Tag Archives: MLK Day

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.

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MLK Day 2014: Public Service

20 Jan

Day of ServiceIt’s not just another holiday. In 1994, President Clinton signed legislation – put forward by Sen. Harris Wofford (D – PA) and Rep. John Lewis (D – GA) – which transformed the decade-old holiday. The goal was to challenge Americans to use the day for citizen action and volunteer service. As noted on the official site for the day, “It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.” What a lovely lens of social justice. Sadly, our most pressing national problems remain: racism, homophobia, misogyny, poverty, and increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness.

The legacy of Dr. King is multi-faceted. While he is known as a civil rights leader, he also maintained that these rights required the active engagement of all citizens. Civic engagement is a key component of being part of a democratic society.  There is great value in communities being interdependent.

In the era of standardized testing and teaching to those  tests rather than skills (a legacy from the George W years), civics has been sadly omitted as a part of regular curriculum. For the record, civics is “the study of the rights and duties of citizenship.” (Oxford Compact Dictionary) Social Studies is often only the residue of the rote names and dates approach to learning, leaving out the active role granted to and required of good citizens a la The Social Contract.

The Center for Civic Education is working hard to change this circumstance. The Campaign to Promote Civic Education effort is a fifty-state campaign (including the District of Columbia) aimed at restoring the civic mission of our nation’s schools by encouraging states and school districts to devote sustained and systematic attention to civic education from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

In Oregon, civics was dropped as a part of core curriculum in 1997. Recently, a concerned Legislature created the Civics and Financial Education Task Force to address the gaps in civic education. The final report of the task force articulates significant frustration with the current climate in education but does propose a small return to civics education beginning this school year.

As you enjoy the holiday, please give some thought to what you do to give back to your community. If you are not able to volunteer today, look for an opportunity in your area and commit some time. If there are young people in your life, take the time to make sure they are learning about their role in an active, meaningful democracy. And, just for fun, revisit some civic learning that might just make you smile, because being a part of a free society should also bring us joy. We must all stand in solidarity if we are to eradicate racism, homophobia, misogyny, and poverty.

MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race

21 Jan

martinlutherI’m glad that we have a National holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  What troubles me is how far we have yet to go in the civil rights movement.  I hear people talking now about the March on the Mall in Washington, yet they don’t know the March was organized by the openly gay Bayard Rustin.  Hearing so many people purporting to have been present during King’s I Have a Dream speech, also leaves me a bit bothered. We like to pretend that we are not a nation continuing to struggle with racism; I have even heard people use the phrase “post-racist” society as though that was something real and already achieved.  Yet we have no further to look than the numbers.

Let us start with the Senate.  Of the 100 Senators currently serving, only one of them is African-American (and he was appointed to his current office).  Moving on to the House of Representatives (note the word Representatives), of the 435 civil servants (albeit 433 right now due to current vacancies), only 41 are African-American.  Of the 50 Governors only one is African-American. Of the nearly 8300 U.S. mayors, only about 650 are African American. This disproportionality in representation and leadership clearly speaks to how far we have yet to go.

As one can see the power structure is still fundamentally white, male, Christian, and heterosexual.  Whether we want to admit it or not, most people still benefit from institutionalized racism.  I am not saying most people are racist, in fact, I would assert that most people are not racist (save for the Tea Party), yet we have a mass of people who are the beneficiaries of racism.

I am grateful for the significant strides being made for civil rights and social justice, but let us acknowledge there is still much work to be done around people that are marginalized and how we treat people that are not part of the institutional power structure.  Dr. King’s voice of advocacy for civil rights has room for many others to join the choir and push back against how we “other” people and strip populations of their dignity–now is not the time to be satisfied:

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity…–I Have a Dream, Dr. King

TSM also wants to wish a heart felt congratulations to President Obama on his second inauguration! I hope everyone gets to see the amazing Myrlie Evers deliver the Invocation.  I also want to note that the openly gay  Latino Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet–nice choice.

MLK Holiday: When We Pretend Not to be a Racist Nation

16 Jan

The Civil Rights Movement Continues

Of course, I’m glad that we have a National holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  What disturbs me is how far we have yet to go in the civil rights movement.  I hear people talking now about the March on the Mall in Washington, yet they don’t know the March was organized by the openly gay Bayard Rustin.  Hearing so many people purporting to have been present during King’s I Have a Dream Speech, also leaves me a bit bothered. We like to pretend that we are not a Nation continuing to struggle with racism.  Yet we have no further to look than the current Tea Party who gave birth to the racist Birther Movement. We have no further to look than the white hetero power structure that places racists like Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich as presidential candidates.  It also breaks my heart that I have to underscore the unconscionable move on behalf of the GOP: this year, 34 Republican state legislatures introduced bills designed to turn voters away from the polls who cannot produce specific types of state issued ID. If all of these bills pass, roughly 21 million voters will lose their right to vote. And, it’s no coincidence that most of those voters are minorities, students, and elderly voters who vote Democrat.

I did not ever get the chance to meet Dr. King and I was a small child when he was assassinated.  I did, however, get the chance  to meet Coretta Scott King twice–two moments that will stay with and inspire me for the rest of my life. I remember driving to work listening to NPR on January 30th, 2006.  They just announced that Coretta Scott King had passed away.  I could barely drive, I was crying so hard.  What a loss for all of us who work for ensuring civil rights for ALL.  We still have so far to come to create true equality for our African-American brothers and sisters.  We also still have huge obstacles to overcome before we have full civil rights for the LGBT community.  On a holiday when we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, I would also like to remember Coretta Scott King.  Coretta showed great courage and her consistent indomitable spirit as she spoke for marriage equality:

I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice… But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ … I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people…We have a lot of work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say ‘common struggle,’ because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry & discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.

As with the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the loss of Coretta Scott King, I think we are all looking for a strong leader and voice of reason that will continue to fight for equal rights for ALL.  I do believe each of us can be that change–each of us can be the collective change needed if we band together and show solidarity in the face of bigotry. For those of you that follow this blog, you knew I had to include a song from Sweet Honey in the Rock.

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