Category Archives: activism

PAFF 2016 journal #3

So I met up with Ken and Mack at the movies and we saw “Stories of our Lives” with an unfortunately small audience. This is a lovely black and white omnibus feature which told 5 stories of everyday life in rural Kenya and its challenges for GLBT people. These challenges all stem of course from a hostile political and social reality. These 5 vignettes (2 about women, 3 about men) tell of the struggle of gay and lesbian people to live their lives and love whom they want. There are no big tragedies or deaths, only the steady resistance of the society to letting them be.  
Most of what we hear about GLBT life in Africa is defined by the horrific laws and persecutions in some countries (Uganda, Nigeria). “Stories of our Lives” offers a more hopeful view absent the violence of other accounts but still realistic. Again with the dispelling of misperceptions of Africa! To wit: Africa is NOT a seething maelstrom of human slaughter and misery but is instead a collection of struggling communities and nations containing strong traditional elements as well as global trends and standards.  

I won’t be going to the festival until next Saturday when I’m planning to see “KPIANS” (Nigerian horror movie), “Nelson Mandela Myth and Me,” “Second Coming” (Idris Elba), and “Eye of the Cyclone” (Burkina Faso during their civil war). Then Sunday the boys and I are going to meet our friends Vicky and her daughters to see “Out of Darkness,” a well regarded US doc about African contributions to history, and maybe another one. Lots more info at paff.org of course.
Thanks for reading.

Jeff H
Anybody interested in joining me?

Jeff Horton

Black Lives Timeline

  • 2013,
    George Zimmerman acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin
  • Alicia Garza, on Facebook, : “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.”
  • Two days later activists used #j4tmla (justice for trayvon martin l.a.)and #blacklivesmatter in tiny letters. 

2014

  • Brittany Packnett, protests Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., appointed to President Obama’s police-reform task force.
  • A single understanding of the movement not used because  it would ultimately exclude so many people.

2015,

  • University of Missouri, a hunger strike and boycott by the football team that drives the president out of office.
  • National conferences to connect and swap strategies.
  • Encryption of communication with smartphone apps
  • Black Lives Matter network, consolidated by Garza, Cullors and Opal Tometi, now counts nearly 30 official chapters,
  • Tactics include physical occupation of public space decentralized by design, maximizing impact
  • Black Lives Matter influential LGBT activists work to make equality one of the movement’s hallmarks.

March

  • Emphasis on gender, identity and social inequality the violent arrest of Martese Johnson, at University of Virginia August, Rallies across the country to spotlight the murders of black transgender women.
  • Terms like the prefix cis—as in cisgender, and intersectional and micro aggression.

April

  • In  Bay Area, Black Lives Matter part of the Fight for 15, a campaign to hike the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • New York activists launched a Black Lives Matter super PAC.

October

  • Clinton’s overtures to Black Lives Matter interrupted by Atlanta activists
  • The Democratic National Committee, passes a resolution declaring its support for the movement

November

  • Shut down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile
  • Death of teenager Laquan McDonald. Chicago activists run campaigns against school closures, and reparations for police torture.
  • University of Missouri Members of the football team announced that they would boycott team activities.
  • BLM sweeps out president and the chancellor of its flagship campus.
  • Demonstrators began in Minneapolis police protest the shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
  • Republican presidential candidates said the movement spurs racial division, if not sheer lawlessness.

November

  • Opening the raw wounds of race has not made the protesters popular.
  • Despite its tactics (or perhaps because of it), BLM is winning ever more access to candidates as the race ramps up for next year.

The Oscars, LGBTIQ and POC

This year’s Oscar nominations were more notable for who they left out than those included.

So it included Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, and Mark Ruffalo.

Notably absent from the pool was any actor of color—the second year in a row that the Academy has elected an all-white group of nominees. And and acclaimed Lesbian themed movie Carol, were shut out of the top categories.

Carol was directed by Todd Haynes—one of the most eclectic and accomplished talents of his generation—was snubbed.

Nico Lang* in The A.V. Club reminds us that “a decade after Brokeback Mountain was famously snubbed at the 2006 Oscars—thwarted by Paul Haggis’ Crash in a shocking upset victory—Carol’s snub is just how the Academy does business. To date, a queer-themed movie has still never won Best Picture, and those that do receive any kind of recognition prominently feature queer suffering”.

Only two performers have won an award for playing LGBT characters: who live after the end of the movie: Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress in 2009 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. In 2006, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman snagged a Best Actor award for playing writer and socialite Truman Capote.

Most queer characters in movies seem to not get the dignity to die outside the camera’s gaze. In Philadelphia, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) dies of HIV in extreme close-up, as he tells his partner, Miguel: “I’m ready.”
Add The Spider Woman, Boys Don’t Cry, and you can see the Awards love queer misery and struggle.

Let’s get real,the stories of LGBT people can be important teachable moments in our nation’s ongoing struggle for equality.

So on to people of color. Example Selma’s David Oyelowo is indicative of how the Academy Awards treat black narratives.

Cara Buckley has a great article in the New York Times**.

“The outcry over the nomination of 20 white actors, and no black ones, for the Academy Awards gained momentum on Monday — Martin Luther King’s Birthday — as the director Spike Lee and the actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced they would not be attending the ceremony”.

Spike Lee’s his latest film, “Chi-Raq,” earned no nominations. He said he was tired of being asked for his opinion about all-white or majority-white Oscar races year after year, he also urged the news media to “ask all the white nominees and studio heads how they feel about another all-white ballot.”

Pinkett Smith has already taken aim at the Academy asking on Facebook and Twitter, “Should people of color refrain from participating all together?” She added, “People can only treat us in the way in which we allow.” Later she said “We can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgment or respect of any group.” Her husband, Will Smith, was a best actor contender for his lead role in “Concussion” but received no nomination.

The American Civil Liberties Union called for a government investigation into potentially discriminatory hiring practices last May. And the Directors Guild of America released a study in December showing that 82 percent of movies from 2013 and 2014 were directed by white men.

So I know you NA members and allies all love entertainment and the movies, but perhaps this is the time to consider a boycott of this years Academy Awards event based on the perceived lack of representation of LGBTQI accolades.

Remember Coretta Scott King’s admonition: “I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation”.

And also: “Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.
______________
Sources:
http://www.avclub.com/article/mostly-snubbing-carol-oscars-continue-exclude-quee-230826

Update on NA’s Stop African Homophobia

In a previous blog* the NA has denounced the rampant homophobia
and formed an adhoc committee to follow this. Meanwhile, in the New York Times there has been numerous letters** expanding support for this, and noting some backlash.

All very well, but actions speak louuder than words as the Southern California Chapter of the NA has shown recently. They have invited a gay man from Nigeria to stay and share his experiences with us. His anticipated arrival will be heralded in the noted “Gabfest” series of multimedia events (see http://bwmtsc.org). We anticipate a great attendance and will keep you all posted.

Meanwhile, some history of this issue.

It is a repeating concern that many African countries have an overt or covert attidude towards LGBTQ relationships and rights. in Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 (previously called the “Kill the Gays bill” in the western mainstream media due to death penalty clauses proposed in the original version) was passed by the Parliament of Uganda with life in prison substituted for the death penalty. The bill was signed into law by the President of Uganda, however, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the Act invalid on procedural grounds.

The US has spent more than $700 million to support “gay rights groups and causes” globally. That figure mostly encompasses public health programs that aid a broad range of individuals, including but not limited to L.G.B.T.I. persons.

It has been conjectured that the discriminatory laws adopted in recent years are a reaction to American government pressure. However, since these attitudes existed prior to that, it is unlikely. We wish that all countries assert that people should not be subject to violence or discrimination simply because of who they are. At the same time we must be aware that we should not implement policies that cas harm, directly or indirectly.

It is also true that our interest in this was heightened when American evangelicals like Scott Lively, Rick Warren and Lou Engle preached vitriol against gays, so we must be vigilent in monitoring world wide events and domestic events in LGBTQ atrocities. And the NABWMT should be well equipped to do this based on over 30 years fighting racism and homophobia.
There will always be backlash to activism and we should always be there to counter this.

Sources:
*http://www.nabwmt.org/na-denounces-african-homophobia/

**http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/12/29/opinion/support-for-gay-rights-in-africa.html?ref=topics&_r=0&referer=http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/letters/index.html
***https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda_Anti-Homosexuality_Act,_2014

Bullying

As we all know there are youths that are being bullied in school and society, and for sure in the LGBT community. How to deal with it effectively requires the skills to understand and manage their feelings, and overcome.

As an educator I hear the expression “computers will soon be able to do many of the cognitive tasks in many jobs”. Life skills are mostly relational and being part of a team. Also empathy becomes a more important workplace skill, the ability to sense what another human being is feeling or thinkings.

In addition, the ability to function in a group also becomes more important — to know how to tell stories that convey the important points, how to mix people together. Amazingly, there is an app for that to

use technology to better articulate, understand and control ones emotions. So far so good. Research shows that people communicate more often with family and friends because of technology, but the quality of that communication may be weaker.

However, kids who spend more time engaging with a screen than with other kids or adults can struggle to understand emotion, create strong relationships or become more dependent on others. If all you’re doing is using Facebook, you’re not getting the interpersonal connection that you need.

For adults, reliance on the quick text or Facebook message is mostly about saving time. But for children, the overuse of technology to communicate affects the brain as we show below. Technology can be a big hindrance on interpersonal relationships, and can rewrite a child’s brain pathways in a very different way than how they would normally develop.

The problem is that the more people and children interact with a person or the real world through a screen rather than in real life, the less emotion is attached to the exchange. The way we talk, our body language and tone are all fundamental to establishing human relationships. And they’re all missing with most forms of modern technology.

Back to LGBT bullyingIn a study, 85% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40% reported being physically harassed, and 19% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual identity. To counteract this we need to

– Debunk misperceptions about digital behavior;

– Build empathy and understanding;

– Teach online safety skills;

– Equip young people (and some adults) with strategies to reject digital abuse in their lives.

October was the national bullying prevention month. There is no federal cyberbullying law in the U.S.

and efforts at creating the culture of empathy, on the other hand, receive far less public attention. One bright light is The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s partnership with with Facebook aimed at helping the company to foster empathy among its users.

While public attention seems to be overwhelmingly focused on punishment, education on cultural values to  foster a different pattern of social relations and concern for others is just as important. Framing online behavior as symptomatic of larger cultural narratives is a much neglected view in the public debate around cyberbullying.

So why do i perseverate on this when the average age of the NABWMT is 52 (or so)? The answer is we need to realize that the current traits of young adults in empathy can become (at least in part) ours. We need to balance our online and offline persona.

After all the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society. So, after you have friended one of our thousands on our Facebook, practice being their and friend someone face to face.

Transgender Health Discrimination

trans

This is an abstract of a recently published article[*] by the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center of South Los Angeles. Direct quotes are shown as italics.

The Well Child and Family Center is a pioneer in serving and hiring transgender people. This article was made available during a BWMTSC [†]chapter meeting.

During this moment in time heralded as the transgender1 tipping point, discussion about transgender people is entering mainstream discourse, now more than ever. Despite the surge in media attention regarding the transgender community and growing acceptance of transgender identities, systemic and societal barriers remain, such as lack of access to health insurance, stigma, lack of sensitivity and cultural competency, that contribute to persistent, unmet health needs for transgender individuals.

The local speaker gave an overview of the difficulties she had as a trans women which mirrored many of the studies concern. As gay men our group was faintly aware of the difficulties of these people but was brought into focus more. This is of importance since people of color are in the majority in this cadre and have HIV issues too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, transgender women have HIV prevalence rates 25 times higher than the general population.

What was not as well known by our group transgender individuals have higher rates of transient housing, lower rates of education, have difficulty finding steady employment. Some transgender people have to resort to sex work. The incarceration rate of transgender individuals is much higher than the general population, with 42% of transgender women of color reporting previous incarceration.

1 For purposes of the article, the word ‘transgender’ reflects the mission of inclusivity, non-judgment and affirmation of multiple transgender identities and includes but is not limited to the following identities: transgender, two-spirit, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, agender, third gender, bigender, transfeminine, transwoman, transfemale, transmasculine, transman, transmale, masculine of center, gender non-conforming, gender questioning, et cetera. The University of California, Riverside recently hosted the First Asterisk Trans* Conference; February 27-28, 2015, where organizers provided their definition of a term now appearing Trans*, “Trans* affirms all people who transcend gender norms” (http://asteriskconference.blogspot.com/p/faq.html). St. John’s Transgender Health Program utilizes the term trans* in order to reflect our mission of inclusivity, non-judgment and affirmation of multiple transgender identities

What needs to be done?

Transgender people need acceptance, respect and preservation of dignity, Often patients cannot or dare not speak freely about their experience, health concerns and health-related behaviors without fear of inciting barriers to obtaining the transgender-related health care services they need. We need more providers to address this.

We need to remove the delay in approval for and receipt of transgender-specific care among patients who are insured through Medi-Cal managed care health plans.

They have failed to take a supportive stance on the delivery of time-sensitive and medically necessary care that they are obligated to provide to their transgender identified beneficiaries.

The California Department of Health Care Services requires them to cover gender surgery and hormone therapy. Likewise, insurance plans should add hormone therapy to a list of “life-

time approved” medications. However, the phrasing has allowed health plans to decide that a transgender person’s gender-affirming surgery may be considered “cosmetic” rather than “medically necessary,” and thus, would not be covered by insurance. Because gender-affirming surgeries for transgender patients are medically necessary and not “cosmetic in nature,” this language creates barriers to access to care and must be clarified. Gender identity should be protected from discrimination into the non-discriminatory hiring and employment.

Finally, a strong facilitation of legal name and gender change processes should be started. Too often when a transgender person changes name on forms and identity cards it very difficult for them to do so.

Legal name and gender change can increase an individuals’ comfort with accessing healthcare and employment as fears of discrimination, being called by the wrong name, and being confronted about gender identity are assuaged.

The National Association of Black and White Men has a proud record of supporting people at the margins and this should include the transgender community.

Note: St. John’s officially launched THP in January 2013 with 9 patients. Within 15 months, the program has close to 500 patients accessing care on a regular basis. Demand has been so high that St. John’s must expand its THP to additional days and health center site.

[*] http://www.wellchild.org/sjwcfcfinalthpwhitepaper.pdf

[†] http://bwmtsc.org

Podcast Election Fever

podcast

Ken  collects comments and ideas on the GOP debate season with the caveat that the NABWMT cannot endorse candidates for office but can and must discuss issues on human rights and how the 2016 election could impact people at ther margins
GOP presidential candidates had six prime-time hours on the national stage on Wednesday to tell the American people why they should lead the country and its scary.

There was a strong vein of xenophobia, fear mongering and lies.

Supreme Court Delivers Tacit Win to Gay Marriage

Supreme Court and Marriage Equality

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) surprised us yesterday and let stand appeals court rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five more states.(In, OK, UT, VA and WI). 

SCOTUS increased the number of states allowing same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19 and the decision could expand same-sex marriage to 30 states. Hence, nearly two-thirds of same-sex couples in the US will soon live in states where they can marry.

Source – NYTimes.com