About MichelleMichelle Brown is an author, activist & public speaker who believes in common ground for all people.
January 2023 M T W T F S S 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
- The Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice welcomes Michelle Elizabeth Brown to the BRCSJ Board of Directors
- Ode to Kamala Harris/Our Vice President
- Updated poetry for TDOR 2020 (Monica on my mind)
- Living in the Shadow of COVID 3: Getting Back to Work, Because There’s SO Much Work to Do
- Living in the Shadow of COVID 2: Caring for Our Communities
Category Archives: lgbt
The Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice welcomes Michelle Elizabeth Brown to the BRCSJ Board of Directors
The Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, a community activist center, educational bridge, & dedicated safe-space welcomed Michelle Elizabeth Brown to its Board of Directors this week.
Straight outta’ greater Detroit, Michelle is a Public Speaker, Author, Activist, Poet, & Lecturer at universities/colleges, LGBTQIA Pride celebrations, community gatherings, & social & racial justice forums internationally & served as Executive Director for Michigan Equality as they transitioned to becoming a larger organization with greater outreach. She is a regular columnist for Between The Lines (Michigan’s only queer newspaper), creator of the beloved series of children’s books, “Jack with the Curly Tail”, & on the other end of the spectrum, “Wild Fruit Hidden in Open Spaces – Musings in Prose & Poetry” & “3 Layers & A Brassiere” & hosts the legendary “Collections by Michelle Brown – Blog Radio” recognizing & celebrating the lives of those standing boldly in the crosshairs of their intersectionality & creating change as they move through life.
As Michelle espouses, “Especially during this pandemic our friends & found families have helped hold us together as a community, I am pleased & honored to say I have been officially “adopted” by my Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice family & joined the Board of Directors. From day one the mission & vision of the Center along with the commitment & passion of its Chief Activist Robt Seda-Schreiber have been in sync with my core beliefs touching my spirit. I look forward to working with this group of “Angelic Troublemakers” as we build community & create change.””
The announcement of this auspicious addition to the BRCSJ Board of Directors was made during the Center’s popular virtual broadcast, the “Social Justice Power Hour” which has aired on their Facebook page every weeknight from 7-8pm EST since the pandemic began, over 450 shows in all featuring guest stars including Valerie Jarrett, Patton Oswalt, Keisha Blain, Gavin Grimm, Ibram X. Kendi, Wayne Brady, Billy Porter, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, Robert Jones Jr., Billy Eichner, Kiese Laymon, Shannon Watts, Cecilia Muñoz, & Adam Gopnik among many other inspiring community leaders, activists, authors, & entertainers across the spectrum. Michelle further shared her pride in joining the BRCSJ Board on her own incredibly popular
Collections by Michelle Brown – Blog Radio”.
She joins an already incredibly diverse Board dedicated to the mission of the BRCSJ: giving voice & power to those who are marginalized, forgotten, bullied or otherwise underserved by the present systems in place. Although the Center lost its physical space in this difficult time, it continues to serve the community on a local & national level by offering focused programming, diverse events, outreach & advocacy- concentrated on civics, community activism, & cultural instruction & appreciation aligned with the Center’s vision to educate, enlighten & empower. These offerings are predominantly virtual at the moment, but the Center hopes to open its doors once more in early 2022 to once again provide a welcoming safe-space for LGBTQIA+ youth & diverse families as well as offer in-person counseling, resources, & enriching events & programs.
Other members of this august Board include Dr. Peniel Joseph, Black power scholar, author, & Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race & Democracy at the University of Texas at Austin; Emilio Delgado, “LUIS” on Sesame Street & longtime Chicano Rights Activist; Coalition for Peace Action’s Rev. Bob Moore; transgender crusader Erin Worrell; Clarion River Group founder & union organizer David Sailer; Maplewood, NJ Deputy Mayor & first openly gay elected in that community Dean Dafis; activist street theatre performer Glen Pannell (aka “Mike Hot-Pence”); BRCSJ Community Outreach Coordinator & queer education pioneer Carol Watchler; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Haydon; Center for Medicare Advocacy Senior Attorney Wey-Wey Kwok; & Ex Officio Member, Chief Activist Robt Seda-Schreiber.
“Michelle is an extraordinary addition to our Board of Directors at the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice. She has truly been with us since our very beginning & we are glad to finally put a ring on it! Her belief in our mission & support of our greater community is just a continuation of the care & love she’s shown through her career & her personal activism & we are proud to be on this inspirational journey with her.” shared BRCSJ Chief Activist Robt Seda-Schreiber.
To learn more about the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, please visit their website, https://www.rustincenter.org.
attached photo for publication:
New member of the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice Board of Directors Michelle Elizabeth Brown
not for publication:
Requests for interviews with Michelle, any questions or for further information, please contact Chief Activist Robt Seda-Schreiber directly @ 609.273.1650.
Black Magic Woman/Black Girl Magic (Ode to Kamala Harris 2020)
By Michelle E. Brown
She’s a Black magic woman
Can’t be up to no good some say
Because she can’t be controlled
In her heels, her tims, her sneaks
But her beauty, her wisdom
Can’t be denied
We say she is a queen
They say that can’t be
Tell us she is the other
Not ours, not theirs
So her magic must be some
That’s trying to make a devil out of things
Out of them, in their eyes
For that alone we see her
She’s a Black magic woman
With her angry words
With her uppity ways
Try to keep her down,
Yet still she’ll rise
A voice too powerful to deny
Waiting to explode, breaking boundaries
Black Magic Woman,
Keeper of the dream
Her wisdom, Her beauty
Will not be erased
Will not be denied
Now they call it Black girl magic
Celebrated in song and words
Shining bright for all the world to see
Her Black girl magic
In her heels, her tims, her sneaks
Is her Black woman legacy
Not something new but
Ancient, eternal, unbound
Work your magic woman
Black Magic Woman
Inspiring Black Girl magic
Mother, leader, future
Your time is now
Bring the change
Say her name
In 2020 over 30 transgender Americans have been killed. Like in previous years, transgender women of color are disproportionately impacted.
Monika Diamond – Lexi- Layla Pelaez Sanchez-Nina Pop-Tony McDade-Dominique Rem’mie Fells-Riah Milton-Brayla Stone-Merci Mac- Shakie Peters-Bree Black- Brian Egypt Powers-Tiffany Harris-Queasha D Hardy-Aja Raque Rhone Spears-Kee Sam-Aerion Burnett-Mia Green- Felycya Harris-Brookyn DeShauna Smith-Angel Haynes-Dustin Parker-Neulisa Lucianno Ruiz- Yampi Méndez Arocho- Johanna Metzger- Serena Angelique Veláquez Ramos- Helle Jae O’Regan-Jayne Thompson- Selena Reyes-Hernandez-Summer Taylor- Marilyn Monroe Cazares- Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas-Sara Blackwood and those unnamed who fell victim to violence and other social injustices impacting the Transgender community
A Poem for TGDOR – REMEMBER US
By Michelle E. Brown (2020-Rev)
Call our names
Cringe at the gruesome details of our deaths
Rage when we are misgendered
In the media, by police, by families
Families who will not welcome us at services
Because we are the other.
When they legislate against us
Deny us bathroom access
In public places, even schools
Pointing, laughing, threatening
Stand with us
Shoulder to shoulder
Your hand in ours
Not just one day in November
We are here
Two spirited, gender non-conforming
We led at Stonewall
We exist in families
In the military, in classrooms,
On the big screen and small
In every walk of life
Not just today
But in every tomorrow
In every fight for equality
Call our names
See our faces
Stand for our rights
At some point, most of us will emerge from the “safety” of our government or self-imposed isolation and return to work. We will get in our cars, put on our masks and gloves with our hand sanitizers and reenter the world.
But the reality is the world we are returning to and we, the people returning to this world, are not the same. It and we have changed forever. Our world, our numbers, our families, our spirits are different whether we want to acknowledge it or not – forever changed.
For me, that is what is most disconcerting about our return to work, our reentry to this new normal.
I was never “scared” about the virus. It is. It probably was long before we recognized the first case and although we may find a way to contain it, flatten the curve even vaccinate against it. COVID-19 will forever be a part of our reality.
Yes, it can kill us, but so can the flu, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or getting hit by a truck. All we can do is be cautious, wash our hands, use hand sanitizer, self-isolate, and get tested but like my Granny always said tomorrow is promised to no-one. So, we will do our best to live our best lives.
What I have been apprehensive about are the people who don’t get it and the deep societal wounds this virus has “in effect” ripped the scab off of and the racism that continues to seep from that wound.
I worry about the people who have not felt the loss or had their communities ravaged. The ones who feel they are safe in their enclaves because it’s not visible in their back yard.
The ones who protest the loss of their liberties, their freedom to enjoy the fruits of their privilege and would use these times to deny or diminish my rights.
As I approached the office where I work in the suburbs I noticed one of the businesses nearby had installed flags all around their building and the truck parked out front had two huge flags installed in the truck bed. I felt a knot in my stomach.
They were not confederate flags or anything blatantly racist or homophobic. They were the traditional flag, the stars, and stripes. The flag representing MY country but somehow following recent events this display made me feel very unwelcome.
Don’t get me wrong working at this spot has never felt warm and fuzzy. I am the only Black person, working in an environment that is predominantly white male, and I am openly gay.
I have grown accustomed to having conversations stop when I enter the room, wearing headphones so as not to hear their conservative radio talk shows and having to clarify misguided comments about race and/or sexual orientation. We all walk around on eggshells.
But seeing those flags made me feel, as a Black Queer Woman, like I was seriously in enemy territory.
Was it the fact that members of my communities were dying in the city while others were concerned about lawn care, boating, or going up north and showing up armed and unmasked in Lansing? That although CDC guidelines for COVID-19 were posted only two of us showed up in masks while the “guys” didn’t feel it was necessary?
Was it hearing others bemoan not being able to find toilet paper and other goods at their local stores while so many Black, Brown, poor and LGBTQ folks live in areas where access to grocery stores is limited if not nonexistent?
Was it the overt and micro-aggressions captured on videos of the Karens and others assaulting/confronting Black and Brown folk seemingly emboldened by the comments of the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
It’s been a battle of politics over science and financial health over community health framed by today’s GOP and too often wrapped in the flag, old glory, the stars, and stripes.
So, having to pass this sea of American flags reminded me this was openly a different world than I had left back in March.
I can recall James Boggs telling us at A Detroit Summer gathering, despite all the atrocities that he believed in the promise of this country. Over the years I have tried to hold onto his words.
Despite the atrocities, there has been progress that has made my life as an African American, Queer woman better than my ancestors or others like me had had just a generation ago.
Seeing the throngs of Americans march in protest over the murder of George Floyd and other men and women in the Black community gives me hope.
Seeing the recognition that Black Trans Lives Matter also in marches, protests and conversations give me hope.
Having the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 decision that federal anti-bias law covers LGBTQ workers gives me hope. (Votes by Roberts and Gorsuch had me clutching my pearls!)
As we emerge from the “safety” of our government or self-imposed isolation and return to work, we will have to face this normal where uncomfortable conversations about race ARE going to occur.
The social inequalities laid bare by COVID-19 must not only be addressed but tackled at the individual, municipal, state, and national levels. We have to do better to be better!
I’m not itching for a fight with some Karen, Becky, or good old boy but if you bring it, trust and believe it will be video recorded and I’m putting you on blast!
And if you haven’t done some research and self-education on the racist/homophobic history of this country and its oppression of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, please do not step to me for an explanation of why Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives MUST matter.
But I will be out here in my mask with my hand sanitizer, getting back to work at the job and in my community, to build a society where I can once again feel good about the stars and stripes and this country of mine.
I ended our Mother’s Day FaceTime conversation with my son telling me to be careful and stay safe. As I sat in my solitude, I thought about the irony of him telling me to be careful and stay safe as that had been my mantra to him for years.
I grew up learning that to be Black in America, especially if you were male, was tantamount to walking around with a target on your back. My parents talked to us, but especially to my brother, about Emmett Till, James Chaney, and other African Americans who had been killed just for being Black. We were warned repeatedly of the dangers just for living while Black.
From the day I had to let my son go out into the world, his safety has been paramount. We had had “the talk” several times, increasing its urgency as he grew into manhood. When he moved to Chicago to attend college, we talked about it recognizing he was as much at risk from the campus police for being Black on a predominantly white campus as he was hanging out on the southside at parties or clubs.
When he moved to New York again for school, we had the talk after unarmed Amadou Diallo was killed by four New York City police officers.
I’m supposed to tell him to be careful and stay safe but because of COVID-19 we closed our Mother’s Day conversation not at I love you but with, “Please be careful and be safe Mom!”
I understand his concern. I am an older, African American woman, living in the Metro Detroit area, which has been recognized as one of the hotspots in this pandemic. In Michigan, deaths from the virus as in many urban areas across the country have disproportionately affected the African American community. Over 40 percent of Michiganders that have died from the COVID-19 virus are African American, a racial demographic that makes up only 14 percent of the state’s population.
I get it! I’m staying indoors as much as possible. When I go out, I wear a mask and gloves and practice social distancing. That’s taking care of me, but how do I/we take care of our community?
Battling this pandemic has turned a spotlight on systemic disparities that we in the Black/Brown/LGBTQ community have known all along. Poverty, inadequate access to health care, food disparity immediately come to mind, but drilling down that there is so much more.
LGBTQ people collectively have a poverty rate of 21.6 percent, which is much higher than the rate for cisgender straight people. Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans have the highest poverty rate, 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.6 percent. Workers earning poverty-level wages are disproportionately female, Black, Brown or between the ages of 18 to 25 years of age.
Essential employees stocking shelves, providing care for the elderly/infirmed in facilities and homes, along with the baristas, waitstaff and others we take for granted every day, they often don’t make a living wage or have sick time. Schools are closed and many have not only to deal with childcare but homeschooling.
What about the children? A high percentage of young black children — under age 6 — live in poverty. Many of these children relied on schools for one-to-two meals a day. And although we think everyone has access to the internet, broadband is not available to many. The education gap between children from the most disadvantaged homes and their peers is now at its highest level, and it has been for more than a decade.
And while many folks complain about having to wear a mask at Kroger with its one-way aisles for social distancing, others don’t have a store to go to in their neighborhood. The Michigan Department of Agriculture has labeled 19 Detroit neighborhoods as food deserts that lack access to quality and affordable food.
While mainstream media has bombarded us with statistics, images of fools marching on Lansing or more concerned about their personal freedom than spreading the virus and those daily briefings of misinformation from the White House, there have been heroes/angels working at the grassroots level.
I’ve seen the best coming from my communities. We are delivering food to those who are house-bound and/or collecting food for distribution. We are setting up hotspots so children can have access to the internet and study from home. We are driving by in car caravans so special birthdays and other occasions are acknowledged. We are putting money — sometimes from those stimulus checks — on others’ Cash Apps. And we are sitting down together virtually, putting aside differences, to find ways to get resources to those doing the work.
I don’t know what the days ahead might bring as we come out from this pandemic, what normal will be. I do know this: I want to be careful and safe, but I want to live in a community where we are all cared for and safe. The good news is I’m not alone!