Category Archives: Social

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.

Friends, Romans, and Countrymen

***(Editors Note: This is from a new contributor to our blogs, Alex. These are selected blogs she has started as a memorial to a friend to spread awareness of LGBT autism and mental illness).

Hello everyone!  My name is Alex.  This blog here is going to be a memorial blog.  It is written to honor the memory of a young lady named Renne, who died far too young.  There was nothing just about her death.  She wasn’t a drunk driver.  She didn’t use heavy drugs.  She just happened to be at a blind intersection, coming home from a friend’s house, when a car ran over her.

This blog is an attempt at making sense of her death, and also why she was so important to me.  It may go in fits and spurts.  I have a lot of material that i’ve already written about her.  There is more coming, but it is still in the editing process.

So welcome aboard.  I hope that someday, we can both make sense of this.


White Fear and Racial Identity

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At the NABWMT we have a rich history in understandng and combating racial injustice. In this blog, using research from many sources we continue our series to look at white privilidge, This time, we look at the increasing fear in less educated, white people, that they are loosing “their country”. This reminds us of our charter to provide an understanding of the trends in racism as we see it. Note that this is an “opinion article” and though it rests on peer review, is subject to an open discussion.

As the New York Times points out# the “Republican presidential primary, evolving from one surprise to the next, has revived the debate, but with an important racial coda” and a “narrower question: What’s going on with working-class whites”, and a “battle over the purpose and configuration of the American government”.

According to Pew Research, *The economic status of adults with a bachelor’s degree changed little from 1971 to 2015, meaning that similar shares of these adults were lower-, middle- or upper-income in those two years. Those without a bachelor’s degree tumbled down the income tiers, however. Among the various demographic groups examined, adults with no more than a high school diploma lost the most ground economically”.

Similarly, a Quinnipiac University poll asked ** “Would you say that – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has the right kind of experience to be President or not?” and the answer was: Clinton 70% Trump 26%. Their supporters are overwhelmingly white. White non-Hispanics are the only ethnic group that leans Republican, according to a study of party affiliation by the Pew center. White men who have not completed college favor the G.O.P. over the Democratic Party by 54 to 33 percent. In addition, many white Americans are most likely drawn to Mr. Trump’s xenophobic, anti-immigrant message because they agree with it. Race has determined political choices for a long time.

Looking at how racial voters view governments, shows that white Americans mistrust, while nonwhite voters like what the government does.

The economists Alesina, Glaeser and Sacerdote *** wrote that “European countries are much more generous to the poor relative to the US level of generosity. Economic models suggest that redistribution is a function of the variance and skewness of the pre-tax income distribution, the volatility of income (perhaps because of trade shocks), the social costs of taxation and the expected income mobility of the median voter.

None of these factors appear to explain the differences between the US and Europe. Instead, the differences appear to be the result of racial heterogeneity in the US and American political institutions. Racial animosity in the US makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately black, unappealing to many voters. American political institutions limited the growth of a socialist party, and more generally limited the political power of the poor.”

Another writer, William Julius Wilson**** described, two decades ago, how race and economics collided. “Racism has historically been one of the most prominent American cultural frames and has played a major role in determining how whites perceive and act toward blacks”.

Futhermore, looking at the racial divide in education, Julian Betts of the University of California, San Diego and Robert Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz found that for every four immigrants entering public high schools, one native student switched to a private school*****

Now let’s look In Europe, where voters are increasingly drawn to xenophobic politics, driven by fear based on the instinctive realization that the white man’s world in decline.

A few years ago it looked as if the United States — long more tolerant of immigration, with a more fluid sense of national identity that readily allowed for hyphenation — could avoid this turn.

But judging by this year’s political debate, held against the background of improving but still insufficient prosperity, Americans are moving in the same direction. Racial identity and its attendant hostilities appear to be jumping from their longstanding place in the background of American politics to the very center of the stage.

We appeal to our members and allies to vote their conscience on these issues and review the facts underlying policies enunciated by our potential leaders.

**** Being Poor, Black, and American: The Impact of Political, Economic, and Cultural Forces, by William Julius Wilson, American Educator, Spring 2011, Vol. 35, No. 1, American Federation of Teachers


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 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.



Margins, Muslims, and Mentors

It’s Christmas and our thoughts are of families and children. However, at the margins life may be tough.
Let’s start with an excerpt from the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Excupery.

“There were terrible seeds on the little prince’s planet… they were baobab seeds. The planet’s soil was infested with them. Now, a baobab, if you set about it too late, you can never get rid of it. It takes up the whole planet. It pierces it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and if there are too many baobabs, they will make it burst”.

So maybe our boababs are, in part, class and religious differences?

Back to our kids, according to a new Pew Research Study* “In poor families, however, children tend to spend their time at home or with extended family, the survey found. They are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods that their parents say aren’t great for raising children, and their parents worry about them getting shot, beaten up or in trouble with the law” They also go on to find “While bullying is parents’ greatest concern over all, nearly half of low-income parents worry their child will get shot, compared with one-fifth of high-income parents. They are more worried about their children being depressed or anxious”

And I dont need to tell readers of this blog how African American kids are told by their parents to be carefull about enconters with the police.

Also today in the New York Times an article reviewed the answers by Muslim Americans on their kids safety.*** They noted that “A wave of recent attacks by extremists acting in the name of Islam — including in San Bernardino, Calif., this month — has contributed to a rise in anti-Muslim speech in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. We askd our readers who are Muslim how they talk to their children about these difficult times”.
The article illustrates the same problems and other kids at the margin have. The following are some of the strategies that Muslim parents have devised.

  • “work 100 times harder” and “be 100 times kinder.”
  • “be wary of anyone reaching out to them over the Internet andzes claiming to be Muslim. “ISIL is trying to recruit you,”
  • “our Muslim kids personally identify with how the Christian pilgrims came here, cut off from everyone and everything they knew, simply to be able to adore God how they thought fit.
  • “I nevertheless encourage them not to discuss faith with anyone.”

I will finish with a hope that racial and religious intolerance no longer penelizes our children at the margins and our nation.

Happy Holidays.

Pens, Punched Cards and Patience

It’s approaching Christmas and I am reminiscing on my earlier days. I know it sounds sentimental and a bit depressing to some but I was kinda excited to discover in the back of my drawer a bunch of tactile devises – fountain pens.

Say what? For those unfamiliar with these devices, they are fine writing objects which deliver ink on paper by a collection of delicate wells and cavities to a a “nib” the best of which are 14 carat gold to allow for flexibility and resist corrosion. The fountain pens I have are 30 years old and and after charging with fresh ink fires up flawlessly,

But why am I rambling on about this? You may know that have a series of blogs and podcasts* for the NABWMT about balancing or tactile (real) and online lives. This is relevant to our interactions with people especially when we promote our fight against racism and homophobia.

I just read the New York Times and an article struck me as germane to this blog. It seems that 75% of hospitals have electronic records. However, the health practitioners reported “digital fatigue” and have been covertly resorting to paper to as a back up for passwords and notes. These are folks that are supposed to be people sensitive and are detracted from their roles as such. Does this sound familiar? Are you bombarded with the need to remember the scores of passwords?

In my blog: “Blogs, Being There”** I stated that the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society, practice being a friend face to face. To that I add at this Holiday time we should renew the vehicles of phoning and writing (with or without a fountain pen)!

The added bonus to this is that you may have an antidote to the 120 character communications a la Twitter, we often live in. You see, writing should slow down the movement of you thoughts to a physical record. Here is another old world analogy with computers. 20 years ago I started using a mainframe computer with “punched cards”. These cards enabled a computer to read each line of code, Today there are millions of lines of code embedded in a computer you can hold in your hand! I had to look at these cards to make sure I could find a mistake that could screw up my program. The point is thatI slowed down my thought processes to learn. I needed patience.

I am not a therapist nor a Luddite but proponent of balance. I try to balance my offline and online day. Often it is difficult. But then I recall that our hero Bayard Rustin organized the March on Washington without a digital command center. Dr. Jon Bush,*** long time NA member wrote his academic papers on race relations. An Dr Jerry Mallon,**** another NA hero wrote is seminal monograph “Resisting Racism” probably with pen and paper (maybe a fountain pen?).




Cultural Update from Jeff

(This is a contribution from the BWMTSC Co Chair, an opera buff)

I just want to share a bit about the wonderful music I heard this weekend (even though I have a mountain of papers to grade by Thursday). It started off with an encore presentation of Mozart’s Magic Flute, the Met Live in HD first broadcast 10 years ago. This is the abbreviated English language production by Julie Taymore of Lion King fame. It is fabulous! Mozart’s sublime music and masonic tinged plot is filled out with extravagant puppets, masks, and many other brilliant stage effects. We all loved it!

Then Saturday night I went to a concert at the opera house by the Uruguayan baritone Erwin Schrott. He was backed up by 9 Latin jazz musicians for a selection of Latin American music including tangos, sambas, and others. Schrott was fantastic: a beautiful, sensuous voice and a charming manner with the audience. The back up musicians were all very hot and the whole concert was irresistible. Then the icing on the cake was his special guest, Jose Feliciano! He sang a couple of songs in a strong voice, played incredible guitar riffs, talked charmingly about the past, and closed with Feliz Navidad! The whole concert was a new revelation about Schrott and Latin music and a great memory of an artist we all loved years ago.

Then today I saw the opera Norma again. I had seen the opening night on my birthday and loved it. Today was if anything even better after a few performances to mellow everything. This is one of my favorite operas and I’ve heard many singers essay the very demanding title role. Angela Meade in this production was splendid with a strong, expressive voice that commanded the stage without belting. She was joined by an equally impressive soprano as Adalgisa, a very good tenor as Pollione and bass as Oroveso (both Black by the way, surely a first!). It was bel canto singing of the highest order cascading from the stage in wave after wave as Bellini’s ravishing score unfolded the tragic story. I was speechless with delight by the end and so glad I heard it twice. Good Norma’s are rare because it’s such difficult part emotionally and vocally. It was Callas’s most often performed role; other notable Norma’s were Rosa Ponselle, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballe. Today Sandra Radvanovsky sings Norma. She and Angela Meade from this production are almost the only two successfully performing this masterpiece. And I heard her twice!

So, cari amici, that was my excellent operaful weekend! Now for those papers….
Jeff Horton

Podcast AIDS, Black Women and Black Prisoners

Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Women of color are especially affected by HIV infection and AIDS according to the CDC*. HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34.

Given that condoms are not given out in prison, injectable drugs and tattoos are also present, and after release prisoners are likely to have goo health care and are in “communities of denial” it is very likely that the higher incarceration of people of color will lead to a disproportionate rate of HIV infection in women of color. This is also a function of the fact that men seeking men for sex have no counterpart in women.

AIDS, Black Women and Black Prisoners

Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Women of color are especially affected by HIV infection and AIDS according to the CDC*. HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34.

African-Americans aret 12 percent of the United States’ population, but are about half of all new infections and deaths from H.I.V./AIDS. In a recent speech deemed to be true by On the Issues* Hillary Clinton said, “If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”

The New York Times reported*** “Given that men who have sex with men account for a majority of H.I.V. cases among both black and white men, the spike in H.I.V. infections among black women has perplexed public health officials” . Is it because of drugs? The article goes on to suggest that “higher rates of H.I.V. among men who have been in prison may raise the risk of infection in their community”. The NAACP**** reports that together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population.

Given that condoms are not given out in prison, injectable drugs and tattoos are also present, and after release prisoners are likely to have goo health care and are in “communities of denial” it is very likely that the higher incarceration of people of color will lead to a disproportionate rate of HIV infection in women of color. This is also a function of the fact that men seeking men for sex have no counterpart in women.

So, the homophobic and racist “blame the victim” attitudes, which have no roots in facts, since blacks are no more prevalent than others to have bisexual encounters or riskier health actions, dorve are wrong and steroprofiles.

So whats to be done? Some legislation has adressed the rapes and assaults in prison but are not enforced.

The “New Jim Crow” criminal justice outrages should be adressed sooner than later for this and other attacks on people of color.

The mission of the NA is to “resist racism” and the problems described here is part of our raison d’entre!