Monday, June 26, 2017

Making the Connections


. . . then and now


The Wild Reed's 2017 Queer Appreciation series continues with the sharing of a piece I originally wrote in 2003 for an online progressive LGBT community forum that's now long gone. At the time I wrote this particular piece the U.S. (along with its coalition of "the bought and bullied," in the words of Indian author Arundhati Roy) was preparing to invade Iraq – a disastrous endeavor that would lead to the rise of ISIS and contribute to the worst refugee crisis since World War II. We live with these consequences to this day.

In 2003 I was 36 and working as the director of a justice education program at a UCC church in south Minneapolis. I was also the founder and lead organizer of a Twin Cities-based activist group called Queers United for Radical Action (QURA). The members of QURA (and, truth be told, there were never more that a dozen or so of us) described ourselves as a "network of LGBT activists dedicated to educating ourselves and the wider LGBT community on the threats to democracy, human life, and the environment posed by the nexus of corporate globalization, militarism, and environmental degradation." We also sought to organize and participate in educational and non-violent direct action events in order to facilitate positive and radical social and economic change, and to facilitate and share a uniquely queer spirit of resistance to all forms of oppression. In 2002, one of the events we co-sponsored examined the connections between corporate power, racism, and public policy-making. (This particular event is discussed further midway in this previous Wild Reed post).

Why dig up and share today this piece from 2003? Well, because I believe its message is just as important now as it was 14 years ago – maybe even more so. The good news is that as the accompanying images and related off-site links listed at the end of this post show, there are many LGBTQI+ people "making the connections" in the Trump era of today and who are, accordingly, opting to protest rather than parade. This gives me hope.

Of course, today, the work of connection-making and coalition-building is a key aspect of the theory and practice of intersectionality, a term coined by American civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.

One last thing: the only change I've made in reprinting my commentary from 2003 is the replacing of "LGBT" with the more inclusive LGBTQI+. Oh, and truth be told, I tend to refer to myself now as queer rather than "gay." Perhaps more about that in a future post. For now, here's my commentary from 2003 . . .

Why are you talking about these other issues? What have they got to do with the LGBTQI+ community? With talk of a U.S. military strikes against Iraq and an increase in anti-war activism around the country and the world, questions such as these are often asked within the LGBTQI+ community whenever issues such as U.S. foreign policy, war, and global justice are raised.

As a gay man working for global justice and peace, my response to such questions is to quietly insist that such issues are indeed relevant to the LGBTQI+ community as ultimately we are more than our sexual orientation. This doesn't deny or reduce the significance of one's sexual orientation, but instead recognizes it as one of a number of interrelated aspects contributing to an authentic and whole human life.

I don't believe that being gay automatically makes one more humanitarian, sophisticated, politically savvy, or concerned about the world. I agree with black feminist lesbian Audre Lorde who wrote that "oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities." Still, I am convinced that the experiences of LGBTQI+ people in an often anti-LGBTQI+ world do have the potential to attune us to the oppression of others.

As LGBTQI+ people struggling to live authentic lives within a heterosexist society, we often encounter destructive realities – prejudice, narrow-mindedness, discrimination, and violence. Knowing how such things feel I do not wish to subject others to them. Yet we live within an economic system that demands the exploitation of others – mostly notably the poor of other countries and people of color. It's also an economic system that requires domination and violence for its protection and expansion. For decades the U.S. government has provided this violence – either directly through military "interventions" or indirectly through its support of brutally repressive dictatorships in other countries.

There came a point in my development as a human being when I had to speak out against such an oppressive and exploitive economic system – just as there had come a time in my life as a gay man when I knew I had to speak out against the oppressive realities of heterosexism and homophobia. My life as a global justice and anti-war activist is very much an extension of my life as an out gay man. I see the two intrinsically connected.

I also think that LGBTQI+ folks know very well the oppressive and destructive nature of secrets. Many of us have and/or continue to live in such a way that our true identity is kept secret from others, even those we love.

Secrets are ultimately life-denying. In the U.S. the corporate media colludes – often unconsciously – with corporate interests to keep secret a very disturbing fact: Greed, domination, and violence (not freedom and democracy) undergird, shape, and dictate U.S. foreign and economic policy. Although such policy may provide us with cheap clothes and oil, it also implicates us in the exploitation of workers in other countries and of the environment. Such policy also puts our nation in great danger, ranging from "blowback" terrorist attacks to world-wide ecological disaster.

Why are such realities ignored by our elected representatives and by the media?

Why are so few people aware that the media is owned and in many ways controlled by corporations heavily invested in the making of military weapons, and thus supportive of war?

Why do we allow ourselves to be distracted by trivial pursuits and mindless consumerism?

Why do we tolerate being lied to?

As a gay man I resist and speak out against the oppressive realities of heterosexism and homophobia. By not speaking out against other types of oppression and domination I am complicit in the oppression of others.

Ultimately, I can only take pride in myself as a gay man if I take pride in myself as a human being. This means becoming aware of my place in all forms of oppressive societal systems. It also means acknowledging that such systems are pervasive to the extent that we all live compromised lives. Nevertheless, we can work with others to dismantle and transform such systems into ones to which we can be proud to belong – as LGBTQI+ people, as human beings.

– Michael J. Bayly
January 28, 2003




For previous instalments in the The Wild Reed 2017 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Our Lives as LGBTQI People: "Garments Grown in Love"
On the First Anniversary of the Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre, Orlando Martyrs Commemorated in Artist Tony O'Connell's “Triptych for the 49”
Tony Enos on Understanding the Two Spirit Community

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
A Lose/Lose Situation
A Letter to "Dear Abby" re. Responding to 9/11
Praying for George W. Bush
The Tenth Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
Let’s Also Honor the “Expendables”
Letting Them Sit By Me
"It Is All Connected"
At the Mall of America, a Necessary Disruption to "Business as Usual"

Related Off-site Links:
No Justice, No Pride Is the Revolutionary Spirit of the Stonewall Uprising – Aaron Barksdale (Vice Impact, June 19, 2017).
Why I’m Skipping the Pride Parade and Going to the Dyke March – Claire Landsbaum (New York Magazine, June 22, 2017).
No Justice, No Pride: Coalitions Shut Down Pride Parades – Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Last Real Indians, June 26, 2017).
LGBTQ Pride Marches Marked by Protests Across U.S. – Michael Edison Hayden (ABC News, June 25, 2017).

Image 1: Alejandro Alvarez (Washington, D.C., June 10, 2017).
Images 2-3: Michael J. Bayly (Minneapolis, 2003).
Image 4: Associated Press (2017).


Quote of the Day

Note: Today's Quote of the Day serves as a follow-up to The Wild Reed's June 24 post, Police, Pride, and Philando Castile.


Echoing social media, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau called [the Pride parade organizers' decision not to have a large police contingent start the parade] “a decision to exclude officers.” Mainstream media, including the Star Tribune, piled on, calling it a “ban” of police. Reducing the show of police force at the start of the parade is not the same as a ban or exclusion. Exclusion is a powerful word. Gay people should know that – they’ve experienced a lot of genuine exclusion.

Twin Cities Pride knows that the police presence at Pride was celebrated by many members of the community and that it was genuinely painful for others [especially in the wake of the not-guilty verdict in the police killing of Philando Castile], even with Pride’s efforts to tone it down. Pride organizers were not surprised by the protests that slowed the parade on Sunday. The false report of a police “ban” provided a distraction from outrage at laws that protect police from objectively unreasonable conduct.

Should communication have been better? Absolutely – on all sides. Should Pride organizers have thought to call Chief Harteau to let her know about the change to the start of the parade and to reassure her that she and her officers were welcome to march elsewhere, along with firefighters, drag queens and snowplow drivers? Yes.

Should Harteau have picked up the phone to talk with Pride organizers instead of releasing a public letter to Pride and tweeting about police exclusion when there was no such thing? Yes.

Unfortunately for Twin Cities Pride, the story of police exclusion built until it drowned out the truth.

– Eileen A. Scallen
Excerpted from “Pride-Police Controversy
Was a Media Conflagration

Star Tribune
June 26, 2017


See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Police, Pride, and Filando Castile
Making the Connections


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Something to Think About . . .



Related Off-site Links:
We Need to Talk About Racism in the LGBTQ Community – Phillip Henry (Teen Vogue, June 21, 2017).
An Open Letter To Gay, White Men: No, You’re Not Allowed to Have a Racial Preference – Donovan Trott (The Huffington Post, June 19, 2017).
Redesigned Pride Flag Recognizes LGBT People of Color – Nancy Coleman (CNN News, June 13, 2017).
Being Offended by Black and Brown Stripes on the Pride Flag Proves Why They’re Necessary – Dean Eastmond (His Kind, June 14, 2017).
Don’t Dance With Me During Pride Month If You Won’t Stand for Philando Castile – Cami Thomas (The Huffington Post, June 17, 2017).
When a Pride March Means Owning the Shame of Racial and Economic Injustice – Peter Laarman (Religion Dispatches, June 5, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride
Police, Pride, and Philando Castile

Image: Photographer unknown.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Police, Pride, and Philando Castile

Well, now that Twin Cities Pride has reversed its decision regarding the presence of uniformed police personnel in tomorrow's Pride parade, I appreciate local community leader and businessman Ken Darling's invitation:

Imagine this: What if the uniformed officers, whom the Pride Committee just asked to return to the parade, carried signs that said "We hear you." "We understand your fear." "We will do better." Or maybe just two words: "Philando Castile."


As you may already know, Twin Cities Pride announced this past Tuesday that a planned contingent of police officers and law enforcement officials would not be marching at the head of this year's Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade. Writing in TheColu.mn, Andy Birkey reported that "the decision was made in response to a groundswell of opposition both before and after the not-guilty verdict in the police killing of Philando Castile."

And in a Facebook post explaining the decision, Twin Cities Pride executive director Dot Belstler wrote: “With the recent verdict in the Philando Castile case Twin Cities Pride has decided to forgo this part of the police participation in the parade for this year and respect the pain the community is feeling right now. There will just be one lone unmarked police car starting off the parade and there will limited police participation in the parade itself.”


Yesterday, however, the following statement was released by Belstler and the Twin Cities Pride Board of Directors.

Earlier this week Twin Cities Pride made a decision to forego uniformed, off-duty police officers from participating in the beginning of the Twin Cities Pride Parade. We would like to apologize to the law enforcement community for neglecting to communicate and consider input for other possible alternatives prior to releasing the details of this decision.

Following its release, we received input from impacted parties and through this input we recognize this decision has made members of the law enforcement community feel excluded, which is contrary to our mission to foster inclusion. Our intent is and was to respect the pain that the people of color and transgender communities have experienced as of late, but our original approach fell short of our mission.

As of yesterday afternoon, we productively met with representatives of these parties, including Chief Harteau of the Minneapolis Police Department and Roxanne Anderson, Executive Director of the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition, in an effort to create a cohesive, unifying alternative which is inclusive of each perspective on this issue.

One unmarked police car will clear the way as originally stated, and we would like to invite members of the law enforcement community to participate in the parade by holding the Unity flag or marching alongside the Rainbow, Bisexual, or Transgender flags.

To our transgender and people of color communities, we will continue to respect your pain and angst by bridging the divide and continuing conversations on both sides of this issue to ensure we consider alternatives that make each group feel comfortable and safe.

Twin Cities Pride will also continue to keep communication channels open with all community members to ensure our events and activities that provide a place to foster inclusion, educate and create awareness of issues, and to celebrate our achievements.

– Dot Belstler and Twin Cities Pride Board of Directors
June 23, 2017


I've read numerous responses to the above statement. One of the most powerful is the following by Erica Mauter, LGBTQI community leader, executive director for Twin Cities Women's Choir, and candidate for Ward 11 on the Minneapolis City Council.

Just when I had hope that Twin Cities Pride had really listened to queer people of color [QPOC], they reneged, and I'm disappointed again.

TC Pride held a number of listening sessions and made some changes based on feedback. I appreciate and applaud that they did this. One of those changes was to remove the contingent of uniformed police officers with marked squad cars from the front of the parade. The parade will begin with one unmarked car to clear the route, per the law.

Police officers – in uniform – are not entitled to space in the Pride parade. The irony here is SO THICK. Pride was born when queer and trans women of color revolted against police brutality. I implore everyone to understand the difference between INTENTION by marching in uniform in the parade and the IMPACT that that presence has on QPOC.

Police officers are more than welcome to participate in any/all aspects of Pride just like the rest of us do. In plain clothes. Yes, all sorts of organizations show support for the LGBTQ community by participating in the Pride festival and parade. Yes, there are police officers who are LGBT and/or people of color. Yes, they want to feel like a part of the community, too. But MPD and Twin Cities Pride have to understand the impact that UNIFORMED officers have on people of color attending the festival. QPOC have, in fact, been saying so for years. I'm not even opposed to MPD having a unit in the parade. Carry a banner. Throw some candy. Just don't wear the uniform.

I'm grateful to Roxanne Anderson for her participation in yesterday's conversations, and helping to navigate to a compromise wherein uniformed officers will not march as a unit but will help carry the flags. In fact, that's a better default for future years.

As an OutFront Minnesota Action endorsed candidate, I will be marching in the Parade with the OutFront contingent. But make no mistake, I'm incredibly disappointed. I encourage all of you who are going to the parade to talk about this with fellow parade-watchers, and let Twin Cities Pride know that you do not agree with their choices.

– Erica Mauter
via Facebook
June 23, 2017


And since I began this post with words from local LGBTQI community leader Ken Darling, I'll conclude with another quote from him, one that was originally shared yesterday on Facebook, before it was announced that Twin Cities Pride had reversed its decision regarding limiting the presence of uniformed police in tomorrow's parade.

I have a long history with the police, as a former police reporter and community activist. I've been on numerous ride alongs. I've had good and bad personal experiences with cops. I've been in the media dozens of times discussing their actions. I praised the officers who ran into the Pulse nightclub on a national radio program. I successfully called for a Minneapolis chief to be sidelined in the 1990s. I helped the first cop in Minneapolis announce she was gay on the cover of the Star Tribune, back when that was a big deal. I was even on a commission that chose a Minneapolis police chief after a decade of poor community-police relations. I know cops. I respect cops. But I also I support the Pride committee's thoughtful and necessary actions to limit police presence at Pride this year. Communities of color are hurting and are understandably angry. We all know the police protect us, that most officers are public servants who give much and receive little. But – and this is a big but – police unions, police leaders and the entire cadre of police officers must do more to weed out those cops who can't handle the job, who fear people based on the color of their skin, who overreact with deadly consequences, who can't handle even the routine pressures of the job, who justify the history of racism that permeates police culture. Yes, you have a tough job. Yes, you deserve our respect. But another young man is dead, his life wasted for no good reason, and no one is being held accountable. Again. You must do more.

– Ken Darling
via Facebook
June 23, 2017


Related Off-site Links:
Some Police Complain After Being Told They Can't March in Twin Cities Pride Parade – Karen Zamora (Star Tribune, June 22, 2017).
We Need to Get Corporate America and Police Units Out of Pride Marches – Steven W Thrasher (The Guardian, June 12, 2017).
We Mourn for Philando Castile. This Violence Must End – OutFront Minnesota (July 6, 2016).
7 Seconds. That's How Long It Took to Kill a Compliant Black Man Carrying a Legal Gun – Will Bunch (Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, June 21, 2017).
Our Fear of Black Men Is Racist, and It Killed Philando Castile – John Halstead (The Huffington Post, June 22, 2017).
“Fear” Was a Viable Defense for Killing Philando Castile. With Police and Black Victims, It Always Is – Jamelle Bouie (Slate, June 23, 2017).
Cleveland Police Officer Bravely Cracks the “Blue Wall Of Silence” – Rickey L. Hampton Sr. (The African American Athlete, June 22, 2017).
2017 Is the Year of Black Fear – Ciarra Jones (The Huffington Post, June 22, 2017).




6/25/17 UPDATE:
Advocates for Black Lives Disrupt Twin Cities Pride Parade;
Demand "Justice for Philando"


Related Off-site Links:
Protesters Block Pride Parade, Demand Police Be RemovedWCCO News (June 25, 2017).
Protest Briefly Halts Twin Cities Pride Parade on Hennepin Avenue – Pat Pheifer (Star Tribune, June 25, 2017).
Black Lives Matter Protesters Stall Twin Cities Pride ParadeFox 9 News (June 25, 2017).
Protesters Briefly Halt Pride Parade – Doualy Xaykaothao (MPR News, June 25, 2017).
No Justice, No Pride Is the Revolutionary Spirit of the Stonewall Uprising – Aaron Barksdale (Vice Impact, June 19, 2017).


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
Quote of the Day – June 20, 2017
A Lose/Lose Situation
Reclaiming and Re-Queering Pride


Friday, June 23, 2017

A Visit to Grand Marais


This time last week my friend Kathleen and I were in Grand Marais, a town on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior. It's a beautiful area of the state, and one which I had not visited since 2004.

The area is renowned for its alternating rocky cliffs and cobblestone beaches, with forested hills and ridges through which rivers and waterfalls descend as they flow to Lake Superior.



Above: With Judy, a friend of both Kathleen and I. Judy lives in the woods outside of the town of Finlayson, MN. We stayed with her on Thursday night, June 15, on our way to the North Shore. We greatly enjoyed and appreciated Judy's hospitality. Thanks, Judy!



About the history of the North Shore's indigenous populations, Wikipedia notes the following:

Lake Superior was settled by Native Americans about 8000 BCE when the Wisconsin Glaciers began to retreat. By 500 BCE the Laurel people had established settlements in the area and had begun to trade metal with other native peoples. The Laurel people were animists and probably created many of the pictographs present on rock faces along the North Shore and other Canadian rock faces in order to communicate with spirits.

In the 12th century, on the easternmost portion of the North Shore, the ancestors of the Ojibwa migrated into the area. These people left behind small pits dug in the ground which archaeologists now call Pukaskwa Pits. On the Minnesotan portion of the North Shore there are only three archaeological sites, so it cannot be determined who lived there at the time.

By the 18th century the Ojibwa had settled the length of the North Shore approximately as far as the modern Canadian–Minnesotan Border. The Minnesota portion of the North Shore was settled mostly by the Cree, while the Dakota lived to the south.


Whenever I visit an area I try to support the local artist community, and Grand Marais is quite the art colony. Accordingly, when in Grand Marais last weekend, I purchased a print of Howard Sivertson's artwork entitled "Solitude" (right).

Raised as a third generation commercial fisherman in Washington Harbor on Isle Royale, Sivertson works primarily in watercolor and oils either on location or in his Grand Marais studio. As both a landscape and narrative artist, he paints the scenes and historical events of the North Shore, Isle Royale, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

In a number of published books, including Once Upon an Isles (1992), The Illustrated Voyageur (1994), Tales of the Old North Shore (1996), Schooners, Skiffs & Steamships: Stories Along Lake Superior Water Trails, and Driftwood: Stories Picked Up Along the Shore (2008), Sivertson uses both artwork and text to narrate local history.



Above: Grand Marais Harbor – Friday, June 16, 2017.

Grand Marais, population approx. 1,400, is French for "Great Marsh," a reference to a marsh that, in early fur-trading times, was situated at the head of the town's harbor. The Ojibwe name for the area is Gichi-biitoobiig, which means "great duplicate water," "parallel body of water" or "double body of water" (like a bayou), a reference to the two bays which form the large harbor off Lake Superior.


Some more interesting details about Grand Marais, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The land surrounding Grand Marais slopes up to form the Sawtooth Bluff, a dramatic rock face visible from nearly any vantage point in the city. Adjacent to the bluff is Pincushion Mountain, a large bald monolith with dramatic views of Lake Superior and the inland wilderness.

Grand Marais Harbor is protected by Artist's Point, a barrier island formed by lava that was connected to the mainland by gravel deposited by lake currents, forming a tombolo. An Arctic–alpine disjunct community survives there.

Road access to Grand Marais is by Minnesota Highway 61, which heads northeast, following the shore of Lake Superior, and is known as the North Shore Scenic Drive. The Gunflint Trail (Cook County Road 12) begins in Grand Marais and heads northwest, away from the lake and into the Boundary Waters region.

Grand Marais is located 110 miles northeast of Duluth and 40 miles southwest of the Canada–US border.



Above: Grand Marais Harbor – Friday, June 16, 2017.



Above: The Shoreline Inn, our lodgings in Grand Marais.



Above and below: Views of Grand Marais – June 16-17, 2017.





Above and below: Kathleen and I at Cascade Falls State Park – Friday, June 16, 2017.








NEXT: Part II


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Days of Summer on the Bayfield Peninsula (2013)
Sunday in Duluth (2010)
Trempealeau (2009)
Northwoods (2008)

Related Off-site Links:
Walking the Old Road: The Story of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais ChippewaPRX.org (2010-2011).
Anishinaabe Way: Lives, Words and Stories of Ojibwe PeopleWTIP.org.
The Sivertson Gallery: Art of the North.
Things to Do On the North Shore, Mile by MileNorth Shore Visitor (2017).


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Quote of the Day


I go out of my way to avoid police, because I don’t know how to physically act around them. Do I hold my hands in the air and get shot, Do I kneel and get shot? Do I reach for my ID and get shot? Do I say I’m an English teacher and get shot? Do I tell them everything I am about to do, and get shot? Do I assume that seven of them will still feel threatened by one of me, and get shot? Do I simply stand and be big black guy and get shot? Do I fold my arms and squeeze myself into smaller and get shot? Do I be a smartass and get shot? Do I leave my iPhone on a clip of me on Seth Meyers, so I can play it and say, see, that’s me. I’m one of the approved black guys. And still get shot?

And when I do get shot and killed, do black and brown people take it as a given that the cop will get off, tune out of the story from this point, and leave the outrage at the inevitable verdict to white people? Because white people still look at fear of black skin as one of their rights, and god help you if that skin moves. Because cops, the lethal arm of this society, along with neighborhood watchdogs, and white neighbors with phones, get the privilege to always act on any fear, no matter how ridiculous, and society always gives them the benefit of the doubt and the not guilty verdict. Because brewing fresh outrage every morning is not a privilege people of colour get to have. The situations that cause outrage never go away for us. It never stuns us, never comes out of the blue. We don’t get to be appalled because only people expecting better get appalled.

Marlon James
Excerpted from "Smaller, and Smaller, and Smaller"
via Facebook
June 17, 2017


Related Off-site Links:
Author Marlon James Offers Biting Critique of Minnesota Racism After Philando Castile Case – Susan Hoga (The Washington Post, June 20, 2017).
Marlon James Writes About Being "Big," Black and Minnesotan In the Age of Philando Castile – Mike Mullen (City Pages, June 19, 2017).
Dashcam Footage of Philando Castile Shooting Released – Breanna Edwards (The Root, June 20, 2017).
Philando Castile and the Terror of an Ordinary Day – Elise C. Boddie (The New York Times, June 20, 2017).
Interviews Contradict Jeronimo Yanez Trial Testimony He Saw Philando Castile’s Gun – Susan Du (City Pages, June 20, 2017).
The Acquittal Verdict In the Philando Castile Case Is an Abomination – Daniel Payne (The Federalist, June 19, 2017).
White People, the Philando Castile Acquittal Should Make You Mad as Hell – Zenobia Jeffries (Yes!, June 19, 2017).
The White Parallel Universe of a Traffic Stop – Samuel G. Freedman (The Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2017).
“Minnesota Nice” and Minnesota’s Racism – Andrea Plaid (Twin Cities Daily Planet, November 5, 2015).
The Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black PeopleAwesomely Luvvie (December 4, 2014).
The Body Count Rises In the U.S. War Against Black People – Ajamu Baraka (Counter Punch, June 20, 2017).

UPDATES: 7 Seconds. That's How Long It Took to Kill a Compliant Black Man Carrying a Legal Gun – Will Bunch (Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, June 21, 2017).
On Philando Castile, Terror and the Trauma That Remains – Allyson Hobbs (The Root, June 21, 2017).
"It Broke Me": The Daily Show Host Trevor Noah’s Emotional Reaction to Philando Castile Dashcam Video – Marlow Stearn (The Daily Beast, June 22, 2017).
After Cop Shot Castile, 4-Year-Old Worried Her Mom Would Be Next – Madison Park (CNN, June 22, 2017).
After Philando Castile's Death, Investigators Tried to Secretly Get Access to Diamond Reynolds' Facebook and Phone Records – Kate Conger (Gizmodo, June 22, 2017).
Our Fear of Black Men Is Racist, and It Killed Philando Castile – John Halstead (The Huffington Post, June 22, 2017).
The Philando Castile Jury Was Stacked with Pro-gun, Pro-cop, Middle-aged White People – Kali Holloway (AlterNet via Salon, June 23, 2017).
Yanez Juror: "Nobody Was OK with It" – Tom Weber (MPR News, June 23, 2017).
"All the Police Have to Do Is Utter Those Five Magic Words" – Janine Jackson (FAIR, June 26, 2017).
What Will It Take to Hold Police Officers Accountable? – Areva Martin (The Huffington Post, June 27, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – June 17, 2017
"This Doesn't Happen to White People"
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
Something to Think About – December 29, 2015
Quote of the Day – November 25, 2015
"We Are All One" – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation: Photos, Reflections and Links
An Update on #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
"Say Her Name" Solidarity Action for Sandra Bland
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
Thoughts on Prayer in a "Summer of Strife"

Image: Marlon James photographed by Jeffrey Skemp.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tony Enos on Understanding the Two Spirit Community


Above: Tony Enos, pictured earlier this year in front of the Two-Spirit Nation camp at Oceti Sakowin. (Photo: Tony Enos)


The Wild Reed's 2017 Queer Appreciation series continues with words (and music) of insight and hope from Tony Enos (right), a Cherokee and Native Philadelphian singer/songwriter and dancer who identifies as a Two Spirit person.

Enos is dedicated to fostering healing for the Two Spirit community and educating those beyond this community about Two Spirit people and the integral part they have long played in tribal social structures. In 2015, as part of his mission to heal and educate, Enos released the single “Two Spirit,” which he describes as “a song for the movement, welcoming Two Spirits from all Nations back into the sacred hoop.”

In the following excerpt from a recent Indian Country Today article, Enos presents eight misconceptions and/or things that are important to know about Two Spirit people. Such awareness, he says, may help foster a better understanding of the Two Spirit community.

____________________________


Two Spirit is not a contemporary “new-age” movement

While the term Two Spirit was coined in 1990 in Winnipeg, Canada as a means of unifying various gender identities and expressions of Native American/First Nations/Indigenous individuals, the term is not a specific definition of gender, sexual orientation or other self-determining catch-all phrase, but rather an umbrella term.

Two Spirit people have both a male and female spirit within them and are blessed by their Creator to see life through the eyes of both genders.

The term does not diminish the tribal-specific names, roles and traditions nations have for their own Two Spirit people. Examples of such names are the winkte among the Lakota and the nadleeh among the Navajo people.

These names and roles go back to a time before western religion. Two Spirit is not a “New Age” movement, but rather a reclamation of Two Spirit’s rightful place in Native culture.


We have proof of Two Spirit individuals in historical photos

A quick google search will render black and whites from decades ago with Two Spirit tribal members from various nations, such as We’wha [right], a very well-known and documented Two Spirit of the Zuni people, who crossed over in 1896.


Gay is not an interchangeable term with Two Spirit

Being a gay native is oftentimes confused with being Two Spirit. While the two may have parallels and intersections, they are not the same. Gay specifically is about attraction to a person of the same sex. Two Spirit is more about the embodiment of two genders residing within one person.

A Two Spirit person may be gay, but a gay person is not necessarily Two Spirit. Claiming the role of Two Spirit is to take up the spiritual responsibility that the role traditionally had. Walking the red road, being for the people and our children/youth, and being a guiding force in a good way with a good mind are just some of those responsibilities.



Above: Two Spirit Dancers prepare, from the film Two Spirits.


The Two Spirit Road is a road of long held traditions, prayer and responsibility

Living as a Two Spirit is not all pride parades and hot pants. To be of service to our elders and youth with our very particular medicine is paramount. If we lose our traditions, our songs, our medicines, and our languages, and make no effort to restore what was lost, we doom ourselves.

In 2016 Two Spirit nation at Oceti Sakowin built the Cannonball River prayer pier, to be used for water ceremonies. Knee deep in mud on a cold 2016 November morning, the Two Spirit camp worked till sundown, so that our women and elders could have a place to pray the following morning. Actual events such a this are now part of our modern history as Two Spirit people and should never be minimized. As with all of Native culture, Two Spirit is also a living culture.


Two Spirit people held significant roles and were an integral part of a tribal social structures

Two Spirit people held a meaningful place in the sacred hoop. In many tribes Two Spirits were balance keepers. Thought to be the “dusk” between the male morning, and the female evening. As the role has evolved over time as necessary, the tradition is still alive. At Two Spirit gatherings and communal events, we can be found saying prayers that have needed to be said for decades, and fostering healing to all present. Restoring much needed balance to spirit.


Above: Tony Enos (center), the activist and educator, with other members of the East Coast Two Spirit Society at New York City Pride 2016. (Photo: Cliff Matias)


Two Spirit Does Not Indicate Colonized Boxed Definitions of “L”, “G”, “B”, “T” or “Q”

We can be all of these, or none of these. A western mindset categorizes based on standards of ‘norm’ and ‘other’ in a kyriarchal (to rule or dominate) type structure. This mindset imposes a series of boxes to fit into (you’re either gay, you’re a lesbian, etc.) rather than being comfortable with gender fluidity, Two Spirit acknowledges the continuum of gender identity and expression.



Above: The East Coast Two Spirit Society at New York City Pride 2015.


Two Spirit is a term only appropriate for Native people

Two Spirit is a role that existed in a Native American/First Nations/Indigenous tribe for gender queer, gender fluid, and gender non-conforming tribal members. If you don’t have a tribe, you can’t claim that role.


Two Spirit People face compounded trauma’s on top of inter-generational trauma

Imagine going from your nation where you’re a celebrated Two Spirit individual, to a boarding school where you’re assigned your gender, with any push back about it being beat out of you. For a lot of our boarding school survivors (and those who didn’t survive), this was their reality. As a result, there is still healing from much internalized socio-political stigma, phobia, and lateral oppression to be done in the Two Spirit community.

The resilience, strength, and sheer indomitable will of Two Spirit people is something to be shared with all nations. When you watch the sun rise every day, the sun set every evening, and the moon come out each night, remember the miracle of Two Spirit people. Not unnatural, not evil, or perverse, just all things in balance, and everything in divine order.

__________________________




Above: Tony Enos – the singer, dancer, and model – in a 2015 promotional photo.


Said Enos in a 2016 interview with Lisa J. Ellwood of Indian Country Today:

[I]t was difficult growing up [and] being “different” from other kids. I was outnumbered by bullies and I got teased a lot for being a native two-spirit with my body type. My father, who is part Cherokee, never wanted to discuss our Native lineage. Whenever I pushed the issue it turned into a huge argument, which is one of the reasons why our relationship is still on the mend today. I felt very isolated and being disconnected from my Native culture was hard, which is why I cherish it so much today.

I always knew I was “different” from other boys as far back as I can remember. I just had an innate awareness of myself and everyone around me pretty much knew I wasn’t your typical kid. At 11-years-old I came out to my family and I can’t say that anyone was shocked (lol!). Although once I confirmed who I was to them, there were some family members who found it more difficult to accept than others.





. . . We're two spirits but one heart;
One love, one voice.
We're all different but the same,
so difference shouldn't stand
in the way of love.
Celebrate me, celebrate you.


Related Off-site Links:
Queer Arts Festival Reflects a Vision of Two Spirits – Holly McKenzie-Sutter (The Georgia Straight, June 14, 2017).
Joining the Annual Gathering of the Two Spirit Society in Montana – Chadwick Moore (Out, November 24, 2016).
Photographic Portraits of Two Spirit Native Americans – Luke Gilford.
Before European Christians Forced Gender Roles, Native Americans Acknowledged 5 GendersNative American Stuff (2017).
Gender Variance Around the World Over Time – Lucy Diavolo (Teen Vogue, June 21, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
North America: Perhaps Once the "Queerest Continent on the Planet"
Clyde Hall: "All Gay People, in One Form or Another, Have Something to Give to This World, Something Rich and Very Wonderful"
Quote of the Day – November 12, 2011
John Corvino on the "Always and Everywhere" Argument Against Gay Marriage
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"


Friday, June 16, 2017

Quote of the Day





The system continues to fail black people, and it will continue to fail you all. My son loved this city and this city killed my son and the murderer gets away. . . . I'm mad as hell right now.


– Valerie Castile
Quoted in Merrit Kennedy's article,
"Minnesota Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez
Found Not Guilty in Shooting Death
of Philando Castile
"
Minnesota Public Radio News
June 16, 2017


Related Off-site Links:
Philando Castile’s Killer Acquitted Despite Forensics That Contradicted His Case – Jeremy Stahl (Slate, June 16, 2017).
Philando Castile Verdict a Painful Result of Laws Rigged to Protect Cops – Shaun King (New York Daily News, June 16, 2017).
Community Reacts to Not Guilty Verdict in Yanez Trial – Hannah Covington (Star Tribune, June 16, 2017).
18 Arrested in I-94 Shutdown Protest After Jeronimo Yanez’s AcquittalPioneer Press (June 16, 2017).
There is No Justice in America for Black People Killed by Cops – Julia Craven (The Huffington Post, June 16, 2017).
U.S. Attorney's Office Considering Federal Review of Yanez CaseKSTP.com, June 16, 2017).
Why Police Officers Aren't Held Accountable When They Kill People – Zoe Samudzi Teen Vogue (June 16, 2017).
White People Get to Juggle for the Cops. Black People Have to Fear Them – April Reign (Star Tribune, March 13, 2017).
To Make Black Lives Matter, We Must Tear Down the Case Law that Gave Police the Power to Stop, Search, and Abuse – Matthew Segal (American Civil Liberties Union, July 27, 2016).

UPDATES: The Acquittal in Philando Castile’s Killing Makes Clear That Black Lives Still Do Not Matter – Eugene Robinson (The Washington Post, June 17, 2017).
Grim Echoes for Families: An Officer Shoots and a Jury Acquits – Mitch Smith, Yamiche Alcindor and Jack Healy (The New York Times, June 17, 2017).
The Philando Castile Verdict Was a Miscarriage of Justice – David French (National Review, June 17, 2017).
After Acquittal in Castile Case, Activists Find Reasons for Hope Amid a Sense of Defeat – Jared Goyette (The Washington Post, June 17, 2017).
Philando Castile Should Be the NRA's Perfect Cause Célèbre. There's Just One Problem – Leon Neyfakh (Slate, June 17, 2017).
Colin Kaepernick Compares Modern Cops to Runaway Slave Patrol After Castile Verdict – John Breech (CBSSports.com, June 17, 2017).
Civil Rights Lawyer: Philando Castile's Skin Color Ended Up Being a Death SentenceDemocracy Now! (June 19, 2017).
The Acquittal Verdict In the Philando Castile Case Is an Abomination – Daniel Payne (The Federalist, June 19, 2017).
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer – Joseph G. Ramsey (Counter Punch, June 23, 2017).
Jeronimo Yanez: A Previous Arrest Offers Insight Into the Beleaguered Officer's Mind – Susan Du (City Pages, June 27, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"This Doesn't Happen to White People"
Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color

Image 1: Ralph Wyman (Minnesota State Capitol, June 16, 2017).
Image 2: Valerie Castile looks at a photo button of her son Philando during a press conference on the state Capitol grounds in Saint Paul, Minnesota, July 12, 2016. (Photo: Eric Miller/Reuters)


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

On the First Anniversary of the Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre, Orlando Martyrs Commemorated in Artist Tony O'Connell's “Triptych for the 49”


Above: "Triptych for the 49" by Tony O’Connell.


The Wild Reed's 2017 Queer Appreciation series continues with the highlighting of a special work of art commemorating the "Orlando martyrs," the 49 people shot to death a year ago today at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The incident also saw over 50 people injured. The Pulse nightclub site is now in the process of being made into a permanent memorial and museum.

Right: Commemorating the Orlando shooting victims: Johnpaul Vazquez, right, and his boyfriend Yazan Sale, sit by Lake Eola, in downtown Orlando. (Photo: Carolyn Cole/Getty Images)


The June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse is the deadliest by a single shooter in U.S. history, and the second deadliest in world history, after the 2011 Norway attacks. The incident is also recognized as the deadliest attack on LGBT people in United States history and the worst mass killing of LGBT people in the west since the Holocaust.

The artwork I highlight this evening is by Tony O’Connell (left), and I must acknowledge and thank Kittredge Cherry and her wonderful online resource, Q Spirit, for first highlighting O’Connell's work in her June 8 post, "Orlando Martyrs: Pulse Gay Nightclub Massacre Remembered in New Artwork 'Triptych for the 49'" (Kittredge has previously highlighted the art of O'Connell. See, for example, here and here.)

Writes Kittredge about O'Connell's latest piece:

One of the newest and most spiritually powerful artworks about the Orlando martyrs is “Triptych for the 49,” a mixed media piece by gay artist Tony O’Connell of Liverpool. It is a shrine shaped like three-part altarpiece. The artist is mounting images of each martyr on reclaimed closet doors, along with queer saints Sebastian and Joan of Arc as “wrathful protector saints.”

O’Connell is working to finish it in time for a private showing on the anniversary of the massacre on June 12. A public exhibit is being planned for later this year. The artist will keep posting updates and new photos of “Triptych for the 49” on O’Connell’s Orlando Martyrs Facebook page as he completes and exhibits the work.

The Orlando martyrs speak to society today through Tony O’Connell’s art. “The world has changed very much in my life but Orlando reminds us that we are all still more vulnerable than polite liberal straight society would like to admit. I think every gay person must have been scarred by the massacre because it reminds us again that there is hate specifically directed at us,” he explained to the Jesus in Love Blog at Q Spirit.

In his new creation, O’Connell made haunting digital images with blue haloes inside Gothic window shapes framing the faces of each person who died in the Orlando shooting. He will arrange them in rows on the central panel, flanked by the guardian saints on two hinged panels. Gold leaf ornamentation adds to the air of sanctity. The whole triptych stands almost six feet tall.

The repetition of the format for all 49 faces allows the individuality of each victim shine through. The viewer’s heart and attention are drawn here and there to connect with different souls: the one in the pink shirt, the one with tattoos, the one with the bowtie . . .


Like standard religious icons, they gaze directly into the viewer’s eyes, seeming to invite conversation. Icons are traditionally considered to be “windows to heaven,” and O’Connell’s commemorative altarpiece provides a glimpse into a queer hereafter.
It is no accident that O’Connell made his shrine to the Orlando martyrs out of wood once used as closet doors. “At some level coming out of the closet is always a revolutionary act of courage because each LGBT person knows on whatever level that the choice to come out could invite potential rejection, or violence or even worse,” he said.

Rainbow haloes indicate that the large figures guarding the martyrs are LGBTQ saints: Sebastian Joan of Arc. Sebastian is a favorite theme in O’Connell’s art and spirituality. He re-enacted the saint’s martyrdom with a sculptural Sebastian to condemn violence against LGBTQ people in a 2015 performance art film. It included a “Litany of the Queer Saints.” He may write a new litany for the Orlando martyrs.

Raised Roman Catholic, O’Connell was rejected by the church when he came out as gay in his teens. He has been a practicing Buddhist since 1995. Much of O’Connell’s work deals with affirming the holiness of LGBTQ lives.


To read Kittredge Cherry article highlighting Tony O'Connell's "Triptych for the 49" and other artists' tributes to the Orlando martyrs, click here.



Above and below: Memorials in front of Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
(Photos: John Raoux/AP and Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS/Getty Images)



NEXT: Part III – Tony Enos on Understanding
the Two Spirit Community


Related Off-site Links:
For Those We Lost and Those Who Survived: The Pulse Massacre One Year Later – James Michael Nichols (The Huffington Post, June 10, 2017).
Remembering the Orlando 49Orlando Weekly (June 12, 2017).
One Year On: Orlando's Remarkable Tributes to the 49 Lives Lost in Pulse Shooting – Chloe Sargeant (SBS, June 12, 2017).
Remembering the 49 People Who Died in Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub Attack – Katie Mettler (The Washington Post via TruthDig, June 12, 2017).
Praying for Orlando, One Year Later – Robert Shine (Bondings 2.0, June 12, 2017).
We Prayed For Orlando. Now, Let’s Never Forget Orlando – Marcos Saldivar (The Huffington Post, June 12, 2017).
A Night of Terror, a Year of Racism – Michael Hamar (Michael-In-Norfolk, June 12, 2017).
Gay Pride Celebrations Worldwide to Honor Orlando, One Year After Pulse Nightclub Attack – Jim Farber (CNTraveler.com, June 1, 2017).
QLatinx Has United Orlando's Queer Latinos in Year Since Pulse Nightclub Shooting – Christopher Cuevas (Mic, June 12, 2017).
Looking Back to the Pulse Shooting Through the Eyes of a Queer Black Muslim – Devyn Springer (Think Progress, June 12, 2017).
One Year After Pulse Massacre in Orlando, FBI Hasn't Publicly Addressed Its Counterterrorism Failures – Trevor Aaronson (The Intercept, June 12, 2017).
One Year On We Remember This Guy Who Saved 70 people in Orlando Shootings. His Name Is Imran YousufIKnowBro, June 12, 2017).
Pulse Survivor Keinon Carter Went From Being Declared Dead at the Hospital to Opening a Center for Black LGBTQ Youth – Monivette Cordeiro (Orlando Weekly, June 7, 2017).
Pulse: The Orlando Shooting and the Intersection of Multiple Violences – Hugo Córdova Quero (Gemrip, June 2016).
A Year After Pulse, We Are More Than Survivors – Audrey Juarez (TalkPoverty.org via Common Dreams, June 13, 2017).
Pulse Anniversary: Church Plays Wounding Role to LGBT People – John Gehring (National Catholic Reporter via Common Dreams, June 13, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"I Pray, I Pray"
Quote of the Day – June 12, 2016
In the WAke of Orlando, Two Powerful Calls for the Catholic Hierarchy to Fully Acknowledge the LGBT Victims of Anti-LGBT Violence
Quote of the Day – June 13, 2017
Multiple Claims Suggest That Orlando Killer Was Also a Victim of Homophobia – His Own
Prayer of the Week – June 19, 2016
Discerning and Embodying Sacred Presence in Times of Violence and Strife
The Ashes of Our Martyrs
"I Will Dance"