At first I wasn't going to watch either of the Democratic debates. But then . . . I heard about something Marianne Williamson [left] said. And when I watched a clip of her comment, I then watched both full debates, in order for me to make sure I was being completely truthful [in saying] this . . .
The best, the most sane, the most truthful, the most radical, the most inspirational, the most intelligent, and the most dangerous (from the standpoint of people and institutions in/of power in the USA and beyond) moment of both the recent Democratic debates, IMO, was when Marianne Williamson spoke about us not having a "health care" system in America but a "sickness care" system instead. And then she crowned it all by naming the specific conspiratorial systems that are to blame for this state of affairs – “chemical policies, environmental policies, food policies, drug policies.” And of course she got cut off.
And then . . . there was her comment essentially about the Power of LOVE that has seemingly gone over the heads of 99% of the people who watched the debates, including the heads of lots of spiritual people. Oh, well . . .
I believe these two comments by Williamson are probably the most honest and important statements anyone has ever said in the entire (at least modern) history of political debates in America. Seriously.
Above: On the day after her participation in the Democratic presidential candidates' debate, Marianne Williamson traveled to the Homestead detention center, a for-profit detention facility for migrant children. Here she joined with others to bear witness to the great injustice and lack of compassion that Homestead represents. She later shared the following on social media.
I’m on my way back now from a visit to the Homestead detention center. We stood on ladders in order to see over the fence and look at children who are detained here. What I saw on this side of the fence is as important as what I saw on the other side: politicians, human rights groups, religious groups, social justice advocates, all kinds of people bearing witness to the agony here. Gandhi spoke of soul force, and that’s where the religious concept of bearing witness to the agony of others first took political expression.
There are two things for us to remember: number one, that the deliberate infliction of trauma on detained children is a moral crime, and should be seen as a legal one as well. It’s important that we recognize how powerful is the darkness here, in order to motivate ourselves to embrace the light that casts it out. That is what I meant by my comment at the debate last night, that where Trump has politicized fear we will politicize love. I saw a lot of love at Homestead today. A lot of people bearing witness. A lot of people there to share information with people like myself. Kudos to Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for leading the political effort for her district. There are 2,700 to 3,000 young people detained here. The detention facility is a profit-making venture, and housing each child costs $775 a day.
As I have reminded people often, a common characteristic of advanced species is the fierce behavior of the adult female when she senses a threat to her cubs. We should all see these children as our cubs. The love that will save the world cannot be only the love for our own children; it is also love for children on the other side of town, and the other side of the world. Nor is it enough to have moral principles; we must be willing to take a stand for them. Take a stand for these children. We must love them and we must rescue them. This injustice need not be.
Above:Village Voice photographer Fred McDarrah took this photo near the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. (Photo: Getty Images)
Fifty years ago today, at 1:30 in the morning on June 28, 1969, New York City police officers raided a gay- and trans-friendly bar called the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. As the police began dragging some of the patrons out, the community fought back, sparking three days of unrest and rioting. Their historic resistance launched the modern-day LGBTQ movement and became known as the Stonewall uprising.
Stonewall, Thayer reminds us, "wasn’t just an uprising for LGBT rights — it was also part of a broader movement that fought racism, war, and poverty." To go beyond today’s "tepid gay activism," Thayer says, we need to remember and embody anew the uprising's anti-capitalist spirit.
The police raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn fifty years ago this month is widely viewed as the most pivotal event in LGBT* history, spawning a movement which prompted many millions around the globe to come out of the closet and fight for their freedom. But for all its significance, the movement launched by the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion remains poorly understood today, even by many radical LGBT people who sing its praises.
Black Lives Matter activists today make the legitimate complaint that “moderates” defang the radical ideas of such bold predecessors as Martin Luther King, Jr, Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and the Black Panther Party by either outright distorting their ideas or ignoring them altogether. Likewise, on this half-century anniversary of Stonewall, we should expect similar treatment from “mainstream” LGBT people, liberals and conservatives alike, for whom Stonewall is an occasion for vacuous self-congratulation, and parades of rainbow-themed beer floats and politicians.
Stonewall was a profoundly radical event, and not just because a multiracial group of LGBT people rioted for a few nights against the police, turning a routine aspect of anti-gay oppression on its face.
The Stonewall movement unapologetically challenged generations of gender stereotypes, a huge contrast with the moderate “homophile” movement that had preceded it. Whereas homophile activists had obsessed at proving how “normal” and “unthreatening” LGBT people were to society as it already existed, Stonewall-era activists consciously saw society itself as sick and in need of radical revision.
Whereas today only a radical minority of LGBT activists decry racist violence by the police and US military to the point of calling for the abolition of both institutions, during the Stonewall era, many LGBT activists supported the overtly revolutionary Black Panther Party as it faced a nationally coordinated campaign of police violence.
Whereas today most LGBT nonprofits have nothing to say about Americas war’s abroad, or worse, wrap themselves in US patriotism, most local Stonewall-era organizations adopted the name “Gay Liberation Front” (GLF) in conscious solidarity with Vietnam’s “National Liberation Front” fighting against US troops. They rejected US nationalism and hoped the Vietnamese would defeat the United States and force it out of their country.
In short, the Stonewall movement was the antithesis of respectability politics, representing instead a radical anti-oppression politics that thoroughly critiqued all of US society.
Stonewall Wasn’t Unique
Despite some ham-fisted attempts to whiten the event, most firsthand accounts note that the Stonewall Inn was a lower-class “dive bar” with a racially mixed clientele, including sexual minorities of all sorts. Recent years have seen vigorous debates about the gender identity, race, and sexual orientation of the person who threw the first brick in retaliation for the police raid, endlessly trying to determine if it was a trans woman of color who threw the brick, a lesbian woman (race unspecified) who actively struggled as police threw her into a squadrol, or someone else entirely.
But aside from debunking any notion that it was the upper-crust, Human Rights Campaign cocktail-sipping crowd who rebirthed our movement, the debate is pointless. That’s because the riot at Stonewall wasn’t unique.
There were at least three other LGBT riots in reaction to violent police raids on LGBT venues between 1966 and 1969. Furthermore, given how poorly documented Stonewall was at the time — just a snarky Village Voice article and a few photographs — it’s likely that there were other LGBT riots around the same time that are now lost to history.
What made Stonewall special was not the riot itself, but the specific historical context in which it took place, and how that context in turn prompted LGBT people to begin organizing a radical movement in the weeks and months following. It was the post-riot organizing, not the riot itself, which caused it to gain iconic status in our history.
To read article "Why Stonewall Matters Today" in its entirety, click here.
The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion. Now, our party doesn’t talk about that as much largely for a very good reason — which is we are committed to the separation between church and state and we stand for people of any religion and people of no religion. But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it is okay to suggest that God would smile at the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.
In a recent piece in Macleans magazine, columnist Anne Kingston compellingly contends that “the world is broken – and human kindness is the only solution.”
One reason I feel so passionately about the presidential candidacy of Marianne Williamson (left) is that she, like no other candidate, embodies and inspires a radical call for human kindness in all aspects of our broken world, including politics.
And she qualified to take part in the initial primary debates by getting to 1% in at least three national polls and receiving 65,000 unique donations — the criteria set by the Democratic National Committee. In fact, She landed that spot well ahead of Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, who came dangerously close to missing the cut. Three other politicians — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam — did not make the cut. In a recent interview, Williamson chalked up her unexpected success to a new “openness to ideas” among voters.
I'm very much looking forward to watching Marianne get her message out there, or as she prefers to say, in there – into the consciousness and imagination of the American people. How exactly does she plan to do this? By telling some “big truths.”
Of course, she's been sharing “big truths” throughout her life as a spiritual author and teacher. And because her understanding of spirituality necessitates conscious and compassionate involvement in all aspects of life, including politics, she's recently been sharing these “big truths” on the campaign trail.
Following is a compilation of statements by Marianne that reflect some of these “big truths.” If you're unfamiliar with her and her platform, these statements will serve as a handy primer ahead of this evening's debate and Marianne's participation in it. (The sources for these statements are the articles listed and hyperlinked at the end of this post.)
I’m a woman, I’m a Texan, I’m a Jew, and I’m 66 years old. If I were president, I would be humane and compassionate and values-based with the use of power. I would not be timid. In politics, you must compromise. But with vision, you should never compromise. And to me, that’s part of leadership. . . . The only way to beat [the Trump administration's] big lies is with big truth. [Trump] will eat a half-truth teller alive in this election. And the Democrats have been telling half-truths for decades now, ever since they too started playing footsie under the table with the same corporate forces that are the problem.
I’ve worked up close and personal with people for over 35 years who are dealing with crises in their lives, seeking to navigate those crises to transform them into opportunity. And I have recognized particularly over the last 20 years, how many of those crises are at least indirectly and often directly a result of bad public policy. So not only do I have a real visceral sense of how bad public policy affects people’s lives and which bad public policy affects people’s lives, but also a deep passion for what needs to change. I think that that’s what it’s all about. It’s about human suffering. How to address it and how to ameliorate it, that’s what politics should be. Politics should be a conduit for making people’s lives better. Securing our rights, not thwarting them.
Love is what makes us great. Many people in the United States, not just myself, long for a different conversation than the one that currently dominates our public sphere. There's something so toxic, so fearful, so bigoted and hateful that has formed a political voice and formed a political force field in the United States. we all know this. And we must create the alternative; we just can't fight that. We have to create a real substitute. And that's to bring back a conversation that includes love and justice and fairness and principle and ethics and goodness and morality, and make that a public conversation and turn that into a political force field.
I want to be president because I want this country to return to its mission statement. I want public policy to be aligned again with our deeper moral vales, our deeper democratic values, our deeper humanitarian values. I want this country to work once again as a democracy and not as a veiled aristocracy where our government is doing more to advocate for short-term corporate profits than for the well-being of the people of this country, and the world, and the planet on which we live. I'm not here just to "elevate the conversation." I'm here to elevate the country. And the deeper conversation [needed to achieve this] is the essence of this campaign. The political establishment has a very superficial conversation. We will not be able to transform or repair this country until we get down and have a much deeper conversation about what has happened here; about how we have deviated as a nation from the notion of a government of the people by the people and for the people. We're a government of the corporations by the corporations and for the corporations. I stand for an actual pattern disruption of the political and economic status quo.
[In the first 100 days of my presidency I would] first of all call European leaders and say, "We're back," and have a few chuckles and share the relief that we have rejoined the family of Western powers and a sense of how important that alliance is. I will call Jacinda Ardern, who is the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and who has said that she wants to make New Zealand the best place in the world for a child to grow up. And I will say to her, “Girlfriend, you're on, because we will be having quite a competition for that title over the next four years.” I will call leaders of both the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and I will work hard to begin the relationship with both of them, in which they are made very, very clear that the United States now has an equal relationship, in a very robust way, to both the legitimate security needs of Israel and also the human rights, and dignity, and economic hopes and opportunities of the Palestinian people. That will be a lot in that first hundred days.
I have talked, from the beginning of my campaign, about reparations, about a much deeper healing of the of the racial divide, our need for racial reconciliation in this country. I believe that a reparations counsel needs to be appointed, which would be in charge of dispersing these funds over a period of 20 years. These funds that would be given for for projects of economic and educational renewal. I don't believe that the average American is a racist, but I do believe that the average American is vastly under-informed and under-educated about the history of race in the United States. But we are a good people, we do have a good sense of fairness and justice. And I think when the average American sees that there were two and a half centuries of slavery followed by 100 years of what would be called today domestic terrorism. What do you call lynching? What do you call the Ku Klux Klan? What do you call institutionalized white supremacy and segregation? The economic gap between black and white America that was created, fostered and maintained, not just created by slavery, but then maintained by the 100 years after that, has never been closed.
The political establishment has a way of proffering this illusion that they’re the only ones who sit around and think deeply about America. Everybody cares about America, and politicians don’t care any more than anybody else does, and they don’t have any better ideas than anybody else does. . . . Our country was founded on the most enlightened principles that have ever formed the founding of a nation. And from the beginning, we have been at times the most violent transgressors against those principles. We had slavery, but then we had abolition. We had the suppression of women, but then we had two waves of feminism and the women’s suffragette movement. . . . To me, the modern political establishment – the Democrats no less than the Republicans – speaks to people’s self-interest. I’m not saying, “Elect me and I could do this for you.” Politics should be a far more noble conversation. It should be: This is what this generation should do for our unborn great-grandchildren.
I’m a big fan of Bernie Sanders . . . and on the vast majority of his policies, I agree with him. However, I’m having what I believe is a more expanded conversation as well. We need an integrative politics and by that, I mean we need to factor in much more than just external issues. The reason that the left was gobsmacked by [Bernie Sanders'] success, that the establishment, the Democratic establishment, was gobsmacked by his success, is the same reason that the Republican establishment was gobsmacked by the success of Donald Trump. Both [establishments] failed to recognize, and for the most part still fail to recognize, the significance of psychological and emotional factors in political dynamics. I had seen up close and personal for decades the economic despair, the economic tension and anxiety that is prevalent in the lives of so many millions of people that I wasn’t surprised that this economic populist cry of despair made itself heard. It was going to make itself heard either in a leftist progressive populism or an authoritarian right-wing populism such as is Donald Trump. So when I see certain things, certain issues where people are suffering needlessly and the political establishment is simply normalizing that despair rather than addressing it, then I’m going to speak up. That’s what I do.
People know who Donald Trump is. Donald Trump is harnessing primal fear. Intellectual analysis will not defeat that, only primal love will defeat that. . . . My campaign is about a deep and meaningful conversation I’m trying to have here, which I feel is [one] that will transform this country. . . . The only way to defeat dog whistles is to drown them out with angel voices. But the angels can only sing through us.
Millions of American children go to classrooms where they do not even have the adequate school supplies with which to teach a child to read. We have elementary school children on suicide watch. Around 13 million American children go to school hungry every day. We have children living in what’s called America’s domestic war zones, where psychologists say the PTSD of returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq is no more severe than the PTSD of these children. These children should be rescued, no differently than if they were the victims of a natural disaster. And what is the political establishment doing, except normalizing their despair? I want a massive realignment of investment in the direction of children 10 years old and younger. ... It’s not so much how I would exercise power differently than a man, it’s what I want to use power for that is different.
America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace-time economy, repurposing the tremendous talents and infrastructure of our military-industrial complex in such a way as to leave us strong enough to deal with America’s legitimate needs for military preparedness, yet moving on to the urgent task of building a sustainable society and sustainable world.
Discrimination in housing and employment is a terrible problem for the LGBTQ+ community. And I recognize that and I also recognize the efforts throughout the country to actually regress rather than to progress on efforts to provide greater equality for LGBTQ+ people. My relationship with the gay community in the United States is deep and goes back for decades. It’s a natural one. It’s one that is already part of my emotional blood stream. I feel that my recognition of discrimination against gay people has been well honed over the decades and also my recognition of the profound gift of the gay community has been well honed. I hope that there’s the feeling that I’ve proven my kinship and my friendship as that community has certainly proven its friendship and kinship to me.
There’s really no such thing as neutrality. Neutrality is a [fallacy] and a lot of Americans over the last few decades – economically, socially, and politically – have fallen for the [fallacy] of neutrality. . . . As they used to say in the '60s, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If whether in our individual lives, our personal lives, or our societal lives we’re not holding high, proactively, and vigorously the principles of democracy and the principles of deep humanitarian concern and passion, there is no reason to be surprised [by where we find ourselves now]. You know, you turn off the lights, the darkness sets in. So now everybody’s talking about what do we do about the darkness. The answer is, turn on the light.
I've always had a deep thing about about God, even when I was a little girl. [And then when] I was in my twenties I began reading a set of books called A Course in Miracles. And A Course in Miracles doesn't have a monopoly on truth; it's not a religion. There are no dogma, no doctrine, but it's a psychological course based on the universal spiritual themes of love and forgiveness and atonement for our own mistakes, [These themes are] at the core of all the great religious teachings. And it made a tremendous difference in my life, and still does make a difference when I apply it. Like I always say, when I practice what I preach, my life really does work well. You know, it's not enough just to know these things, we also have to practice these things. It's easy enough to be loving to someone who is loving to me, it's easy enough to be loving in a situation where other people are behaving the way I want them to. The issue in life is: What about when I'm triggered? What about when I'm tempted? Am I going to constrict my heart or am I going to open my heart?
We're living in a period of spiritual emergence at this time. The fact that it is not always centered in institutional religious organizations [means that] religious institutions are losing, and this is probably good for them because they're going to have to, like, figure out [that] maybe [they] should return to some of [their] own spiritual basics. [So what we have today is] a lot of people [who] are living profoundly faith-based existences but do not feel they need to center that faith experience within the context of an organized religious institution. Faith in Gd if faith in love, that we love one another. That is the essence of all faith traditions. It's [about] how we live, how we live with one another, whether we love one another, whether in fact we are brothers and sisters on this earth. That [understanding], I think, people are coming back to in droves. And I think everything we're talking about politically has to do with people thinking, Well, wait a minute, if this is true for me for how I'm supposed to live as an individual, isn't this also true for how we're supposed to live collectively?
I think part of the tragedy with Hillary Clinton is [that] Trump named people’s pain. Bernie named people’s pain. Hillary did not name the pain. I’m not saying she didn’t care about the pain, and I’m not saying that she wouldn’t have done everything in her power to assuage the pain, but during her campaign when she was out there saying, Oh, we just need to continue the success of the Obama years, I knew in my heart right then, because I travel this country, I knew how many millions of people were out there thinking, Continue the success? I’m freaking dying here.
In order to transform our society, we need to recognize the depth of corruption that has set into our governmental and economic functioning. We have essentially moved from a democratic to an aristocratic situation where our government works more to advocate for short term profits for multi-national corporations than it does to advocate for the well-being our people and our planet. Our government works more to make it easier for those who already have a lot of money to make more of it and harder for those who not have any money to even get by. This corruption, which has progressed over the last 40 years, has created an amoral economic system where economic values are placed before humanitarian values. And our democracy itself can no longer be accurately described as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It’s only when we recognize the depth of the corruption that has set in here that we can move into a path of genuine transformation. Because until then, all we’re doing is addressing the symptoms and no one is naming the cause. All we’re doing is making incremental changes seeking to diminish the pain that people are experiencing because of all this, but not challenging the underlying forces that make all of that pain inevitable.
The undue influence of money on our politics is the cancer underlying all the other cancers. One of the very sad things about the fact that Hillary did not win is that we don’t have a chance any time soon of appointing a Supreme Court Justice that might give us a path towards overturning Citizens United. . . . The first thing I would do [as president] is submit to Congress legislation to establish public funding for federal campaigns.
The reason we don’t have universal health care right now is because it would cut into short-term profits for health insurance companies and big pharma. We need to be willing to name this and to challenge this. The reason we’re not addressing the climate crisis adequately is because it would cut into short-term profits for fossil fuel companies. And the Democratic party should name and challenge the fact that we do not have a national security agenda based on creating peace in the world anytime in the next few decades because to really do that would cut into short-term profits for defense contractors and the nuclear industry. [These are examples of] what I mean by challenging, by naming, by bringing the American people into realization [about the influence of money on our politics].
I think moral outrage is not born of anger. Moral outrage is born of love. And women have known this forever. We express our fierceness, [and] we’re called angry. So we know there’s a lot of projection and misuse of that word to hold people down when we’re expressing our passion. When you allow anger to be the fuel for your political activism, it’s like choosing white sugar as opposed to a healthy diet as your nutritional support. So white sugar will give you an adrenaline high and you have all this energy and then you’ll crash. Political change is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. And so it ultimately eats away at you, if that’s your motivation. It’s higher and every bit as powerful to know you’re serving the ages. Something fierce rises up, particularly in a people with a history of oppression. Something fierce and way more powerful than anger rises up when you say, You did it to my grandparents and you’re not going to do it to my kids. It’s not anger, it’s just that this shit stops now.
UPDATE: Well, it was definitely disappointing that Marianne received less podium time than probably anyone else on the debate stage tonight. Organizers were clearly catering to who is currently most popular in the polls (Sanders, Biden, Harris, and Buttigieg).
All that being said, Marianne made the most of the time she was given, getting to the heart of a number of important issues and making the connections, as is her way. And as Faris Bseiso and Gregory Krieg of CNN note, she “called out the other candidates on what she perceived was a surface-level discourse: she criticized them for not discussing 'American foreign policy in Latin America' [in relation to the crisis on the southern border], called on them to 'get deeper than the superficial fixes' regarding the health care system, and underscored the 'deep, deep realms of racial injustice' at play when discussing police shooting incidents.”
Initially, I thought her closing statement was too esoteric for the occasion. But then, as my friend Connie reminded me, it was just Marianne being Marianne. And bravely so too, given the cut-throat setting of a political debate. Meanwhile, my friend Phillip humorously saw Marianne's closing remarks as doing psychic warfare with Trump. “The devil is a liar and he's occupying the White House,” said Phillip. “Marianne just performed an exorcism on Trump.” And in doing so, one can only wonder if Marianne is the first candidate to use the word “love” in a presidential debate. Certainly the word has never been used in such a powerful and targeted way: as a volley of transforming energy aimed specifically at one who has wrought so much damage by harnessing fear as a political force. (It's a vision that, for me, readily casts Marianne as one of the “interlopers” in this stunningly drawn panel from the Prince Valiant adventure strip!)
But seriously, Marianne's signature focus on love and its harnessing as a political force was not lost on TIME magazine's Rachel E. Greespan, who in the hours after tonight's debate wrote: “Marianne Williamson's vibe was all about love, [and] people couldn't get enough.”
Indeed, according to data from Google, Marianne was the most searched candidate in tonight's debate. Now that's definitely something, wouldn't you say?
This illustration is to honor Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25 and his daughter, Valeria, 2.
The family from El Salvador were trying to escape extreme poverty and seek asylum in the U.S. but they were turned away. They tried to cross the Rio Grande and only the mother, Tania Vanessa Ávalos made it out alive.
The family was surviving on $10 a day in El Salvador (the country still uses U.S. currency). Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez wanted to work in the U.S. so he could raise money to build a home for his wife and daughter. My condolences to the family and the mother for their loss. 🌹
“From the scorching Sonoran Desert to the fast-moving Rio Grande, the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border has long been an at times deadly crossing between ports of entry. A total of 283 migrant deaths were recorded last year; the toll so far this year has not been released” (CNN).
Currently the Internet and news are circulating a photo of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and Valeria found dead by the Rio Grande. If you look up the story, this image will come up.
If you choose to share the image of their death for shock value or to express your views on immigration and human rights, please remember that this was a family in search of a better life. Please be respectful and show compassion and empathy. Perhaps consider sharing instead a photo that humanizes them. This family, like many others, risked their lives sólo para buscar una vida mejor [just to look for a better life]. #restinpower
Throughout the month of June, The New York Times is doing a series of articles in which they ask 10 prominent members of the LGBTQI community (or "L.G.B.T.Q. community" as they write it) to reflect on their experiences in the decades after the Stonewall uprising. One of the people featured in this series is black feminist author and activist Barbara Smith, who talks about her disillusionment with the mainstream LGBTQI movement and why she ultimately left it.
Given my own disillusionment with much of the movement and my long-time efforts to instead make wider connections, I appreciate Smith's recollections and perspective, finding them both insightful and affirming.
Following, with added images and links, are Barbara Smith's reflections on her "life after Stonewall."
I have not been active in the organized L.G.B.T.Q. movement for a long time.
At the second national march, in 1987, I was invited to be one of eight major speakers. It was exhilarating to speak before a crowd of nearly one million people. At the same time, it was devastating to see the vast AIDS quilt on display in one place for the first time, symbolizing so much human loss.
I felt ambivalent about the 1993 march. For me it was overly focused on gays in the military and in presenting our community as an affluent consumer group to win favor from the corporate mainstream. This supposed affluence was not even real except for a privileged sector of largely white gay men.
In 1999 the tight circle of organizers of the Millennium March in Washington reflected how narrow and hierarchical the movement had become. A group of us established the multiracial Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process. Ted Beck, Mandy Carter, Chandra L. Ford, Kara Keeling and I wrote an open letter to the march organizers titled “Will People of Color Pay the Price?” Our efforts at opening up the organizational process were not successful. I did not attend the 1999 march or any subsequent ones. For me the Millennium March was the last straw.
Three decades later, despite some genuine efforts to increase diversity, especially in progressive movement circles, exclusivity and elitism still divide us. We have won rights and achieved recognition that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago, but many of us continue to be marginalized, both in the larger society and within the movement itself.
One in four people in the L.G.B.T.Q. community experienced food insecurity in 2017. Twenty-four percent of lesbians and bisexual women earn less than the federal poverty line. L.G.B.T.Q. youth have a 120 percent higher risk of experiencing homelessness than heterosexual, cisgender youth.
Black men who have sex with men have the highest rates of new H.I.V. diagnoses. People who are transgender, particularly transgender women of color, experience appalling levels of violence, and this violence is exacerbated by poverty and racism.
These statistics show it is not possible to achieve justice in a vacuum. Marriage equality and celebrity culture will not solve it. Neither will political agendas focused on unquestioned assimilation. Gaining rights for some while ignoring the violation and suffering of others does not lead to justice. At best it results in privilege.
Unless we eradicate the systemic oppressions that undermine the lives of the majority of L.G.B.T.Q. people, we will never achieve queer liberation.
The Wild Reed’s 2019 Queer Appreciation series continues with the sharing of Oscar Kim Bauman’s recent article on the Queer Liberation March, scheduled to take place next Sunday, June 30 in New York City. Bauman’s article was first published this past Tuesday, June 18 by Our Town, the “local paper for the Upper East Side,” and, as you'll see, includes an interview with longtime LGBTQI activist and journalist, Ann Northrop.
Following, with added images and links, is Bauman’s article in its entirety.
Reclaiming a Proud Legacy
By Oscar Kim Bauman Our Town
June 18, 2019
Activists opposed to the role that corporations play
in NYC Pride events are staging a march of their own
Fifty years after the Stonewall rebellion launched the modern LGBTQ rights movement, New York City is playing host to the World Pride celebrations. As Pride has grown, it has also changed in nature. What began as a scrappy, community-based political protest has become a mammoth, rainbow-hued festival full of corporate sponsors.
The activists at the Reclaim Pride Coalition want to return Pride to its political roots. To that end they have organized their own Queer Liberation March, an alternative to the official NYC Pride March. Organizer Ann Northrop, a veteran activist, said the first Pride march in New York, in June 1970, “was a political event,” which has been left behind by the “corporate party” Pride has become.
A Dedicated Activist
Northrop got her start in the anti-Vietnam War and women’s rights protest movements in the 1960s and ‘70s. Out as a lesbian since 1976, she left a job at CBS to work as an AIDS educator for New York’s Hetrick-Martin Institute for Lesbian and Gay Youth, and later as an organizer at ACT UP.
In the decades since, Northrop has worked at the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ-focused think tank, the Lesbian Avengers and Queer Nation activist groups, as well as “every protest group that came along.” Since 1996, she has hosted the public access show Gay USA along with Andy Humm [right], showcasing LGBTQ issues, both domestically and internationally.
Northrop said her years on Gay USA have made her “continually aware” of the challenges faced by LGBTQ communities around the world. During an interview, she noted the struggles of activists in Bosnia and North Macedonia to hold the first Pride marches in their nations. She also mentioned a Pride march last year in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp by Ugandan refugees, at risk to their own lives due to the rigidly conservative environment. “That is Pride to me, not TD Bank rolling down Fifth Avenue,” Northrop said.
An Unconventional Approach
It was this desire to re-center rights advocacy as part of Pride which drew Northrop to Reclaim Pride. In 2017 and 2018, Northrop, along with other activists, took part in the city’s official Pride march. But after struggles in 2018 with Heritage of Pride, the organizers of the march, Reclaim Pride was founded.
Above: Ann Northrop moderates a meeting of the Reclaim Pride Coalition. (Photo: Jackie Rudin)
Northrop explained that in Reclaim Pride, “nobody has official titles, we’re just organizers. Everyone’s on equal footing,” This unconventional approach reflects Reclaim Pride’s focus on accessibility and community. Unlike the NYC Pride parade, which requires permits to join, the Queer Liberation March welcomes participants at any point along the four-mile route, which begins at Sheridan Square at 9:30 A.M. on June 30th and concludes with a rally at Central Park’s Great Lawn.
Northrop emphasized that politicians are welcome to join the rally, “just not in campaign mode.” Centering on the LGBTQ community itself over any outside figures or organizations is central to Reclaim Pride’s efforts.
As part of its political focus, Reclaim Pride also bars the presence of corporations and the NYPD [New York Police Department], both of which are fixtures of NYC Pride. Northrop explained that while some corporations have helped advocate for certain LGBTQ causes, they should not be the focus of Pride at the expense of the community the event is meant to celebrate. “If they want to support us, they can stand on the sidelines,” she said, “or give money to the community.”
As for the NYPD, Northrop said they “make the most marginalized feel unsafe,” and pointed to the department’s history of entrapping gay men and numerous incidents of brutality. She also noted its failure to apologize for the 1969 raid on the Stonewall Inn. (A few days after the interview, Police Commissioner James O’Neill finally offered that long-awaited apology. “The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong – plain and simple,” he said.)
Northrop said that she has had friends with and worked with the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) on efforts to reduce homophobia within the NYPD. She said members of GOAL, as well as any other NYPD officers, are free to participate in the Queer Liberation March, as long as they march out of uniform, representing themselves rather than the institution whose historical practices Reclaim Pride objects to.
Northrop explained that Pride should be a time for “celebrating our victories, mourning our losses,” and looking ahead to the next fronts in the continuing struggle for LGBTQ rights. The Queer Liberation March is part of what she described as “a much bigger stream of progressive values,” which seek to galvanize Pride into a community-based political event once more.
Rights and Safety for Transgender People
Northrop said two issues are particularly important today: transgender rights, and the ongoing attempts to include sexuality and gender identity as protected groups under federal non-discrimination laws.
“Trans communities are under attack,” she said. “Black trans women are being murdered.” Two such women, 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey and 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker [right] were both killed in Dallas, Texas in the last month alone, she noted.
The Human Rights Foundation documented at least 26 murders of transgender people in the United States last year. Black transgender women are particularly vulnerable to such violence, as they face the compounded issues of racism, transphobia, and misogyny.
As for the issue of non-discrimination laws, while New York includes gender identity and sexual orientation in both its employment discrimination and hate crime laws, only 20 other states do so with regard to employment, and only 18 do so for hate crimes.
Northrop and other activists seek to expand those protections nationwide, an uphill battle against the Trump administration, which Northrop described as “relentless and shameless in rolling back protections.” Just last month, she pointed out, the Department of Health and Human Services rescinded an Obama-era guideline which protected transgender people from discrimination by health care providers.
All of this – the Queer Liberation March and the ongoing struggle to create a safe and fair world for LGBTQ people – Northrop said, is all part of Reclaim Pride’s goal to “bring back that spirit of Stonewall.”
I established The Wild Reed in 2006 as a sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integrity – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith. The Wild Reed's original by-line read, “Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.” As you can see, it reads differently now. This is because my journey has, in many ways, taken me beyond, or perhaps better still, deeper into the realities that the words “progressive,” “gay,” and “Catholic” seek to describe.
Even though reeds can symbolize frailty, they may also represent the strength found in flexibility. Popular wisdom says that the green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. Tall green reeds are associated with water, fertility, abundance, wealth, and rebirth. The sound of a reed pipe is often considered the voice of a soul pining for God or a lost love.
On September 24, 2012,Michael BaylyofCatholics for Marriage Equality MNwas interviewed by Suzanne Linton of Our World Today about same-sex relationships and why Catholics can vote 'no' on the proposed Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment.
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