearts to report that our dear friend, Donald Suggs ’83, died from complications of a heart condition in New York City on October 5. He was 51. 

Donald played a pivotal role in the campus movement for gay and lesbian equality that transformed Yale and the lives of many young people struggling with their sexual identity. Donald’s confidence and pride as an African American and as a gay man, his innate and infallible feminism, his infectious sense of joy, and his magnetic leadership helped usher in numerous “firsts” at Yale, including the 1982 Gay Lesbian Awareness Days, the inclusion of LGBT delegates at Yale’s freshman orientation weekend, and a ground-breaking series of gay-straight raps at which many straight students met out gay people for the very first time. Donald also is remembered with immense gratitude by the many Yalies whom he inspired and mentored during their personal journeys out of the closet.

Donald had a penchant for fashion, and delighted in using spectacle to challenge notions of gender, race, and sexuality.  A large, statuesque man known for his beautiful legs, he cut an unforgettable figure as “Amy Zing Grace,” his skirted drag persona at Yale. A true performance artist (though he would have laughed off the title), Donald enjoyed using his body as a provocative canvas for style, discussion, and debate in the vibrant cultural and political landscape of Yale in the ’80s.

A lifelong activist and journalist, Donald held positions including senior editor at the Village Voice, associate director at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and program director at Harlem United Community AIDS Center. He worked extensively on HIV prevention among young Harlemites and among African and Latino immigrant communities in New York, and organized HIV prevention education projects in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. His freelance work appeared in publications ranging from the New York Times to the Advocate.

Donald blended an uncompromising sense of justice with a deep appreciation for life’s pleasures and absurdities, inspiring his many friends, colleagues, and loved ones to struggle and celebrate in equal measure. He is survived by his partner, Jeremy Hess; mother and father, Donald and Betty; sisters Dawn and Dina; niece Delali Maxine; and grandmother, Elnora.  


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