Tag Archives: AIDS

Associated Press: An Apology For Hillary ?

29 Aug

clinton-foundationHow sad and disheartening that the Associated Press (AP) has devolved to the likes of Fox News, where one can “report” a series of lies and present it as news. What is even more profoundly disturbing is that when confronted with the fact that they the AP had no evidence of wrong doing and should offer a retraction, they took a very petulant “I got my hand caught in the cookie jar”defense. Is the AP trying to model itself off of the behavior of Trump?

For those not familiar with the story, some brief background. Last week the AP pitched a story that screamed “Half of the people Hillary Clinton met with as Secretary of State were Clinton Foundation donors!!” The problem? They only looked at two years of her time as Secretary of State. They threw out every meeting she had with anyone they considered a “government official.” Left with 154 PRIVATE CITIZEN meetings (out of over 7000), it’s a wonder that only 85 turned out to be donors to a major philanthropic organization. When major news outlets — including professional Clinton basher the New York Times — called them out and asked for details, the AP refused.

Honestly, I was embarrassed for Stephen Braun and Eileen Sullivan of the AP. Their claims and allegations are not only unfounded but read as though it is a parody from The Onion: “Secretary of State Clinton talked to very important people and even took money for her foundation.” Really? Is it that far of a stretch to think that high profile people talk to other high profile people and ask them for money for a foundation–and by the way, The Clinton Foundation helps to provide medication for more than half of all adults and 75% of children impacted by HIV/AIDS world wide, not insignificant.

In fact, if you take the time to comb through Braun and Sullivan’s article, you will see they have zero evidence to corroborate any wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton. Sadly, when faced with this subterfuge by Braun and Sullivan last Tuesday, they have offered no apology, no repair, and in fact have approached the debacle in a very Trumpian manner.  Perhaps, they are trying to build a wall around Hillary and they will force her grandson Aidan to pay for it? Journalism requires honesty and transparency. How sad that the AP instead opted for innuendo and smear tactics, picking “facts” to prove a flawed thesis.

What is of great concern is that the AP article reads like a bunch of anti-Hillary bumper stickers. There seems to be great intent on behalf of Braun and Sullivan to deliver talking points without any substance, an approach we have seen used by the likes of Fox News. Yes, I admit, it is a low blow to be compared to Fox, and that is where you are now AP (in my best, “but y’are Blanche, y’are!” voice). When did AP start to stand for Appalling Practices?

One of the Voices of Social Justice: Tama Seavey

23 Sep

Tama and I became friendsTama through social media and we both do the same type of work. I had posted a story about Paula Deen and Trayvon Martin and received a great deal of rather nasty resistance from a particular white heterosexual male.  His comments opened the door to meet a great number of lovely people such as Tama. We both run companies that provide Diversity/Inclusion and Racial Equity workshops. Sadly, we are across the country from each other, but I still hold out some hope that we will get to work together.  As you will see from this interview, it is difficult not to fall in love with Tama.

Many of you may already know Tama by her last name or by the work she does. Her first husband was Neal Seavey, a news reporter for WNBC who died of AIDS in 1983.  Tama lights up when she talks about Neal and it is clear she was drawn to him because of his dedication and commitment to civil rights and social justice, core values which Tama shares. Her experience being married to a gay man helped Tama become a fierce LGBT ally and understand the intersections of oppression.  Her amazing compassion demonstrates that she operates from a place of abundance rather than deficit.  Like her late husband, Tama  challenges:  racism, heterosexism and the abuses against targeted people wherever she can.

Here is the interview with this lovely and amazing woman, Tama Seavey.

Tama is a black woman who will celebrate her 57th birthday in October.  She lived with her mother and her family in Newark, NJ until she was 11.  She left home at the age of 12 and lived in 14 different homes within the foster care system.  All 14 of the homes were white.  While Tama describes herself as “being a handful,” I suspect she was using all of her resources just to survive.  She managed to graduate high school with honors at 16. She was married at age 19 and graduated from the University of New Hampshire.  She has three daughters — she lights up when she talks about her daughters.

Tama, what brings you to the  work of social justice? 

I worked for a number of years in administrative capacities in human service agencies noting the great disparity between their stated missions/social justice agendas and the reality of how people of color and other disenfranchised people were treated both staff and clients.  All of the isms were present internally and demonstrated to the clients. The stated agendas were there with the funding dollars flowing freely to the agency based on the missions, yet the reality was every agency failed dramatically to “live to the missions/visions.”

I was outraged at what I saw as mini racist and exclusionary societies supported and functioning primarily with government dollars and realized the true meaning of systemic racism.  How systems were linked together – networked together to bring about a complete system of organized oppression against targeted populations.  The understanding of this fueled my drive to turn it around, one agency at a time, sometimes one individual at a time and to be a voice of freedom from oppression.  I decided to work as a change agent in every aspect of my life.

Over the course of the following years, I have brought education, training, insight, and management change to boards, executives, and managers of diverse non-profit human services organizations working to create systemic change while teaching to build effective bridges between the mainstream population and those who have been denied access in our society.

Do you consider yourself an activist?

Yes, very much so.  My roots are in activism and I believe in activism at the grassroots level.  I am an effective trainer, writer, speaker and have worked for years studying organizations, systems and the responses of systems to the pressure of duty and responsibility to be inclusive entities and non-supporting of racism and injustice.  I believe that change – the sustained change we are looking for — that will create change for excluded populations will only come as a result of grassroots activism and by those people who work outside of the systems that keep exclusionary/unjust behaviors in place.

People comprise the systems that keep racism, discrimination, harassment and overall exclusion in place.  This condition in our country does not come from some huge overall entities without names and faces.  Those people sitting in the positions of power need to be called to task for maintaining the power imbalance, the privilege imbalance and for denying opportunity to all people.  This tipping of the scale, I believe, can only be accomplished through grassroots activism work.

What should marginalized communities do to have a stronger voice?

Oh, the list is very long.  At the top though is that they must speak and must speak the truth of their experience (no sugar coating, no finding the exact perfect words to appease mainstream society’s [white men and women with power] delicate sensibilities) – they must speak the truth of the experiences of exclusion.  Marginalized communities must stop tolerating their experiences and “challenge with the purpose to change” when presented with discrimination and harassment.  They must use every resource available to seek compensation and force as much justice as is available.  We, as minority individuals, walk away from challenging what we meet up with far too often saying to ourselves “we must pick the right battle.”  This walking away and waiting for the right battle plays a part in strengthening the system of injustice.  Every instance is a reason to speak and every act of discrimination and harassment is actionable.  So, getting educated to your rights is probably number 1 with the rest following.  The system of injustice will not end/will not be changed until there are penalties in place and the penalties are paid by those who perpetuate it.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I believe there is a difference between duty and responsibility.  I have worked towards a legacy that will be that I fulfilled my responsibilities for the choices I made in my life and I lived up to my duty to humanity by being of service to others.

Tama, thank you for sharing just a part of your narrative. I hope we get to hear more narratives like yours and that we all can take action.  How lovely it would be if all targeted people could stand in solidarity with one another.  I am very grateful that I have Tama in my world.

Number 4 Hero of the Year 2012: President Barack Obama

28 Dec
Number 4 Hero of 2012

Number 4 Hero of 2012

It’s been a challenging year for President Obama. The hijinks of the obstructionist Republican leadership made even his best efforts challenging. Facing reelection with a still fragile economy, he also had to deal with steady criticism from the left. While there may be more he could have done, he still accomplished a great deal in spite of large obstacles. He also continued to rebuild the human face of the Presidency — mugging with Olympic athlete McKayla Maroney, hugging victims of hurricane Sandy and surviving family members in Newtown, and letting a small boy rub his head in the Oval Office.

What stands out most clearly, however, is his support of marriage equality. President Obama has worked hard for equality — dismantling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, refusing to defend DOMA, extending same-sex benefits to federal employees — but nothing resonated like his interview in May. Never before had a President stated clearly that all loving couples deserve to marry. His words helped shift public opinion, with numerous polls showing a new, consistent majority for equality. His encouragement had a huge impact on the African-American community, arguably making the difference in marriage equality passing in Maryland. His courage and clarity, in a year where silence might have seemed a safer option until after the election, is notable and speaks to his character and leadership.

Now that he has a second clear mandate to lead real change in his second term, let’s hope for more of this. Not just for the LGBT community, either, but pushing back against the war on women and taking a strong stand against poverty and inequity. It’s been a good, if challenging, four years. Can the next four be even better? Yes, they can.

Because TSM was very fortunate to receive so many lovely nominations for Hero of the Year Award, I had to list many splendid honorable mentions. Honorable mention goes to all the grass-roots activists in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington who helped those states achieve historic victories for LGBT equality. Learning from mistakes of the past, they crafted clear, effective messages, raised funds $5 at a time, and pushed back the forces of bigotry to great effect.

Honorable mention also goes to two brave women. Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer was discharged from the military for being honest about her sexual orientation in 1992. She stood up for LGBT equality and fought discrimination and DADT for years. In the space of a year she saw that equality become a reality and was one of the first to marry her same-sex partner in Washington state when marriage equality became a reality there. Brigadier General Tammy Smith included her wife in the ceremony where she accepted her new rank, making her the first openly serving LGBT general in U.S. history.

Finally a sad farewell and honorable mention to AIDS activist Spencer Cox. He was instrumental in moving forward clinical trials of HIV fighting medicines in the 1990s, proposing protocols and helping shred bureaucracy to accelerate the availability of life-saving drugs. He died this month at the young age of 44.  Let us hope we get to Zero soon–zero new infections and zero AIDS related deaths.

World AIDS Day, 2012: Getting to Zero!

1 Dec
Let Us All Work to Getting to Zero!

Let Us All Work to Getting to Zero!

December 1 marks World AIDS Day.  While the atmosphere is looking rather optimistic and we have a President who is supportive of health care for all, we must not grow complacent. We must remain ever vigilant if our goal is to get to Zero new infections and Zero new deaths due to the impact of HIV.

For those of us that were alive in the 1980s, we saw the devastation of the gay male community, where doctors would refuse to treat gay men impacted by HIV.  We had to witness President Reagan not even saying the word AIDS or recognizing the epidemic.

The Gay Community had double the stigma: being gay and impacted by HIV.  Most of us can talk about friends we lost.  Let us hope those types of conversations have been — or soon will be — relegated to the past.

Today is a great invitation to the world to stand in solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters who are impacted by HIV.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 20, John Motter

20 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to a dear friend of mine, John Motter.  John is another fierce advocate for social justice and has dedicated his life to helping marginalized populations.  John understands  what it means to serve as a champion for those who suffer from the intersections of oppression and multiple identities, which makes him an ideal person for TSM to celebrate.

While all of us that know John describe him as a compassionate activist who makes the world a better place, John shies away from such accolades.  John was kind enough to sit with me on a cold, rainy June day in Portland, Oregon and share part of his background and where he is today.  As you will see, John’s journey thus far has not been an easy one.

I grew up in Findlay, Ohio, a very white and very conservative environment—difficult to grow up as a gay male.  I came out in 1979.  I lived in the D.C. area in 1983 through 1995, which means I was in D.C. at the height of the AIDS epidemic at a time when Ronald Reagan could not even say the word AIDS.  All of these things set the tone for me seeing a great many inequities.  I attended Howard University in D.C. for two years from 1989 to 1991 and majored in accounting. Many of my professors had been tokenized in the business world before coming to teach at Howard.  All of my professors were incredibly demanding.

I think it is important for people to know about my alcoholism  and substance abuse and the fact that I was an IV drug user and went to prison.  Going to prison was the catalyst that helped me become an activist—I don’t look at myself as an activist, but I guess I am.  Going through the prison system is so ridiculous and you see who and how it punishes—there is certainly no rehabilitation in prison.  The inequities you see in the prison system are startling.  You see people that have committed large scale white collar criminals come out with all of their assets intact.  I was in prison with seven other people on a conspiracy sentence and all seven of us were gay and HIV+.  We were able to be open about it because there was strength in numbers, but for others that is not the reality.

In August of 2002 I was released from prison and I am celebrating 11 years of being clean and sober.  I went to live my brother Bill, who is also gay and that is when I started volunteering at Cascade AIDS Project (CAP).

Among his long list of accomplishments, John served as the Co-Chair of the Ryan White Planning Council and spokesperson with the National HIV Stops With Me Program.  John also serves as the Treasurer for Hepatitis, HIV, AIDS, and Awareness Project (HHAAP).  In addition to spending 15 and a half months in Kenya working with people impacted by HIV, he also runs the Positive Self-Management Program, which is a seven week program to help people manage living with HIV.  Currently, John teaches this class at CAP. He also coordinates the Speakers Bureau at CAP.

When asked what is next, John replied:

One of my next steps is to make it through the next five months (John is currently battling Hep C).  The interferon can make one very depressed and or irrationally irritable.  The depression can be all consuming including feeling suicidal.  They physical effects on my body have been profound, with severe pain and or the inability to eat.

Sometimes I think I need to slow down a bit and take some time for myself (I have yet to see John take time for himself) but I also feel that I have to do my piece, which means empowering somebody else to advocate for our community.

I need to thank John for sharing a part of his story.  Everyone in the LGBT community owes John a great deal of thanks for his tireless efforts in battling stigma and working to empower people with multiple identities impacted by HIV.

Celebrating Donna Summer

20 May

I was truly saddened to learn that the Queen of Disco had died. Donna Summer, a staple of the music of my youth and definer of a generation, succumbed to lung cancer at the young age of 63 last week.

LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born in Boston in 1948. She began singing in church and joined a band, Crow, while in high school. Crow failed to land a record deal and broke up, so she went to New York, where she auditioned for Hair in 1967. Losing the part to Melba Moore, Gaines accepted an offer to join the cast of the musical in Munich. She became fluent in German and began a successful singing career in Germany and Austria. She had a brief marriage to Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer, which gave her her daughter, Mimi, and the last name that — with a vowel switch — became legendary.

She hooked up with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, who helped her craft her sound. She had the bare bones of a song which they helped finish. In 1975, it became her first international hit, Love to Love You Baby, taking her to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the next three years she ruled the U.S. Dance charts (with eight top tens, five of which spent a total of 21 weeks at #1) but only managed one more pop Top 10, I Feel Love. In 1978, as disco fever began to sweep America, her persistence paid off.

Quickly gaining her crown as the Queen of Disco, Summer continued her Dance chart dominance and became a force to be reckoned with on the Hot 100, R&B, and Album charts. Unlike many other disco stars (such as the Bee Gees), she continued to evolve her sound, maintaining a strong chart presence into the 21st Century. Among her many awards were five Grammys (with an additional 12 nominations). Her Billboard chart performance is also remarkable.

  • On the Hot 100, she was the #16 artist of the 70s (really only charting for three years of the decade), in the top 50 of the 80s, and comes in at #53 overall. She racked up four #1s, spending 13 weeks at the top, and another 10 Top 10 hits. She hit the top 40 every year from 1976 to 1984, a run beating the likes of Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney and only exceeded by Elton John for those decades.
  • On the R&B chart, she is the #76 performer overall, with two #1s and a dozen Top 10s.
  • On the Dance chart, she comes in at #3 overall, beaten only by Madonna and Janet Jackson, whose careers owe much to the Queen. She had 24 Top 10s, 12 of which went to #1, spending an incredible 48 weeks at the top.
  • On the Album chart she comes in at #137 with three #1s for eight weeks. She’s the #18 female solo artist on that chart and is the only performer to hit the top three times with double albums.

All the awards aside, she’s also an icon. As the pre-eminent singer of the era when the gay community was finding its voice and before the AIDS crisis, she became one of the biggest gay divas. This relationship became strained when it was rumored that she used her Christian faith to bash the “gay lifestyle” but she fervently denied the charges and apologized for the misconceptions. She also raised money for AIDS causes and allowed free use of her song She Works Hard for the Money by feminist organizations. She leaves behind her three daughters and her husband of 32 years, Bruce Sudano.

I had left  Donna Summer behind by the time I met my husband thirteen years ago. She was a major part of his formative years –he even performed along to  Last Dance in his room in his platform shoes — so he reintroduced me to her music. It was a joy to learn her music again and enjoy it together. She was a powerful singer and a unique talent. Farewell, gracious Queen, let’s dim all the lights.

Hero of the Week Award: February 3, Martha Boggs

3 Feb

Hero of the Week

Thank you to my dear friend and LGBT ally, Mary Suave for inspiring this article and nominating Martha Boggs for HWA.  Sadly, Republican Tennessee state senator Stacey Campfield again demonstrated his utter ignorance and bigotry when he went on record saying:

…it isvirtually impossible to get HIV/AIDS through heterosexual sex, and that only gay people get the disease. He also claimed that HIV began after a gay man had sex with a monkey.

Does Campfield live in a cave with other KKK members?  Currently there are several specific heterosexual populations that are at highest risk for contracting HIV.  One of those populations is young teens that have only had “Abstinence Only” programs.  I would say that anyone associated with Campfield and his ignorance is probably at high risk.

Thank you to our hero Martha Boggs, owner of Bistro at the Bijou , for kicking Senator Campfield out of her restaurant for his bigotry.  Boggs was quoted as saying:

I hope that Stacy Campfield now knows what if feels like to be unfairly discriminated against.

Martha, you certainly earned this week’s HWA and thank you!  Click here to see the video of Boggs.

I also have to give the State of Washington an Honorable Mention for the Senate passed the Marriage Equality bill!

Milton Hershey School: Playground for Discrimination

7 Dec

Say NO to Discrimination

When I think of schools, I think of places designed to educate, empower, and enlighten students in a safe and nurturing way.  Granted, I know not all schools live up to this notion, but to learn of a school that actively discriminates against an already vulnerable population is profoundly disturbing.  What is unforgivable to me is that a school, the Milton Hershey School, is contributing to the stigma and prejudice that exists against those living with HIV.

When reading the mission statement of the Milton Hershey School, I have to say that it sounds like such a wonderful environment and resource for students:

Milton Hershey School nurtures and educates children in social and financial need to lead fulfilling and productive lives.

The vision statement is even more impressive:

Today, Milton Hershey School is a cost-free, private, coeducational home and school for children from families of low income, limited resources, and social need. The School is funded by a trust established by Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine. Milton Hershey School offers a positive, structured home life year-round and an excellent pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. Our vision focuses on building character and providing children with the skills necessary to be successful in all aspects of life.

To learn that the Milton Hershey School denied admission to a 13-year old who is living with HIV seems to run contrary to the mission and vision of the school.  How is the school “building character” when they are modeling discrimination?

I spent some time trying to reach anyone at the Milton Hershey School for comment, but to no avail. I encourage all TSM readers to take action by clicking here and signing a petition telling the school that it is unacceptable to deny admission to students living with HIV.  How sad that we have to educate a school about HIV and that it is not an easily communicable disease.

While discriminating against anyone living with HIV is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Milton Hershey School states:

…we cannot accommodate the needs of students with chronic communicable diseases that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

The school is desperately in need of an HIV 101 education class, for then they would know that admitting this 13-year old boy does not pose a threat to the health and safety of others.  Is this 1985?  Is Ronald Reagan still alive and now working at the Milton Hershey School?

Bigot of the Week: December 2, Christians for a Moral America

2 Dec

Bigot of the Week

This week’s truly vile BWA recipient proves once again that many people don’t understand the word “Christian.” After the announcement that singer George Michael was hospitalized for pneumonia, a represetative of the group Christians for a Moral America posted a series of tweets encouraging people to pray for his death. Really? This is behavior modelled after Jesus Christ? Who would Jesus hate, after all?  What a lovely group of KKKristians these people are.

The group’s website (click if you dare) features a horrific picture of Michael and a series of outright lies. The story uses the word “deathbed” in its title; while his situation was grave, neither the doctors nor his family characterized it in this way. In fact, he seems to be recovering well. I guess those prayers just didn’t work. The website also maintains that pneumonia is a “symptom of AIDS” which is medically misleading at best and manages to ignore the millions of people who get one disease without the other.

Let us all hope for the best for George Michael, and condemn the hatemongering of groups that attack a man while he’s down.

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