Tag Archives: poet

Black History Month 2013: James Baldwin

22 Feb

James-Baldwin-9196635-1-402I would like to honor and pay tribute to James Baldwin. Baldwin was an amazing and courageous writer, civil rights activist, and novelist. Not only did Baldwin work for social justice as an activist, but he was a pioneer writer who grappled with issues of race and homosexuality.  Is it any wonder he became an expatriate and moved to Paris, France? America was not a safe place for blacks or gays.

While most people have read one of my favorites, Go Tell It on the Mountain (his autobiographical coming of age novel), and Notes of a Native Son, it was Giovanni’s Room, that spoke to me. Imagine the courage it must have taken to have written a novel about homoerotic love, I only wish the characters in the novel could have been black, for there is still such a need for positive gay black role models.

I would strongly encourage everyone to read his essay: No Name in the Street, which addresses the assassination of three of his closest  friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Here is part of an interview with Baldwin and his reflections on Malcolm X; very complex interview and one really should listen to all three parts of it. I’m not sure enough people know how much of his time was spent as a civil rights activist and how grateful we all should be to Baldwin!  Baldwin has an amazing understanding of the intersections of oppression and system oppression–if only more people would learn about and read Baldwin’s works.

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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.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 8, Audre Lorde

8 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Audre Lorde.  TSM celebrated Lorde on her birthday in February and it is wonderful to celebrate her again during LGBTQ History Month.  The self-described “black-lesbian feminist mother lover warrior poet,” became a well recognized voice for women, lesbians, blacks, mothers, and poets, lest we forget her anti-war activism. Her fight for equality and peace was rather inclusive, as she was able to see the connections and ties amongst them all. Lorde was one of the first to acknowledge and point to how connected racism, sexism, and homophobia are linked. It seems odd to me that anyone could not see how connected racism, misogyny, and homophobia are.  Our silence about any of these forms of bigotry will not protect or help us.  To learn more about Audre Lorde, click here.

Women’s History: February 22

22 Feb

Poet/Feminist

Happy Birthday, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Millay is best known for her poetry, specifically her poetry around issues of sexual and personal freedom. Millay was only the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Millay’s sexuality seems to have been somewhat fluid, having had relationships with women, and marrying Eugen Jan Boissevain. Both took on other lovers during their 26 year marriage. Millay was a strong feminist and activist. One of my favorite quotes from Millay is:

Let us forget such words, and all they mean,
as Hatred, Bitterness and Rancor,
Greed, Intolerance, Bigotry.
Let us renew our faith and pledge to Man
his right to be Himself.

Happy Birthday, Isabella Beecher Hooker. Isabella was the half sister of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Isabella became a social reformer and strong suffragist. In fact, she became a close friend of one of my heroes, Victoria Woodhull. For those of you that follow my blog regularly, you will remember my story on Victoria Woodhull and how she lost many a friend for her article exposing the affair of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, yet Isabella stood by our Victoria during this debacle.

 

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