Wearing My Pride Like Some Rainbow Rompers!!!

Printed 6/8/2017 in issue 2523 Between The Lines Newspaper

Bet that got your attention! ROMPERS!! They’ve been around forever. No, I don’t have one. No, I don’t care if you wear one. No, I don’t care if men wear them! No, I don’t want to see pictures of anyone in them! No, I don’t understand what all the buzz is about. And no, I’m not talking about them!!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s talk about celebrating PRIDE this year. June is here and PRIDE is literally busting out all over. Although National Coming Out Day has always been celebrated in October, it wasn’t until 2000 that then President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay & Lesbian Pride” Month. It was expanded by President Barack Obama to include the Bisexual and Transgender communities in 2009. We got accustom to being invited to the White House in June during the Obama Administration. Many of our community leaders and friends had been to the White House and photos with the President were all over Facebook feeds. Even me, a little girl from the eastside of Detroit, now living out and proud had been to the White House and received Holidays cards each year for from the Obama’s. Sadly, my parents weren’t alive to see not only the first African American President but their daughter visit the White House but my “Little Nanny,” in her 90’s at the time, did!!

After the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage we saw the White House lit up in rainbow colors. We raised our rainbow flags a little, higher while marching in PRIDE celebrations across the country during these years in the belief that, although we still knew we had a way to go, we felt we were headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, considering the current administration, I think it will be a long time before we again experience that level of access or support from the White House. When White House spokesperson Kelly Love was asked by the Washington Blade if Trump would issue a Pride proclamation or host a White House Pride reception, her response was “We will let you know as soon as we announce our June proclamations.” I’m not holding my breath!

Considering the anti-LGBT positions and actions Trump and his administration have taken, would we even attend? Our concerns would probably fall on deaf ears and those who did attend would need to adhere to a strict “buddy’ policy lest any lone activists mysteriously get spirited away to some “Gay conversion” camp in Indiana!

But its June and PRIDE is busting out all over so let’s let our Rainbow flags fly! PRIDE celebrations are often the first place where LGBTQ people of all ages can come out and be themselves. It is that brave, safe space where the questioning, the closeted, the isolated can find their tribe and know they aren’t the only one. It’s a place where we can showcase our organizations and their services. It’s the place where we can celebrate, laugh out loud, dance with reckless abandon, reconnect with old friends, make new friends and in recent years, even get married. Our PRIDE celebrations are OUR family reunions. Each year they get bigger.

We welcome not just our LGBTQ family but our allies – family, friends, coworkers and businesses. More than a White House photo, in coming together each June – and beyond – in cities across the state and country our PRIDE celebrations have helped pull back the curtain of fear and ignorance and move hearts in minds where it matters, beyond the beltway, in our communities and neighborhoods where the real victories must be won.

These are perilous times when many of the gains we have made are again under attack. We can still get married on Saturday and fired on Monday simply because we are LGBTQ. So far, this year the Human Rights Campaign reports that with major state partners they have battled more than 130 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 30 states; to date, seven of those bills have been signed into law.

It’s June and PRIDE is busting out all over!! On June 11 the National Equality March will

be held in Washington, DC and on the west coast, the #ResistMarch will take place in Los Angeles. Just about every weekend there’s a LGBTQ PRIDE coming to a city near you. Sites like www.gaypridecalendar.com and www.centerforblackequity.org list events nationwide. You could even plan your vacation around PRIDE celebrations in different cities.

Rainbow tie-dye a ROMPER to wear if you must but attend the PRIDE celebration in your community. Be visible, be proud! In these crazy times, it’s more important than ever to say in one loud and resounding voice that “We are here! We are Queer” and all of us are better when we stand together regardless of race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, ages, sexual orientation and gender identity as one community.

It’s June and PRIDE is busting out all over!! I’m heading to PRIDE and letting my

Rainbow Flag fly!! See you there!

Posted in bullying, lgbt, LGBTQ Pride, marriage equality, NGLTF, Pop Culture, Queer, Self imaage, Social Justice Issues, Transgender, World events | Leave a comment

Channeling Our Anger to Bend the Arc

BY MICHELLE E. BROWN

Published 5/18/2017 in Between The Lines Newspaper issue 2520

It’s been over 100 days and I’m still angry. I’ve been angry since November. It’s not sour grapes just because my candidate did not win. This is anger, righteous indignation!

I’m angry that the promise, the American dream, is not just a dream deferred but – for millions seeking equality, justice, refuge from oppression, poverty and war – it’s a dream that got flushed down the political crapper.

I’m angry that on an almost daily basis, something comes out of Washington, D.C. that not only insults my intelligence but the intelligence of the global community.

I’m angry that despite the sheer madness of these activities a deluded group of partisan politicos continue to support and fail to do what they were sent to Washington to do.

I’m angry that the bearers of these daily mad tidings – the decision makers, the mansplainers and stepford-wife/fembots – not only don’t look like my neighbors, family and community, but haven’t a clue about our lives.

I’m angry that the same level of political dysfunction extends beyond Washington, D.C. and is equally rampant in state houses across the country.

I’m angry that after struggling without healthcare before the Affordable Care Act, I’m rushing around now trying to get procedures done because I’m afraid that I will be one of the 24 million Americans unable to afford insurance under Trumpcare – that is if I am even able to get coverage because of my preexisting conditions. I remember those days without healthcare – putting off standard procedures, deciding which every day expense was more important than my medicine, and the overwhelming burden of medical expenses for an uninsured visit to the emergency room – too many of us remember.

AIDS/HIV, Alcohol or drug abuse, Alzheimer’s/dementia, Anorexia, Arthritis, Bulimia, Cancer, Cerebral palsy, Congestive heart failure, Coronary artery/heart disease/bypass surgery, Crohn’s disease, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Hemophilia, Hepatitis, Kidney disease/renal failure, Lupus, Mental disorders (including Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and Depression), Multiple sclerosis, Muscular dystrophy, Obesity, Organ transplant, Paraplegia, Paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, Pneumocystic pneumonia, Pregnancy, Sleep apnea, Stroke, Transsexualism are just some conditions considered pre-existing conditions.

Who doesn’t have or know of someone who has one of these conditions? So, what are we to do with our friends, families even ourselves if we have one of these pre-existing conditions?

But the vote wasn’t about the health and welfare of the American people. It was just another notch in the political maelstrom of this new GOP reality. And then they got on busses to head to the White House and drink beer to celebrate pushing through the AHCA that, for the most part, none of the GOP Congressmen had even read – oh hell yeah I’m angry!

I’m angry that millions are spent for trips to and security for unauthorized white houses (i.e. Trump properties in New York, Florida, New Jersey, etc.) while families in Flint, MI and other urban areas don’t have safe water. Money that could prevent cuts to programs like meals-on-wheels. Meals that aren’t gourmet fare – just basic meals – that provide low income, and often homebound seniors a hot, nutritious meal delivered to their doorstep. Money that could go to federally funded after-school programs that can boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a safe, structured environment for the children of working parents.

I’m angry that every frigging week-end, instead of putting my dancing shoes on, I’m lacing up my boots and taking it to the streets marching – for women, for science, for immigration rights, for education, for the environment, for LGBTQ rights, for families, for Planned parenthood, etc.

I mean it’s every damn weekend for basic human rights, for battles we thought we had already fought and won.

Yes, I’m angry but I’m still lacing up my shoes and marching. I’m taking a deep breath and having conversations with folks who didn’t vote or voted for Stein or Sanders. I’ve even had a conversation with a repentant trump supporter who admitted voting on one issue – abortion – and now realized the short sightedness in her decision.

I hear Howard Beale’s words from the movie NETWORK echoing in my head “I’m mad as Hell

and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But this isn’t a movie, its real life right now in America.

As an African American, queer, woman, parent, environmentalist, artist, activist and so much more, I stand in the crosshairs of my intersectionality. I can’t stay safely in any one lane of my multiple identities and hope the rest will work itself out. They’ve put a bull’s eye on my back so doing nothing simply is NOT an option.

I’m having conversations with folks across lines of race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, ages, sexual orientation and gender identity. Conversations that connect the dots across our varying identities to form a picture of our humanity. Our lives are not a one-lane road. They are an intersectional multi-laned superhighway and if we all want to make it to the finish line for the world, the environment and our humanity, we had damned well better learn how to navigate.

So in the face of opposition, obstacles and discouraging lack of leadership we must PERSIST even if that means marching every day, every weekend, every month. To borrow

from a gospel hymn we can’t feel no ways tired. We’ve come too far from where we started from. Nobody told us that the road would be easy.

When they try to give us fake news, double talk and straight up lies we must INSIST on accountability, demand our legislators do the job we elected them to do. That means showing up at their offices, signing petitions, writing letters, making phone calls, sending faxes and if they still ignore us, exercising our power and voting them out of office.

2018 elections are right around the corner. Your vote can count but you have to vote for it to count!

And more than ever we must RESIST. Resist the urge to give up and be silent. Resist apathy and despair. Resist the urge to only cast blame and not find solutions. But most importantly resist giving up our humanity and succumbing to the fear, polarization and vitriolic rhetoric that brought us to this place.

When receiving the “Profile in Courage Award” President Barack Obama said “I believe

what

Dr. King said, that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” but I’ve also said it does not bend on its own. It bends because we bend it, because we put our hand on that arch, and we move it in the direction of justice and freedom and equality and kindness and generosity. It doesn’t happen on its own.”

It’s time we step up our efforts and put our hearts, minds and spirits on that arch.

Let’s PERSIST, INSIST and RESIST and bend it once again in the direction of justice, freedom and equality for all.

Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Her weekly podcast “Collections by Michelle Brown” airs every Thursday at 7 p.m. and can be heard on Blog Talk Radio, ITunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook at Collections by Michelle Brown.

Posted in 2016 Elections, 2017 Politics, Health and Happiness, Social Justice Issues, Women, Womens March 2017, World events | Tagged | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Black Queer Activism

Activist Michelle Brown contends that what sets Black queer activism apart is its deep commitment to community organizing. Having sat on the boards of Michigan Equality, Affirmations, Black Pride Society, The Ruth Ellis Center, and other local organizations, Brown has been active on both sides of Eight Mile. She says that in contrast to the more centralized nonprofit model of the larger, mostly white organizations, black queer activists “put their roots in the community,” and seek sustainability by creating a wide base of support and, importantly, involvement, versus relying on corporate/foundation dollars and private donors.

From “BLACK AND PROUD: PUTTING COMMUNITY BACK INTO QUEER ORGANIZING” by Jackson Bartlett in Critical Moments 7/8/2011

What do you think?

Read the whole article at https://critical-moment.org/2011/07/08/black-and-proud-putting-community-back-into-queer-organizing/

Posted in Black identity, Detroit, Detroit Spirit, DOMA, ENDA, marriage equality, NGLTF, Queer, Social Justice Issues | Leave a comment

My Speech from the Women’s March Ann Arbor – January 21, 2017

Hello Ann Arbor!!

It is an honor to stand in solidarity with the 66 million Americans across the country and, dare I say more than a few nasty women, for the protection of our rights, our safety, and our communities.

Many of us woke up that Wednesday morning in November and wondered what the hell had happened.

We have worked and lived our lives to build a world that could be what our children might see.

A world where healthcare is the right of every man, woman and child regardless of their ability to pay.

Where access to procedures, medications and research is not driven by big pharmaceutical profits but by the need of the patient.

Where women are the keepers and decision makers for their own bodies.

A world where every person has a right to equal opportunities for employment with a fair living wage and an equal pay based on the work done not by their gender.

Where the glass ceiling exists only to let the sunshine in on our best and brightest minds.

A world where our families are respected because LOVE IS LOVE!!

Where we recognize that the union of two people as partners in a loving committed relationship is marriage and the law of the land.

A world where we recognize Diversity means respecting the individual while recognizing our differences make up the whole of America. Not demonizing and attacking whole groups of people because of their religion, ethnicity or country of origin.

A world where every child is protected and allowed to reach their full potential.

Where they have access to excellence in education, clean water, safe streets, affordable housing and the right to live their authentic lives whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning without the fear of bullying, harassment, attacks and even death.

Black lives, Trans Lives, Women’s Lives, Our children’s lives matter!

Even though our government is now under the grip of an apocalyptic orange horseman and his henchmen of billionaires, bigots, climate deniers and conserva-fools who promise to attack, overturn or deny all that we hold dear,

we stand here and across the nation in solidarity to say in this country WE are the people and say in one loud, resounding voice that women’s rights are human rights; no human is illegal, science is real, all lives matter and we will fight for all that we hold dear.

To borrow from that great civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, we will fight until hell freezes over;

And because we are strong resilient citizens, and more than a few nasty women, when hell freezes over we will sharpen our ice skates and fjght on, .because – each of us regardless of race, creed, country of origin, sexual orientation or gender expression – is her

and I’m still with her.

Posted in 2016 Elections, Abortion, Black women, Love, marriage equality, Queer, Voting Rights, Women, Womens March 2017, World events | Leave a comment

Make America Great Again? Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That Rhetoric!

Originally printed 8/25/2016 in Between The Lines issue 2434

Waiting in line at a popular restaurant, I overheard another patron (Caucasian male around 70) approach the hostess and say “Where’s the men’s room or should I just use the ladies’ room? That’s what they want, right?”

The hostess blushed, pointed and, with a sheepish smile, said “The men’s room is over there.” Her body language said his comment made her feel uncomfortable but she said nothing. She then turned to us and said “How many” and led us to our table.

As for me well – as my mother would say – if looks could kill, orange would be my new black!! I was beyond pissed and contemplating what action I was going to take when the man rejoined his group which, remarkably, was seated at the next table from us. There are no coincidences in life – IJS!!

My partner had not heard the full comment, so I enlightened her. Trying to talk me down off my “angry activist” ledge, (after moving all the sharp utensils from my reach) she commented that the man was just a dinosaur whose time was running out.

True but those words that tone. Words have power. You say what you mean and, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you mean what you say.

Words, like ashes from a fire, can remain incendiary long after they’ve been uttered with unintended consequences long after the media firestorm has died down.

Those words – that off-handed bathroom remark alluding to transgender bathroom rights – were just a reminder that many have similar feelings about the place of African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, LGBTQ people and others in our society as second class citizens.

I get it, he was/is just a dinosaur, but the rhetoric of the 2016 political season has, for many of these dinosaurs, defined their last stand. Sadly they have found a gladiator willing to wield all the hate-filled rhetoric used historically to divide those of us in the 99% and extend their hold on power just a little longer.

You would think in this age of “Google,” instant fact-checking, and 24/7 media coverage, we would be a smarter electorate.

However, I’ve seen too much injustice, hatred and inequality to find solace in the fact that the days for his ilk are numbered or that change will come merely by our hoping for the best while remaining silent when confronted by bigotry and ignorance.

I’ve also lived enough years to recognize that greatness is a relative term and for the vast majority of Americans the greatness talked about by Trump-ites has never been a reality only, at best, a dream.

It’s not an impossible dream! It is dream held and passed down – regardless of race, class, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or gender expression – through the generations.

It is the dream best articulated by Martin Luther King Jr. and, despite many advancements, still a dream deferred.

The Langston Hughes’ poem “Montage of a Dream Deferred” begs the question of how a people might react if they have a cherished dream for many generations that has failed to come true. It reads:

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore — And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over– like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”

Hughes was writing at a time when African Americans were still suffering the injustice of Jim Crow laws. Fast forward to 2016, and although Jim Crow may be gone, the net of inequality lives on and has been expanded to include not just African Americans but other communities of color, has crossed boundaries of gender, sexual orientation, race and class and includes the many immigrants who answer Lady Liberty’s call to the “tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

So here we stand at this moment in time. On one side there’s a demand for inclusivity, attention to issues of social justice/equity and the beginning of a social revolution. It did not end when Bernie Sanders was not the nominee but was the beginning of conversations, actions and a movement that might ultimately bring about real change.

On the other side, well there’s that call to “make America great again” building upon racist, bigoted, and xenophobic tactics that historically have only diminished the country not made it great – NEVER!

Grace Lee Boggs once said, “We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other.” We are stronger not just in our communities, our country and our world when we work to attain not just the American dream but a global dream of equality, social, environmental and economic justice for all instead of kicking the can down the road on the backs of those less fortunate or different from the status quo.

Any crackpot can make statements in the media that fan the flames of hatred, insecurity and fear. Words have power. Even if retracted, walked back or claimed to be sarcasm, once uttered words take on a life of their own and the results can be divisive, tragic and even fatal.

As Sweet Brown (no relation) said in her infamous You Tube Video “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!!”

Let’s be stronger together, not just at the polls in November, but each and every day. Stand up for what you believe in; push back against hate speech; fight for all our dreams; love who you love boldly, proudly and unapologetically. Claim your space in this expanding, intersectional world and be OUT!! There’s room on our rainbow wave for every one because we ARE stronger together.

Posted in 2016 Elections, Arts & Entertainment, Creating Change, lgbt, literature, Poetry, Pop Culture, Queer, Social Justice Issues, Transgender, World events | Leave a comment