Tag Archives: Vermont

Black History Month 2012: Alexander Twilight

23 Feb

Today we celebrate another early pioneer who broke multiple color barriers in the 19th Century: educator, legislator, and clergyman Alexander Twilight. Born in Corinth, VT in 1795, Twilight was probably of mixed race although hi’s parents are recorded in the town archives as “the first negroes” to settle in the area. As a youth he performed farm work while pursuing his education. He entered Middlebury College as Junior in 1821. When he graduated two years later, he became the first African-American to receive a degree from an American college.

He began teaching in Peru, NY, where he met and married Mercy Ladd Merrill. He also continued his studies, focusing on theology. After a few more years of teaching in various north Vermont towns, he was invited to be the principal of the Orleans County Grammar School in Brownington, VT, the only school serving two counties. After settling into his post he also became the minister of the local Congregational church. His school grew quickly, and he did not have room for boarding students. He pressed his board for funds and when turned down found independent funding to build Athenian Hall. Now know as the Old Stone House, it was the first granite building in the state and was large enough to house the Twilight family, boarding students and some school business functions. It is now a museum for Orleans County.

Alarmed by plans to split his district in two — he stridently maintained that one good district was far superior to two mediocre ones — Twilight sought a seat in the Vermont General Assembly. When he won the office, he became the first African-American elected to a state legislature. Most historians agree that he was in fact the first African-American elected official of any sort in the country.

Known for his iron will as well as his grace and humor, Twilight continued to butt heads with his board, eventually resigning and moving to Quebec. After four years the school was on the brink of closure and he was invited back. He resumed his posts as principal and minister. Twilight suffered a stroke in 1855 and was forced to retire. He died two years later and was buried in Brownington. A number of buildings and schools around the country have been named in honor of this pioneer.

Wednesday Word of the Week, August 31

31 Aug

Hurricanes in Vermont, what will they think of next?

This week’s Word is: STABILITY

a situation in which things happen as they should and there are no harmful changes – Macmillan Dictionary Online

For those of us in New England, recent climatic events have led us to question many assumptions about this concept. Storm winds and rain from HURRICANE

a severe tropical cyclone usually with heavy rains and winds moving a 73-136 knots – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Irene have wrought substantial havoc in my home state of Vermont and jarred my adopted state of Massachusetts. Dear Irene, please refer to the definition above. Vermont is not TROPICAL!

relating to or situated in or characteristic of the tropics (the region on either side of the equator) – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Flooding and power outages exceed anything most Vermonters have seen, certainly ranging beyond my nearly 30 years of experience. Fortunately, my family was 100 miles away, visiting my aunt in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the storm was felt but hardly damaging. Mom’s return to Vermont may be delayed a bit until the power is back on, but the neighbors say the family home is safe. That, at least seems to be stable.

I have had a number of reasons to think about stability recently. As I noted in May, I recently uprooted my HOME. This has been a very positive experience and has helped me move forward with my life and nascent career, but it is a tumultuous thing nonetheless.

Far more jarring was having one of the central pillars of my life shaken hard. In mid-July, my grandfather suffered a massive stroke. While he is recovering well, having this great oak of a man enfeebled by a tiny clot was a humbling experience. Granddad has been the one steady constant in my life, and I am not ready to lose that element of stability. Ironically, his need for better access to medical care is what brought him, Mom, and me to my aunt’s home in Amherst and spared us Irene’s peripatetic thundering.

As I get my career on track, I am working three different jobs (not uncommon for my generation). My sudden need to be in Braintree, Amherst, and Reading alternately for unpredictable stretches of time caused one new employer to unceremoniously jettison me as “unreliable” despite my best efforts to communicate at least daily and carry as much work with me as possible. I understand the need to run a business soundly, but a lack of compassion is a hallmark of bad business to me. Once again, stability was undermined.

As I make the most of my other two wonderfully supportive and engaging jobs, as Granddad recovers faster than he was supposed to, as we breathe a sigh of relief that our home and our neighbors weathered the storm reasonably well, I feel very lucky. I also recognize that an element of stability about which I have previously written bolsters me throughout this turmoil. I have a support system a FAMILY, upon which I can draw. Let the weather turn bizarre, let the employer have no heart, I have a stability which is steadfast and reliable.

Regular readers will not be surprised that such a turn of thought led me to ponder the great buffoons of Teabaggistan and their CANDIDATES. Ron Paul just finished assuring the nation that we didn’t need a Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Kudos to President Obama for his visit to FEMA and his vocal support of their work, now under effective management.) Rick Perry tells us that Medicaid is unconstitutional. Michele Bachmann wants to cut the minimum wage and reduce unemployment benefits, all while assuring us that earthquakes and hurricanes are God’s way of asking for a smaller Federal budget.

How dare they! The role of government is to make things better for the citizens. Huge military budgets and ghastly corporate tax loopholes don’t do that. Logjams over ideology when Americans need jobs programs don’t do that. Wasting precious revenue persecuting the LGBT community doesn’t do that. Plotting ways to remove women’s control over their own health care doesn’t do that. The programs these men and women are targeting very clearly do provide care and support.

Given my life events of the past four months, each one of those absurd claims and cuts is deeply personal, and the personal is political. Any American who believes that these Republican candidates would be a President who would look out for their best interests is seriously lacking in

a condition in which someone’s mind or emotional state is healthy – Macmillan Dictionary Online


Vermont’s The Wildflower Inn Poisoned by Homophobia

20 Jul

Everyone but LGBT Folk

Thank you to my dear friend Allison Cleveland for inspiring me to craft this post. Vermont is one of the six states, plus D.C., where marriage equality is the law.  Sexual orientation is also a protected class in the state of Vermont, as it is here in Oregon. Yesterday it was reported that The Wildflower Inn refused to host a lesbian wedding because of the owner’s personal beliefs regarding homosexuality.

While I’m not thrilled about people who are bigots, I can’t deny them their beliefs.  As Voltaire said: ” I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  When I first read this article, I was somewhat conflicted about my feelings regarding the bigoted owner of the Wildflower Inn.  In fact, my husband and I (I have to mention my husband here because it is part of the Gay Agenda–we get a toaster oven if a hetero marriage falls by the wayside) had to tease out whether or not the ACLU should in fact get involved.

Here was the tipping point for me.  It is the law!  Sexual orientation is a protected class, thus The Wildflower Inn broke the law.  Another thing that helped was that I had to ask myself how would I feel if the Inn refused to host a black couple’s wedding–that is the exact same thing–it is breaking the law.

Reading the mother’s response was also quite compelling to file a lawsuit:

Imagine my shock when I called the Wildflower Inn and they told me that they have a policy of not hosting “gay receptions.” How could this be? I was incredulous, then disappointed and hurt. Someone who didn’t even know us was telling me that my lovely daughter wasn’t good enough to have her reception at their facility while everyone else who sees the resort’s website is welcome…When I realized that Vermont is one of 21 states that includes sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination laws, I felt — and feel — strongly that this case is not about my daughter’s wedding. This is about a public place breaking the law.

Yes, I  do believe that humans can hold to their own bigoted belief system regardless!  However, their personal belief systems CANNOT prevent honoring other people’s civil rights.  As they are allowed to cling to their beliefs, I am allowed to propose a boycott of the Wildflower Inn in Vermont!  Click here to see the full article.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Lex Kahn

13 Feb

Welcome to the second interview in the series about the Millennial Generation.

Most of you know Lex Kahn as a contributor to The Solipsistic Me. His witty and poignant Wednesday’s Word of Week post I look forward to with great zest. I am grateful for Lex agreeing to be interviewed for the Millennial Generation series.  After you read his interview, you will fully understand my exuberance in having him as a regular contributor to the blog.

Lex grew up near Reading, Vermont. His life has been contained for all of his 28 years in a small geographic area, hence his great passion for literature and wanting to expand his world. Although a Reagan baby, he still qualifies as part of the early Millennial generation. His father was Jewish and his mother was raised Methodist. While Lex certainly has the cultural literacy of growing up in a Christian world, he does not identify with any particular religion.  He did both his undergraduate and graduate work in Vermont.


Outspoken leftist. I was raised by a strongly anti-war Socialist father and a wannabe hippie mother who rebelled against her fairly straight-laced parents until she realized they were traditional but not conservative. I don’t have any patience for dogma without foundation, opinions without facts, or loud voices saying nothing.

LGBT Issues

I’m proud to be an outspoken straight ally of the LGBT community. I started out in the “so-what” camp, believing that there was no reason to care about anyone’s sexual orientation. I was actually the biggest prude in my family for years, frequently embarrassed by the frankness of my farming grandparents and very open-mined and outspoken parents. As I grew a political skin in college, I began to realize that sexual orientation and sex were two different things. More importantly, I discovered that just taking acceptance for granted would never move things forward for the gay people I cared about.

My best friend from my second week of college, Drew, has been out-and-proud since he was 16. He’s also very politically active. I credit him with much of my activism and political awakening.

I truly believe in the Kinsey scale and I also believe that some people move up and down the scale (at least a little bit) throughout their lives. I’m confident and comfortable in my choice to be heterosexual J and believe everyone should be respected wherever they fall on the continuum. As long as anyone is denied rights because of who they are or who they love, all of society is tarnished.

Frame of Reference

The most pivotal moment for me was the Bush v Gore decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush President. The November 2000 election was my very first as a voter. I was excited and energized. Al Gore wasn’t my ideal candidate (and Sen. Lamerman was worse), but the choice for America’s future was clear. W turned out to be so much worse than we could have ever imagined. As with most of my friends, this dealt a horrific blow to our faith in democracy. Why should we engage in the political process if our efforts could be swept away by judicial fiat? Some of my acquaintances were so embittered that they still don’t vote. Fortunately, many of us recovered enough to use this moment as a catalyst for action. That was not easy.

I suspect for most of my generation (and many others born in the last half of the last century), the most pivotal event would be the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. I can’t minimize this event, but its impact on me was blunted by family circumstances. My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2001 and died on November 11. It was hard to notice the world, much less respond to such huge events in the face of that kind of personal tragedy. I don’t want to trivialize the loss of life on Sept. 11, but I also think that the Supreme Court decision indirectly had at least as much impact on America. If Gore had been President, how would the actions of the next few months have differed? What would America be without the cynical posturing and illegitimate wars that W grandstanded out of our national tragedy? It’s almost too much to ponder.

Biggest Anxiety

That history is a cycle and we’ll never actually make any progress. Grant becomes Harding becomes Bush. Wilson becomes Reagan. Dred Scot becomes Citizens United. The wage gap and the decaying education system serve the powerful so effectively that I wonder if we can break the cycle. Unfortunately, the overall standard of basic comfort – even for any but the most abjectly poor – is sufficiently good to provide distractions and numb any instinct to rebel. Why protest health care repeal when American Idol is on and the fries are still hot? I see a great deal of political conscience in my peers but not a lot of will to action. Signing online petitions feels great, but it doesn’t move things forward. I hope that as the recession really ends and more of us find our paths that we can remember to be engaged and not become complacent.

Biggest Dream

Can I have two, or is that cheating?

I want to write something that really matters. I don’t know yet if it will be fiction or history, but there’s an important story brewing in me that will emerge someday. In the meantime, I enjoy honing my craft wherever I get the chance.

Even if the writing doesn’t emerge as I hope, my dream would be that when I’m in my waning years some flock of younger people will look to me and say, “That Lex, he really helped me see things in a new way.” I’m not a teacher per se, but I want to lend my words and deeds to others in some meaningful way.

I suppose that’s a selfish dream, in a way, but if I know even a small group improved themselves and their communities because of me, that would be a success.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I’ll go back to my answer about my biggest dream here. I want my mark to be my voice. I yearn to know that something I’ve said will matter enough to this world that it will live on long after me and inspire others.

Failing that, I’d be thrilled to write an entire paragraph that is fully alliterative, no breaks.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

Despite my cynical words when describing my Grand Anxiety, I believe this generation has the ability to push the barriers and really make a difference in how the world works. We’re reasonably well educated, we have good tools; we have the opportunity to understand how things all fit together. Statistically, we don’t care about differences as much as individuality. (Meaning, I don’t care how you differ from me – by race, class, sexual orientation, and so on – as long as you respect me as an individual.) That makes us powerful forces for change if we can harness the power of that individuality in some collective way. If we can look past our immediate toys and tribulations and work together in person, we can really make a difference.

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