Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

MLK Day of Service 2017: Celebrate Rep. John Lewis

16 Jan

john-lewisMr. Trump’s attack on civil rights hero John Lewis certainly underscores and unequivocally proves the need to celebrate our civil rights pioneers. I had the great honor of actually getting to meet Rep. John Lewis when he spoke at the Atlanta Girl’s School at a convocation we held. While I had always loved and admired Rep. Lewis, and I was fortunate enough to live in his district for many years, after his speech, all I could think of was: I want all children to turn out like this man!

Rep. John Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and endured such physical assaults and hate during the civil rights movement. Yet he emerged as this beautiful soul who has done nothing but promote peace, love, and equity for targeted populations — this has been his life’s work. To see him attacked by Mr. Trump who only has a legacy of avarice, mendacity, and divisiveness, hurts my heart more than I can say. The old rules of human decency seem to no longer apply. The United States seems to only reward sociopathic billionaires now who tweet late into the nighttime how their feelings have been hurt.

With the ascension/anointment of Mr. Trump, we have seen how his supporters are emboldened to thwart human decency. Case in point, Biloxi, Mississippi has renamed MLK Day to “Observance of Great Americans Day.” Thanks, Biloxi. You have made it painfully clear that only white heterosexual men are welcomed to your white city. This new celebration will also celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I think I just spat up a little in my mouth. More evidence of how emboldened Trump supporters have become, we witness Republican Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter calling Lewis “a racist pig.” Mr. Hunter, you clearly do not understand the word racism. Please step down from your position of power.

I grow exceedingly tired of Trump supporters including Trump’s bitch (NBC) and famous idiots like Nicole Kidman who keep telling us: “We have to trust Trump and support him.”  Why on earth would any targeted person/community trust this man, when he keeps appointing White Supremacists, Homophobes, Misogynists, billionaires to his cabinet? Help me understand why on earth should we trust him.

I am inviting all of us in the United States to reflect around our own racism and encourage conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also invite us to think about how we see our country. For all of us white folk, now is the time for us to stand up against racism — to speak out against and resist those who continue to participate in the system of racism. I am asking for us to become activists and NOT to speak for nor speak over black voices. Find out what it means to be an ally. If you are not speaking out against Trump and against racism then you are colluding with the oppressor. Mr. Trump just cancelled his MLK Day visit to the National African American Museum “because he is too busy.” What kind of message does that send to all of us about his commitment to heal a divided nation and to address systemic racism? If you need to cry here, please do. I know many of us are crying for what the future holds in store.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue racism in the United States is most definitely a queer issue, it is a feminist issue, it is a black issue, it is a trans issue, for the intersectionality here makes it an issue for all people living in the United States.

Taking Action: Here we have an opportunity as white people to leverage our power and privilege for black lives. I hope all of us are engaging in conversations that address issues of access, power, and barriers. Can we look for spaces where white people can stand back and stand in solidarity with black people? Can we look for spaces to ensure more black voices are being heard? Please resist and do not normalize a Trump administration. I leave you with this clip from a show called Black-ish.

Racism and Why We Must Defeat Trump

8 Aug

RAcismListening to Trump’s divisiveness, fear mongering, and racist statements, in conjunction with having to read through too many woefully misinformed and many racist comments on my recent article about Hillary, I feel compelled to implore people who will be voting in the Presidential election to please ensure that Trump does not take office.

Let us start by trying to really understand what racism is and the impact of racism on our country. Sadly, Racism, Prejudice, Discrimination, and Bigotry seem to be used a great deal as though they are interchangeable.  These words are not interchangeable — they are not all synonyms for Racism.  Racism has to contain an institutional and structural power dynamic.  Here in the United States that power dynamic is held primarily by white, heterosexual, cisgender, middle-aged, Christian, well-educated men; these are the people who establish norms in our society and have a great deal of unearned privilege because of the color of their skin.  This group, called the dominant culture, creates laws and policies — laws and policies that have an ugly history and were designed to help white folk while oppressing folks of color. Thus, Racism is: structural, institutional and systemic power that allows for discrimination and bigotry affecting someone’s health, well being, safety, and livelihood based on real or perceived racial or ethnic affiliation.

Perhaps a bit of a history lesson might be useful here.  Let us keep in mind the multi-generational impact of these laws both economically and emotionally.  1857 the Dred Scott Decision: The Supreme Court said that people of African dissent were not and could not be counted as citizens of the United States.  Let us jump to 1935 with the start of Social Security — a great act to be passed, but sadly it did not initially apply to anyone who was not white, a significant economic impact.  Now let us move to the 1945 GI Bill — great opportunity for soldiers returning from WWII. Sadly, this bill did not initially apply to any of the soldiers of color returning from WWII.  Here we see a HUGE economic impact for generations of whites with great advantage and thus a huge disadvantage for multi-generations of people of color.  The GI Bill allowed for white soldiers to buy their first home and get a college education; this would qualify as unearned privilege due to one’s skin color.

Let us jump to 1954 when we witness the Termination Act.  The Termination Act stripped ALL Native Americans from their identities as our government told all of these people: “Okay, you are white now, so you must live in the cities and turn over your lands to the U.S. government.”  The cultural and financial impact on Native Americans was and remains profound.

Even more recent and disgraceful is SB1070 adopted by Arizona in 2010 and then adopted by Alabama in 2011, which demands that ALL Latinos/Hispanics must have proof of citizenship on them at all times.  If someone with dark skin that is, or is perceived, to be Latino/Hispanic and cannot provide documentation of citizenship, they can be put in jail. Arizona modified the law with HB 2162, which does not do a lot to mitigate the impact of the very racist law of sB1070.

I approach the work of equity and marginalization as a gay man.  Working as an agent of change means I am also obligated to know about the start of Gay Liberation in 1969.  The LGBT community has a long history of being targeted and imprisoned.  Until 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, it was against the law to be gay in the United States.  Sadly, regardless of Lawrence v. Texas, it is still against the law in most states in the south.  In fact, the LGBT community have zero rights and protections in almost all of the South.  My personal call to action is to stand in solidarity with all those that are oppressed by the dominant culture and to honor their narratives–to understand how LGBT people of color are targeted and why.

This history is carried with all targeted people and passed down from generation to generation, much like if you are Jewish your family knows about the Holocaust because it affected your family for many generations.  Of course, the impact is more severe if one carries more than one of these identities.  For example, if you are a woman and a woman of color or if you are a man and a gay man of color, the impact is far worse. Thus the importance of understanding intersecting identities.

Sadly, I, and so many of us, have heard such nasty reactions to the Black Lives Matter initiative. I have even heard such absurd comments like: “Black Lives Matter is racist.” I know many of us grow tired of hearing: “All Lives Matter.” Yes, all lives matter, and can we focus on the black lives right now, given they are disproportionately impacted by violence? Most recently, the shooting of physical therapist, Charles Kinsey, who on his back waving his hands asking, “please don’t shoot me.” There have been over 130 unarmed black men that have been killed just this year, including Philando Castile who was only 32 and Alton Sterling who was shot to death by Baton Rouge police while pinned to the ground.

While I would love to see our country have many political parties, we currently have a two dominant party system. I will be voting for Hillary and we certainly cannot afford a Trump Presidency. I would also ask that you think about the future Supreme Court appointments. Trump’s treatment of Khizr Khan and his family has been nothing less than despicable and is a signature moment for Trump, showing his disdain for veterans and those currently serving in the military.

My hope in publishing this article is to encourage and invite people to engage in a meaningful dialogue around the issues of race, gender, power, and equity.  I hope many will contribute to this conversation in a respectful manner and also help me grow and share more effectively if I have committed any harm.

Black History Month 2016: Nina Simone

21 Feb

nina-simone2Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, Nina Simone. Simone would have been 83 years old today.  I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  Emeli Sandé credits Simone as one of her major influences

Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born in Tryon, NC, and aspired to be a classical pianist. Despite her prodigious talent, she was denied scholarships and admissions and pursued a career in clubs instead. Eventually signed to Colpix, she was boxed into a pop-jazz mode for a few years. She took the standards she was given and began subverting them with her unique style — she was described as being a piano player, singer, and performer, “separately and simultaneously.” Over the years her stage set became famous for her powerful interpretations and righteous original songs.

Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was Mississippi GoddamIn Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans – who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of that song. The song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood was written specifically for Simone. Her version works simultaneously as a love song and a protest song, showing her emotional depth and complexity.

Sadly, it is painfully clear how much we still need Nina Simone’s voice and activism. I suspect she still inspires many of us. Happy Birthday to the national treasure that is Nina Simone.

Black History Month 2016: Black Lives Matter

1 Feb

black-lives-matterThis is now the sixth year that Social Justice For All (SJFA) has celebrated Black History Month. Sadly, the past year has proven unequivocally why we still need Black History Month. I can only hope all of us in the United States are doing some reflection around our own racism and encouraging conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also hope as we have these courageous conversations we have a better understanding of what racism is.

In the wake of Ferguson, Cleveland, New York, and all of the other cities where black voices are being silenced, we have an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations around race and racism.  I hope all of us who identify as white have some discomfort as we look at how disproportionately black lives are subjected to police brutality or murder — how all of us should be mourning Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Artago Damon Howard, Jeremy Lett, Trayvon Martin, Roy Nelson, Miguel Espinal, Anthony Ashford, and all of the other unarmed black lives lost. It is with profound sadness that I note the statistic (most likely under-reported) that police killed at least 102 unarmed black people in 2015, more than any other race. I find it more than difficult to believe that systemic, institutional, and individual racism did not have a hand in these deaths.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue this horrific part of American History is most definitely a queer issue, it is a feminist issue, it is a black issue, it is a trans issue, for the intersectionality here makes it an issue for all people living in the United States.

Equity and Equality are still just a dream when 13% of the people in our country identify as African American (we know this percentage is not accurate because of the many barriers that prevent some African Americans from filling out the census) and far fewer than this are represented in most walks of life. Sadly, the places where African Americans are over-represented include poverty, dropout rates, and incarceration, further evidence that institutionalized oppression still plays a major role in how things work in America. In states like Alabama, African Americans that are or were incarcerated lose their right to vote for the rest of their lives – so much for the 14th Amendment.

I would love to see a point in history when we don’t need Black History, Women’s History, or LGBT History Months. I don’t see that happening until we have a level playing field, which would require eradicating racism, misogyny, and homophobia. This also requires that we see accurate representation in history books and the media of Blacks, Women, and LGBT folk. I can only hope that all of these targeted populations can find ways to build community and work together around issues of equity and equality.

Taking Action: Here we have an opportunity as white people to leverage our power and privilege for black lives. I hope all of us are engaging in conversations that address issues of access, power, and barriers. Can we look for spaces where white people can stand back and stand in solidarity with black people? Can we look for spaces to ensure more black voices are being heard? Please vote and think about the candidate you are voting for this year for President.

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