I have been reflecting this weekend on some things that have bothered me about the stories I recalled from childhood that my family and I used to tell about people who we suspected were gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. We had no understanding of what we were talking about but it seemed there were more of these people. My sister said they were “funny.” We would look at certain entertainers, like the Hines brothers and she would remark that one of them was almost certainly one of them. I don’t know whether we ever discussed James Baldwin in the same way. It was not that we hated these people, we simply did not understand them.
Our mother was very uncomfortable discussing sex and sexuality. It was clear in school that my classmates knew a lot more than I did and they said things I did not understand. Where I learned about sexuality was through politics. There was a group called the Mattechine Society that had a radio broadcast and gays and lesbians. And when I became part of the antiwar movement there were people talking about the need to fight all kinds of oppression. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, where Workers World Party was formed. One of the leaders was Leslie Feinberg who was the first trans person I had ever met.
I opened my eyes to the reality that there were more identities than I knew when I first became an adult. I grew up in the era of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York. One of my cousins was the first gay person in my family. As I looked around I discovered I had more gay and lesbian friends, including a woman who was part of the poetry group I belonged to. My best friend in my 20s was a bi-sexual woman who helped me struggle through underemployment.
A lot of has changed in these many years. On a Facebook post this morning I talked about the Supreme Court ruling that took us from an era of passing laws and constitutional amendments to discriminate to recognizing that all citizens were entitled to equal protection under the laws. When I attended the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this summer I was asked what pronouns I used and I was stunned. I almost went back to the old All in the Family theme song talking about “when girls were girls, and men were men.” Fortunately those days only exist on television reruns. Another new thing that I did not understand or accept was the use of the term cisgender for men like me.
Yet in spite of the changes that have taken place there are still people clinging to their old prejudices. I saw something on Facebook about the so-called “gay agenda” which was a term invented by right wing bigots years ago as part of their campaign to deny equal rights. It is time to speak truth to ignorance. So, yes, my pronouns are the ones listed as the title for this blog entry. You can say of me that he said we need to accept and recognize our brothers and sisters.
I was looking for a class today at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee about ecological health and had bought the book and was diligently studying it. However while I was waiting a friend from the Black Lives Matter group told me about a meeting regarding re-incarceration without conviction. I had read an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a black man who was on probation and was driving a car and was stopped by the police. It so happened that the man has a white girl friend who is a gun enthusiast and has pictures of herself with her friends on social media holding their guns. All of which were duly registered with the State of Wisconsin. But he did not know the gun was in the car and was was charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon. Fortunately a jury found him innocent but his probation officer revoked him on the grounds he was a danger to the community.
The man had roots in the community including a small transportation business and a child. Instead he became one of the more than 4,000 people who are sent back to prison in Wisconsin without having committed a crime. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has wide latitude in deciding whether to revoke people but this case has something in common with many others in that the person considered dangerous was a black man even though he had a spotless record and was taking tangible steps to improve himself.
The two speakers at the meeting, one white and one black, are also examples of trying to fight the odds. The white speaker was Mark Rice, who is a candidate for a doctorate from UWM, told about his battle to overcome being revoked. He had a history of mental illness and had previously lived in Madison where his probation officer had a background that allowed him to understand his situation. But when he moved to Milwaukee his probation officer had no such training and revoked him for an incident resulting from him mental illness. His former probation officer went to bat for him which helped him return to the community.
The black speaker told of being revoked 3 times and being homeless. One of his revocations resulted from a malfunction of the monitoring bracelet that he wears on his ankle. If you you use a cell phone, are late for an appointment, accept a job without permission, leave the county or violate any of the other rules, Wisconsin can and will send your most often black or brown body back to prison.
It would be value to learn more about Ex Prisoners Organizing for Statewide Penal Reform (EXPO) and do what you can to stop the trend of mass incarceration. If you follow this link you will find out more about this group :Phone: 414-831-2070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 2821 N. Fourth Street, #537, Milwaukee, WI 53212
I just started writing again after taking a break for a few weeks and now I am getting visits from a different group of people. Two of the most different have a blog called Devil’s Advocates. They are a lesbian couple who practice some form of Satanism. I thought the idea was very strange but when you read about the women, Sophie and Cassie, they sound quite ordinary. Their self description makes them sound like a very educated couple devoted to family life. Their blog attempts to dispel the myths about Satanism. I am an atheist, which is of course very different from Satanism. I don’t believe in any god and nor do I believe satan exists. I believe that both were invented as a means of social control when we knew a lot less about how the earth actually functions.
Some of the things I have seen Christians write about Satan can be hysterical. I wrote a blog entry Not Today Satan mocking these Christian fundamentalist writings. It might be interesting to see what the actual Satanists have to say about themselves and their lives. Believe me, this is not for everyone. But I think it is important to write about the people visiting and reading me. It’s possible that Sophie and Cassie will respond after seeing this and respond. I will write something about it if they do.
At a local computer store I saw a video on BET by A$AP Rocky’ called Fashion Killa. In this song he lists all kinds of products used by rich people. I had heard about such songs and how hiphop artists were using their songs for product placements but I had never heard an actual song full of this. I won’t repeat the lyrics because I don’t want to promote that kind of thinking to my fan.
Granted, this is only one song but it is an example of a conscious choice that this young man made. BET also made a choice in presenting his music to their viewing public. Music can express ideas about conspicuous consumption on a level beyond the means of average citizens. Or it can offer hope and inspiration. I wrote a few months ago about the need to write songs about the wars, the killings of innocent people on the street, songs that expressed ideas about the state of our society. A man was recently released after spending more than 30 years in prison for a crime which he did not commit. The original witness against him almost certainly lied while changing her story. And her relatives were prevented from revealing that she had lied.
It’s a story that sounds a little like that of Rubin Hurricane Carter, whose story was popularized by Bob Dylan. Why not write songs about the Angola prisoners locked away? Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 was briefly released from prison after more than 40 years served for a crime he did not commit. He died a day later while the state persecutor fought for a way to try and return him to prison. No one sings of Angola and the lives stolen from families.
Instead, there is the promotion of luxury. This may sound socialistic but it is definitely time for music to serve the needs of ordinary people. The kind of music you hear from Pete Seeger and the kind we sometimes heard during the Vietnam War.Music for people, not for products!
Why is attorney Lynne Stewart in prison? Why was she persecuted originally under the Bush administration?Why did the Obama administration appeal her original sentence? Why hasn’t she been released under a compassionate discharge program given the progression of her cancer?
There are many whys about her persecution that need to be answered. This woman should be free and assisting more clients. This is a bogus case constructed by two administrations. It is time for justice.