Tag Archives: solidarity

How to Love Radically in the Era of Trump

6 Feb

radical-loveI have been struggling, along with 2/3 of the nation, since November. I have been fearful, hurt, and worried for ALL targeted communities. For those who insultingly made this about “Hillary lost, get over it,” you missed the point, quite sadly. This was about resisting a fascist regime, which we are now under, as evidenced by the over 20 Executive Orders delivered by Trump — as evidenced by the myriad lies spread by Trump and his team (please don’t make up attacks, Kellyanne).  This was about supporting a billionaire bully who makes fun of people with disabilities  and says it is acceptable to grab women by their genitals.

And so I struggle. I struggle with how to be loving to Trump supporters, some of whom are family members — family members who have decidedly voted against me, my family, my friends, and the earth. Yet I must maintain that we have to stay in community; we have to operate from our hearts first; we have to make space for those who are hurting us. I STRUGGLE!

I struggle every day to make this space for people who are deliberately oppressing so many. It is hard to love someone when they are punching you or shooting at you or sustaining systems of oppression. Moreover, I don’t want to become like those who are oppressing us! I think our individual and collective ability to RESIST with every fiber of our being and simultaneously love and make space for Trump supporters is Radical Love. I would love to take credit for this, but at least two of my friends for over 30 years, Jen, and DeShawn helped me here.

I feel obligated to share some survival tips and invite you to share how you are surviving a world gone mad.

  1. Take a break from news and social media.
  2. If you are able to, binge watch some tv that brings you joy. Here, I would strongly recommend the Netflix remake of One Day At A Time. My friend Gita recommended this to me, and Robert and I are loving it! It has a Latina cast and addresses social issues and is FUN! Rita Moreno is in it along with Justina Machado, and I think I am in love with Isabella Gómez. 
  3. With intentionality, seek out friends, family, and family of choice who feed your soul.

Finally, join me in a commitment to Radical Love! I commit to being in and operating from a place of love, while I know there are days I will fail at this. When I fail at this, I will not shame myself. I will continue to work towards building community, solidarity, and find ways to both resist this current fascist regime and love those who are engaged in supporting a world of fear, hate, and oppression. If this sounds or feels contradictory to you, all I can say is: I’m able to hold a lot of tension around being messy — this work we do towards social justice/transformative justice is MESSY! We don’t do this work in isolation and we will not complete it, but we must be engaged!

I invite you to share how you are navigating currently. What is working and what is not working?

Standing in love and solidarity,

Michael

Feeling Grateful in Time of Great Despair: Happy New Year

1 Jan
2017:Organize

2017:Organize

2016 has been an exceedingly painful, turbulent, and awful year. Since turning 50 three weeks ago, I have been deeply troubled by the current course of the United States under what can only be called a Fascist regime, under Trump and his merry band of racists, misogynists, and homophobic collectibles, who seem to want to dismantle all of the agencies that serve people in the United States. Their collective efforts will ensure that the top 20% of Americans not only keep their wealth but will build on it exponentially — a wet dream for Paul Ryan. Sadly,  author Thomas Pynchon  captures the philosophy of the 21st century GOP:

Back when I was getting into the business, all ‘being Republican’ meant really was sort of principled greed. You arranged things so that you and your friends would come out nicely, you behaved professionally, above all you put in the work and took the money only after you’d earned it. Well, the party, I fear, has fallen on evil days. This generation — it’s almost a religious thing now. The millennium, the end days, no need to be responsible anymore to the future. A burden has been lifted from them. The Baby Jesus is managing the portfolio of earthy affairs, and nobody begrudges Him the carried interest…

There is no sense of paying it forward — no sense of leaving the earth a better place for future generations. No, the rules have changed and now it is about getting all you can and getting more than you need, regardless if others have to go without, and future generations have to suffer for it.

As I have turned 50, I am witnessing our country turn backwards and turn its back on all targeted individuals and communities. For those predicting an economic windfall under TrumpPutin, I worry you are a bit delusional. I am most regrettably predicting a recession that will be just as traumatic as the one George W paved the way for during his administration.

While it has been most challenging not to give into a misanthropic abyss, or The Princess Bride’s “Pit of Despair,”  I have also had to do some serious reflection as we are about to usher in 2017. While I am terrified of what the next four years have in store, I have to also be exceedingly grateful for the life I have.

Here is what I have that makes me share tears of joy: A life partner whom I love and adore and who loves me as we get to travel this journey of life together; such amazing family and friends who make my heart swell with love — friends who constantly make me work to be a better person. These two things alone give me hope and make me so extraordinarily grateful! I know I am strong enough to persevere and resist a fascist regime.

I know how to engage in community organizing, how to stand in solidarity for human rights and social justice. I know how to keep vigilant and NOT normalize our current condition. I also know I do not do this work alone, for I do this work with my brilliant family and friends! To all of you: I say thank you! Happy New Year. I wish you all peace and that you each are surrounded by love.

LGBTQ History Month 2014: We Have A Long Way To Go

1 Jun

lgbtpridemonth2014June is recognized as LGBT History Month, a time for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community to come together and celebrate who we are and stand in solidarity with each other.  We celebrate in June because it was June of 1969 that jump-started the Gay Liberation Movement in our country’s history with the Stonewall Riots.  While we have witnessed much progress in some areas, we still witness mortifying discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

In 1969 it was illegal in the United States to be gay and we were targeted by police for raids and put in jail.  Sadly, the LGBT community is still policed disproportionately and there are still 29 states — mostly in the South — where it is still illegal to be gay, despite Lawrence v. Texas. Yes, most states in the South have zero protections for LGBT folk, so one can be denied employment, denied housing, and denied healthcare just for their sexual orientation.

As much as we think It Gets Better, we still have a long way to go.  One wonders why we don’t have a better campaign that says: Make It Get Better, and put the onus on the dominant culture.  We know from the 2010 National Health Report that harassment and violence against the LGBT community have increased by 20% and the increase of violence is even greater for LGBT folks of color.

Sadly, this trend is international and shows no sign of abating. India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi,  supports the country’s lower court’s ruling, once again making gay sex a crime punishable by up to ten years in jail and putting tens of millions of Indians at risk of prosecution or harassment. Look at the spike in protesting and violence in France that started as marriage equality began to work its way through the legislative process. Look at the violence in Russia and the Ukraine and the official indifference — or outright support — it receives. Nigeria just passed “All Gays to Be Jailed” law. Even in supposedly progressive Oregon, look at the hate and discrimination practiced near Portland at Oregon City High School.

The closer we get to equality, the angrier — and more aggressive — our foes become.  While I am elated that we now have 19 states plus the District of Columbia that celebrate marriage equality, I am also fearful that there will be an enormous backlash. How many of us are still reeling from the injustice to Larry King, the 8th grader shot in the back of the head twice and murdered.

Granted, our heterosexual brothers and sisters do have to live in fear of the Gay Agenda…

I want to acknowledge gratefully that DOMA has now been overturned, as has Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We still have a long way to go because of current LGBT hate crimes and because of the impact of multigenerational trauma.

LGBT History Month provides a time and place for the community to celebrate and come together in “numbers too big to be ignored.” (You know I love me some Helen Reddy.)  I ask all of our heterosexual brothers and sisters to stand in solidarity and support all LGBT folk in the many colors and lives we represent. This is not a time to grow complacent. We must be visible!

A Holiday Invitation…

25 Dec
Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

As this year draws to a close,  I suspect many of us are in an introspective mood.  Many of us are reflecting back on the losses of family and friends and social justice pioneers, such as Nelson Mandela and Lou Reed and to a certain extent Pope Francis and of course Wanda Coleman.  I know I am constantly looking at what my legacy for humanity will be. I extend an invitation for us all to challenge anyone who shows a lack of generosity and heart — to challenge these human flaws with kindness and with love.

I believe that if we are serious about eradicating racism, homophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, and poverty, we must all be engaged – we must all stand in solidarity with one another. When we commit any type of trespass against another human being, we must be willing to do some repair work.

How lovely that we don’t have to do the heavy work of social justice in isolation, but instead we find ourselves more and more engaged with the world. There may not be a point of completion, but we have the power both individually and in community that we make progress. I challenge us all to make the world a better place and cast away the very false notion of “people need to pull themselves up by their boot straps.”

Let us hope that we are each carving out a legacy that creates equity and celebrates our shared humanity. We are all responsible in creating a  community where we can be our authentic and vulnerable selves.  I wish everyone a wonderful, safe, peaceful, and reflective holiday season.

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.

Bill de Blasio: Civil Service Through a Social Justice Lens

18 Sep

Bill de BlasioBill de Blasio’s win of the New York City Democratic mayoral nomination is a victory, not only for New York, but for all of us in the United States working towards social justice and building a vision of equity for all people.

Current New York Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy of the Stop and Frisk policy, also known as legalized racial profiling, is finally losing some teeth.  Thankfully, people like de Blasio are ever mindful of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other targeted populations as we look to a much more inclusive and representative form of leadership.  de Blasio’s inclusivity is laudable:

Something I feel very strongly is you’ve got to treat your family and the other people in your life with a lot of love and respect and you’ve got to treat the society around you the same way. I know people who’ve done one, but not the other. And I really resolved very early on to try and do both.

Unlike many civil servants during my lifetime, de Blasio is very intent on serving all people, as he demonstrates a great respect and even awe of humanity — what a novelty not to discard humans that don’t fit in the box we assign them; how lovely to go outside of the dominant culture.  The television ad his son Dante does is amazing and inspires great hope.

One hopes that if people such as de Blasio get elected, we stand a good chance of changing the face of oppression, systemic racism, and the “othering” of people.  It is most encouraging to see New York looking at progressive candidates who are focusing energy on jobs, affordable housing, healthcare for all, better transit system, gender equity, and LGBT rights, just to name a few of the issues de Blasio has a strategic plan to address.  Would that our country had more of this type of visionary leadership. How refreshing it is to see a political candidate not scapegoating people who are different.  How lovely to see a political candidate embracing all of the citizens .  This seems like true civil service to me.

To learn more about Bill de Blasio and support his mission, check out his website here.

Hero of the Week Award, August 30: Cory Booker

30 Aug
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Newark Mayor and New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker has a longstanding reputation as a politician who understands his power and uses it to truly improve lives. He is very engaged with the people he serves and makes a practice of walking his talk — including a week spent on a food stamp budget and other practical demonstrations.

Booker is also an outspoken ally of the LGBT community. Although empowered as Mayor to perform marriages, he refuses to do so until all the citizens of his state have equal access to marriage. He has discussed his homophobia as a youth as an example of how people can grow.

As a lifelong bachelor with no visible social life, Booker is often the subject of speculation regarding his sexual orientation. Since he began his campaign for this October’s special Senate election. gay rumors have been swirling like mad in the media and online. Booker’s response?

And people who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.

Even more impressive is that the level of risk for Booker, as a multiracial man, supporting LGBT equality says volumes about his character and  his ability to lead. Sadly, Booker’s opponent, Steve Lonegan, chose to denigrate Booker for his wonderful attitude. Calling Booker “weird,” he said he “likes being a guy” and used Booker’s fondness for manicures as a sign of weak masculinity. Booker wasted no time in reinforcing his solidarity with the LGBT community.

It’s just disheartening to hear somebody, in this day and age, in the United States of America, say basically … that gay men are not men, they’re not guys. It’s shocking to one’s conscience in this country, where we believe that the content of one’s character, the courage in one’s heart, the strength of one’s sense of purpose, the love that one has for others and their service is what defines them.

During this week of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, how sad that people like Lonegan are on the wrong side of history.  Lonegan, like other folks who behave in homophobic or racist ways strip, not only others of their dignity, but strip away their own dignity. Thank you, Mayor Booker. We’re looking forward to your long and productive tenure in the Senate.

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