Tag Archives: inclusion

Hero of the Week Award: March 1, Phi Alpha Tau Fraternity at Emerson College

1 Mar
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey for pointing me to this week’s heartwarming HWA. The brothers of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity at Emerson College have demonstrated compassion, inclusion, and activism in a true call for social justice.

Donnie Collins is a new pledge to the fraternity. He is transgender, born biologically female. (Before attending Emerson, he went to an all-girls boarding school…) Unable to use his family’s insurance to cover hormone therapy, he has covered all the costs out-of-pocket. Sadly, Emerson’s student insurance is also trans-unfriendly, as most insurers are. Collins is also interested in beginning transition surgery, which is cost-prohibitive.

Enter his fraternity. It’s impressive enough that they were smart and open-minded enough to embrace Donnie, given the gross discrimination that the trans community faces. On top of this, they started an online campaign to raise money for Collins’ surgery. They want to use this opportunity to educate the public on the health care dilemmas faced by men like Donnie Collins. Three cheers for Phi Alpha Tau!

Honorable mention goes to all the groups and individuals who have filed amicus briefs in the two marriage equality cases rising before the Supreme Court. The deadline was yesterday, and dozens of these friend-of-the-court documents have been filed in favor of overturning DOMA and California’s Prop 8. The White House has filed briefs in both cases; dozens of companies have filed a shared brief — ironically taking advantage of Citizens United language — to demonstrate the toll on business morale and effectiveness that discrimination causes. Many politicians and public figures from both major parties have also joined the chorus. Amicus briefs seldom turn the tide, but they do contribute to the Court’s decision making. Let’s hope all this effort helps ensure justice for all.

Number 1 Hero of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai

31 Dec
Number 1 Hero of 2012

Number 1 Hero of 2012

Even with all the wonderful nominations TSM received for Hero of the Year, the winner was clear from early on. No one received more nominations than Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. The final decisions were based on more than just votes, however. Yousafzai — a young woman of 15! — is a shining example of social justice. Having virtually no inherent power or privilege, she found her voice at the age of 11 and has used it to great effect.

All of the heroes and honorable mentions have made the world a better place. What sets Yousafzai apart is the very real risks she takes every day. She has less to start with and has put it all on the line, even suffering a potentially fatal gunshot wound from Taliban assassins.

Her mission is simple but powerful — every child in the world should have access to a reasonable education by 2015. Coming from a place that believes women should never be educated, she understands the power of learning and reading. Nurtured by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, also an education activist, she began blogging about conditions in her province for the BBC at age 11. She also attended a Peshawar press club event, getting rousing applause for her powerful question:

How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?

For her powerful voice, tireless activism, willingness to risk all, and youthful promise, TSM is proud to honor Malala Youfsazai as Hero of the Year.

Honorable mention for the top spot goes to another Muslim activist seeking change. Ludovic Mohammed Zahed started the Unity mosque in Paris, the first fully LGBT embracing house of Islamic worship. Zahed’s mission includes full inclusion for women and transgender worshippers. He’s another brilliant example of change from the grass roots and a great example of using personal power to change the world for everyone’s benefit.

Elections and Celebrations: Inclusion beats Division

7 Nov

The hug felt round the world.

I have to confess, I was more nervous yesterday evening than I realized. When the media began to call the election for President Obama, I felt so relieved. A message of hope still resonated enough to bring victory. The President coasted to a solid electoral victory and is winding up with a comfortable popular vote edge. Now he has a chance to build on the past four years, continuing to move us past the mess he inherited and pushing real reforms.

The message was broader that just the Presidency. Numerous votes last night sent the same message. Inclusion beats division.

Despite defending more than twice as many seats, the Democrats stand to gain strength in the Senate. Not just in numbers, but in quality, as people like Joe Lieberman were replaced by quality Senators like Chris Murphy. The 19 (maybe 20) women in the next Senate sets a record. One of those women, Tammy Baldwin, will be the first openly gay senator.

Gay rights also ruled the ballot box. For the first time ever states began to put inclusion on the books as Maryland and Maine comfortably passed marriage equality measures. Washington looks poised to do the same. Minnesota is on the brink of being the first state to shoot down a one-man-one-woman constitutional amendment. Despite the same tired old lies, inclusion beat division.

The pundits (especially on the right) will point to the margins of victory and say the President does not have a mandate. The electoral landscape disagrees. The cynical right lost and lost big. Tea party candidates cost the Republicans two Senate seats (Indiana and Missouri). Strong messages of inclusion allowed people-powered candidates like Elizabeth Warren to emerge victorious. Even though the Republicans held the House — and Michele (I spent 18 million dollars to barely win) Bachmann clung onto her seat by the tips of her claws — two of the nastiest members — Joe Walsh (IL) and Allen West (FL) — were defeated. The victors weren’t blue dogs or DINOs, either; they are strong Democrats who believe in the President and his message of hope and reform.

The demographics are also encouraging. As Democratic pundit Van Jones remarked, “the coalition held.” Younger voters, voters of color, women, and other minorities showed up in strength despite all the predictions and helped drive the results. Despite all the efforts on the right to make people vote against their own best interests, inclusion beat division.

Elections have consequences. The message of this election is clear. Bipartisanship does not mean giving in to the far right at every turn. Coalitions must be built and progress must come more quickly. The President’s policies were given a mandate. Congress needs to work with him to enact them and forge a stronger nation with greater opportunities for all.

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