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The H. Franklin Brooks Philanthropic Fund

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About The Brooks Fund

Established in 1995, The H. Franklin Brooks Philanthropic Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee encourages the inclusion, acceptance and recognition of Middle Tennessee's lesbian and gay citizens by supporting a variety of nonprofit programs in Middle Tennessee enhancing the quality of life for the LGBT community and building bridges between all segments of the community.

The Brooks Fund is focused on preventing disconnection, promoting understanding and providing education and is building an endowment to support the needs of the LGBT community, now and forever.

From The Brooks Fund’s inception to today, we have worked to be a bridge-building entity. We were founded for the purpose of building bridges between the LGBT community and the community-at-large, and between local nonprofits and donors committed to issues of tolerance and education.

We set out to create a permanent source of funding dedicated to these goals and committed to supporting these efforts in Middle Tennessee. That focus remains the same, and The Brooks Fund’s mission continues to be fulfilled thanks to the generosity and support of many and the dedicated leadership of a talented, diverse group of advisory board members.

A Look at The Life of H. Franklin Brooks

Franklin Brooks - 1979H. Franklin Brooks never really talked about himself because he always wanted to talk about what was going on in the lives of others. He was a distinguished gentleman and a gracious host who loved to bring people together. Life was a pleasant party filled with arts, love and laughter. Franklin Brooks wanted all people to feel included, no matter what their way of life.

He was a listener — genuinely interested in all people, not just those like him. He could sit down and listen to a four-year-old child as intently and with as much engagement as he would with a colleague or student. That was the thing that made him so beloved. He had a unique way with people, and his agenda was the whole human family.

For 25 years, Franklin Brooks was one of the most beloved figures on Vanderbilt University’s campus. As an associate professor in the Department of French and Italian, he was repeatedly recognized in the classroom — as much for his creative teaching technique — as for his natural friendliness and personal integrity.

Franklin was instrumental in leading the dialogue that eventually helped include gays and lesbians in Vanderbilt’s anti-harassment policy in the late 1980s. He was also the faculty sponsor for the first lesbian and gay students organization on campus.

After Franklin's death in 1994, a group of his friends wanted to honor him and to continue his forthright championing of human rights, and so The Brooks Fund was created at The Community Foundation. Franklin's tireless work to promote equality for gay and lesbians and diversity among the community as a whole is a legacy that lives on through The Brooks Fund.


About The Brooks Fund History Project

"They had a common characteristic even the people themselves didn't recognize — courage." -Nashville Scene

The Brooks Fund History Project is ongoing and diverse multimedia archival record of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) life in Middle Tennessee.

The initial stage of this extensive and groundbreaking project has focused on collecting oral histories and related materials from members of the LGBT community, which will be archived for use by researchers, educators, and individuals and from which a documentary film will be produced

Since spring 2009, Deidre Duker and Phil Bell have conducted extensive interviews, chronicling the lives of Middle Tennesseans as part of Phase I of The History Project. It contains interviews with gay, transgender and bisexual residents, reflecting on life here before 1970, and how homosexuality was viewed in the larger community.

"Gay and lesbian citizens of Middle Tennessee have a lot to tell us about what life was like for them fifty or sixty years ago,” said Iris Buhl, volunteer chair of The History Project. “They were – and are – an integral part of the fabric of this community. Our knowledge of the history of Middle Tennessee is incomplete without their stories. That’s why the Brooks Fund is committed to this effort.”

Documentary Trailer & Interviews

Of the 26 interviews collected, 11 are gay men, some of whom led dual lives before the 70s; and five lesbian and two transsexual women. Three more interviews were conducted with same sex couples, one with a group recollecting the early days of gay bars in Nashville; and four with straight observers. The average age of gay men interviewed was about 73; the lesbian and transgender women were, on average, about 71-years-old.

All but two participants were videotaped, which will be archived in the Oral History section of the Nashville Public Library for use by researchers, educators and other interested people. Many also graciously donated relevant memorabilia from the period being recorded. When the interviews are complete, Duker plans to create a documentary drawn from the collected footage, with the goal of showing it on television.

“The biggest revelation was how much courage it took for most of our interviewees to talk to us,” said Buhl. “The old fears are still very deeply engrained in so many of them, even if they are leading relatively open lives now. As a result, each story is very special and each person a hero.”

Final preparations are underway to make these incredible stories available in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Library for public use by researchers, educators, and others interested in knowing of the courage of members of an earlier generation that struggled for acceptance with themselves, their family and community. Additionally, a documentary—anticipated for a Winter 2015 premiere—is beginning to take shape from the hours of recorded audio and video.

The Brooks Fund History Project is made possible through the vision, resources, and continuing commitment of donors and volunteers.

LGBT History Project Steering Committee
Iris Buhl, Chair
Community Volunteer

Phil Bell

John Bridges

Deidre Duker
Producer, Writer

Roger Moore, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Vanderbilt University

Robyn Smith

Dan Cornfield, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Director, Vanderbilt Institute for Nashville Studies
Vanderbilt University
The Brooks Fund History Project Consultant

Our Advisory Board

The Advisory Board of The Brooks Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is comprised of community members who share the vision of a more accepting and tolerant community. They include business leaders, educators, community volunteers, nonprofit executives, and professionals from all walks of life. Advisory Board members oversee the activities of The Brooks Fund, which includes grantmaking, fundraising, strategic planning, education, alliance-building, and public awareness.

Amy Parker, Chair
Amos Gott, Vice-Chair
Jim Schmidt, Secretary
Todd Grantham, Past Chair

Emily Allen
Stephanie Barger
Anthony Barton
Kyle Bradley
Roger Gore
Miguel Otero
Pat Patrick
Ellen Pryor
Dayna Reid
Michelle Renee
Scott Ridgway
Randy Silcox
Shelly Steel
Maryglenn Warnock
Peter Westerholm
John Winnett
Michael McDaniel, Coordinator

Ex Officio Members
John A. Bridges
Iris W. Buhl
Hal Cato
Keith Merrill
Mike Smith
Robyn Smith
William (Bill) Walker

The Brooks Fund's Grantmaking

With the help of our generous donors, supporters and volunteers over the past 20 years, The Brooks Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has granted over $223,900 to a variety of nonprofit organizations.

These organizations offer a wide range of services to the Middle Tennessee community including:
• cultural activities like film festivals and plays
• outreach programs focusing on crisis management, violence prevention, and healthcare access
• youth programs offering counseling, mentoring, and scholarships
• community services such as hotlines, peer counseling, and support groups
• training programs on topics of sensitivity/diversity, youth issues, and safety.

The Brooks Fund is committed to increasing its endowment and support of worthy organizations that are working to build bridges and break down barriers. The Brooks Fund annually accepts grant applications from Middle Tennessee nonprofits supporting the LGBT community, through The Community Foundation’s discretionary grant process. For more information, visit  or contact The Community Foundation at 615-321-4939.

Make a gift to The Brooks Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Grantmaking snapshot of the past six years:

Tennessee Equality Project Foundation – Equality Means Business campaign is a program to identify businesses that do not discriminate against their customers or employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This program gives businesses a volunteer way to show inclusiveness and send a signal that they are welcoming of the LGBT community.
Nashville in Harmony – Goals initiative are to promote the arts the mission of the organization through the area youth, including spring season concert with Hunters Lane High School located in Nashville, TN.
Jewish Family Services of Nashville and Middle Tennessee – Continence supporting home studies and coordinate child placement and post-placement services to the GLBT community
Oasis Center, Inc. – LGBTQ youth led program called #SMOKEFREERAINBOWS, Targeting the disproportionately high rates of smoking in the LGBTQ community. Advertising campaign and engaging with the community to promote anti-smoking.

Jewish Family Service of Nashville and Middle Tennessee -
To support adoption home studies, coordinating placement and post-placement services to the gay and lesbian community.

Middle Tennessee State University Foundation - To support the presentation of first LGBTQ College Conference for 30 TBR Institutions and Middle Tennessee community organizations.

Oasis Center - To support LGBT youth as they create positive change in their lives and in the community.

Jewish Family Service of Nashville and Middle Tennessee  - To provide support for adoption home studies, coordinating placement and post-placement services for the gay and lesbian community.
Oasis Center  - To provide a safe and affirming place for GLBT youth to participate in changing their community.

Jewish Family Service of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Inc. - To conduct adoption home studies, coordinate child placement and post-placement services to the gay and lesbian community.
Nashville in Harmony - To help underwrite outreach and performance activities for the 2011/2012 season, "Mosaic...Voices for Change."
Oasis Center, Inc. - To support the “Just Us” program, which is dedicated to helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth to achieve their full potential.

Nashville Film Festival
- To support the GLBTQ programs at the annual Nashville Film Festival which provides a platform for education, entertainment and enlightenment by connecting communities and fostering a greater understanding and tolerance.
Nashville in Harmony - To help underwrite outreach and performance activities for the 2010/2011 season, “A Home for Us All.”

Abintra Montessori School
–To underwrite the costs of videos and lesson guides for parent education sessions around LGBT issues.
Nashville in Harmony - To produce a collaborative chorus concert piece with Voices of Kentuckiana.
People's Branch Theatre -To support artistic fees and production costs for the Obie award-winning musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Abintra Montessori School
–To provide support to gay and lesbian families on how to explain their parental configuration or parents of classmates.
Nashville Film Festival - To host LGBT films and filmmakers during the annual film festival.
Nashville in Harmony - To create a chorus performance piece to be performed at a concert in May.
OutCentral, Inc. - To develop a community calendar and database of nonprofit organizations serving the GLBTQIF community.