THE SIGNIFICANCE OF STONEWALL

June 28 – July 3rd, 1969 marks a point in time where everything changed. Now, 51 years later, and while June has become known as Pride Month, typically marked with parades and events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, it’s important to remember that Pride started off as a protest. The parallels to the events following the murder of George Floyd is inescapable, especially amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter rallies and demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality all across the country.

1969 was a summer of upheaval, of change. While some of us were in Berkeley out in the Bay Area and still reeling from the after effects of People’s Park just a few weeks before, the Stonewall riots – no revolution! – began as a result of ongoing police raids at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, one of the only safe spaces where LGBTQ+ people could gather in community.

As George M. Johns  writes in them. “Pride is and always was about rebellion, and this year more than ever, this year, Pride is different.  It’s not a corporate parade or a party. It’s an uprising, and it’s up to white queer people to protect the Black community as they demand justice.”  The intersectionality of Stonewall’s uprising was “Led by Black and Brown trans and queer folks” who were tired of the policing, the raids on their lives and the surveillance.  We must recognize the courage of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and others there that night who fought back — and fought for their lives, igniting the change for LGBTQ+ people, that this charge was largely led by people of color, poor folk who lived on the street.  Johnson and Rivera literally put themselves out there, in front of the police in a monumental moment of self-sacrifice, putting their bodies and their well-being on the line for the collective good, creating a model for activism across all movements. One of the great things about these leaders being re-centered as part of the narrative is that it has created this intersectional approach to how we should do activism.

Fast forward, and the LGBTQ+ community as well as people of all races, genders and sexualities are protesting and calling out the names of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others, as well as Tony McDade, a black transgender man killed by the police.  By refocusing on those most marginalized, this is an enormous moment in time to see real substantial systematic progress.

GLAAD’s President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis says that the “LGBTQ movement really caught fire [with] allies coming on. We need black voices leading this, and we need the activists who have been leading this for years and years and years to point us in the right direction.”

While there’s still a long way to go, much of the Movement’s groundwork for a blueprint of how we should move forward was laid by such activists as Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and others.

And our conversations have changed as a result. Now we’re talking more about why we should center black lives in this conversation because everyday people are taking to challenging these conversations at their own dinner tables. Those changes could lead to a larger cultural and political shift that leads to redirecting millions of dollars put into police departments to other, much-needed programs, like education and healthcare in elevating this consciousness-raising to a mainstream level.

Stonewall helped ignite this intersectional movement, one in which Black Lives Matter is intertwined.  We must all think about the narrative of where we’ve come from and to realize that starting exactly where we are, at our kitchen tables with our families, our communities, our chosen loved ones, this is where those conversations start. And from there, we can build on being activists or to be a co-conspirator to the Movement. But we must act; we must be consistent, and we must do the uncomfortable work of checking and challenging conversations.

Personally, I hold great hope for the leaders who are even now organizing and creating new paradigms of engagement, building a community greater than its parts.  Yet, reflecting about the many insurrections against authority that arose in the 1960s, People’s Park in Berkeley – the one I had great hope for at the time –  is probably the only one that came to no discernible conclusion. Nobody won, and after more than 50 years the rallying cry of “People’s Park” lives on because the plot of land is still undeveloped and continues to be in dispute.

LIVING WHILE BLACK: THE NARRATIVE OF RACIAL DIFFERENCES

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the good in our community, across the country, and even the world, take a stand for social and racial justice.  It’s time.  No, It’s waaaaayyyyy past time for us to not only examine ourselves in this process, but the systems of inequities that brought us to this moment.  Yet, these false and racist narratives we must face didn’t spring up overnight – or even in the past few years. 

As National Book Award Winner, Ibram X. Kendi points out in Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas  “Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America – more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. Contrary to popular conceptions, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era. These intellectuals used their brilliance to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. And while racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited.”

How can white people begin to deconstruct racism?  We can start with the language of white supremacy.  And what I mean by this as Baratunde Thurston explores in his May 2019 TED talk, is “the system of structural advantage that favor white people in social, political, and economic arenas” this “narrative of racial difference” where we’ve accepted “the phenomenon of white Americans calling the police on black Americans who have committed the crimes of “living while black” where mere “existence” is interpreted as “crime”. Thurston’s profound, thought-provoking, and often hilarious talk reveals the power of language to change stories of trauma into stories of healing — while challenging us all to level up. Please give this a look/listen, give it some thought, and act. We can build a more inclusive world and write a better (hi)story.

Post Script: May, 2020 Living While Black: One Year Later…

5 Reasons to Support Democrats

Democratic Donkey

Although facts are evidenced-based truths, much of the media and news that’s currently consumed is little more than manipulated text to suit personal narratives and outrageous agendas.   

While I have my own opinions on many things, highlighted, as follows, are actual accomplishments by the Democratic Administration of 2008-2016 that have been misappropriated by the current administration.  I’ve also noted other policy errors. 

  1. While the economy is doing well, it is nothing more than an extension of what was happening in the last 4 years of the Obama Administration. In fact, more jobs were created per month during those years than have been created in the first three years of Trump.
  2. Most of the 1.5 billion in the tax reform has gone to wealthy citizens and almost all of it has added to the deficit. Under Trump, deficits don’t seem to matter. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit in 2019 ballooned to $960 billion and will average $1.2 trillion in 2020 and beyond.
  3. Withdrawal from the Iraq Nuclear Agreement and the Paris Climate Accord were both terrible decisions, in my view, and has left our allies with a clear message that they can’t count on us to honor any future pact in which we may engage.
  4. Trump and Republican Congressional actions have undermined Obamacare, and their efforts have directly led to substantial increases in health insurance premiums. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has led a lawsuit to declare Obamacare unconstitutional. If this happens, more than 20 million Americans will lose their health insurance. There is no replacement plan at this time.
  5. Trump’s action to remove our troops from strategic areas in Syria, against the advice of his military advisors, has led to the death of many Kurds (allies) and left a void there that Putin has been happy to fill.

While Both Democrats and Republicans have diverse views within their parties, twisting facts to suit an agenda is nothing more than propaganda.  Don’t take it from me, do your homework, seek the truth.  

Keep Moving Forward in 2020 and Beyond

Like my papi says, “Todo Cambia” – everything changes. 

This is truly reflective of our party and who we are as Democrats.  As the oldest voter-based political party in the world and oldest existing party here in the United States, we can trace our party’s roots back to the late 18th Century. We are the party of the “common man” – and yes, woman. And although our party’s longevity is one we can truly be proud of, it has not come without controversy, tormented segues and serious disagreements.  

Yet, here we are; a Democratic party that now stands for egalitarianism and social equality, and which supports voting rights and minority rights, including LGBTQ+ rights, multiculturalism, and religious secularism.  And we’ve been able to get to this point because we care about ourselves and others and what happens in the many tomorrows we nurture for our and our children’s future. We are the culmination – and the emissaries – of a collective goal: to leave this world in better shape than when we arrived.

While we may not always agree as to how we’re going to get there, in everything we aspire to accomplish —no matter the “ask”, the complexity, or how uncomfortable it may be at times – one thing remains constant, people do the work. People devise innovations, they resolve issues, and they inspire each other every day to meet challenges, among many other important things.  

2020 is a turning point and the year we’ll make a big difference in our county, state and across the country.  We built impetus in 2018, but we’ve got a lot to do to get out the vote (GOTV) and elect more Democrats. We’ve been doing that since 1790. 

Join us, and let’s keep moving forward in 2020 and beyond.

Gloria Meehan, Chair

Comal County Democratic Party