A Brief Introduction

Endeavoring to define myself outside of a "job title." I'm a nomad of sorts who fell in love with technology, activism, and helping others. I run a web & media consulting firm, have a blog specifically for activists & non-profits, and travel often. I love talking about theology, politics, and social change. I love doing something about it even more. I also like to be a well-rounded and fully present person. That's why I write here. Connect with me on twitter

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nonviolence Begins Within

My friend and Soulforce Q director Haven Herrin included this message in the most recent Soulforce update. As always, her way with words does justice to her insight.

Last week, Soulforce offered a call to action. Now is the time to take it to the streets, we said, and people are indeed peacefully rising up across the country in response to the passing of Proposition 8. Never has the need been greater to reach out to hearts and minds, as we are seeing in Arkansas, Arizona, California and Florida the legislative effects of hearts that have not heard us.

And with that challenge to action, I would like to add the equally important call to be nonviolent within the LGBT community. Blaming any one "demographic" of citizens for the passing of Proposition 8 does not stand up to the scrutiny of statistics, and it drives a wedge into our community. Process matters, and in honoring that dictum, morality and decency ask that we work even harder to make the LGBT community a safe space for all, regardless of ethnicity, faith, ability, or class. It is important to support our fellow activists in our layered, diverse identities. A beautiful aspect of the LGBT community is that we are everywhere; none of us is one-dimensional in our identities, and all of us are part of a web of social justice issues, including but not limited to LGBT equality, that must progress.

I hope that we may all be diverse in our allied communities and in our work. Nonviolence is not just for reaching out to our adversaries. It is also for building relationships that comprise a safe, strong network that supports all activists in coming out, sharing stories, and changing the hearts of our friends, family, co-workers, faith leaders, and neighbors.

Soulforce is working toward embodying all that nonviolence requires of us. Please visit the Soulforce website to learn about our work at the intersections of identity during the American Family Outing this past spring, or engage with our current work in the same vein in the Equality Ride.

Haven Herrin
Director of Soulforce Q

Read the original call to action by Executive Director Jeff Lutes at www.365gay.com/opinion/soulforce-time-to-take-it-to-the-streets

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What will it take?

There is a dynamism between movement inward and movement outward; perhaps an energy and a potential is release in the friction between the two.

Videos, such as this one (hat tip to Brian McLaren), are a reminder. As we learn, how can we not act?

The state of world affairs can be overwhelming. At a small group discussion around The Irresistible Revolution at my church recently, a friend shared that Shane's litany caused him to shut down (he also wondered aloud if it was selective). I'm itching to find small, simple, concrete steps I can take toward justice; and to be honest, a bit scared of what that means for life as I know it.

Here's what I've done recently:
* Invested in three Kiva entrepreneurs
* Talked to friends and co-workers about transgender awareness and bias-based crimes
* Offered support to a new friend who doesn't have a stable housing situation or job
* Donated a small amount to Soulforce Q's international outreach
* Blogged about poverty
* Attended an Ecclesia worship service

Here's what I'd like to do:
* Do a better job of understanding issues facing my friends (around race, homelessness, gender, etc) so that I can be a part of the solution and part of the problem.
* Trace my food and clothing back to its source and make sure I support individuals all along the way
* Call my sister at least once a week just to talk
* Open up my futon to a person in need of a place to sleep at night
* Find a way for our church to open up the building to those sleeping on their steps

Here are some questions I have:
* Is there something inherently condescending/paternalistic about being intentional about "developing relationships with people different than me?" What does different even mean?
* What issues in my own life have I failed to even notice?
* In what ways can I ask and receive help and support from others?
* What are my friends doing that I can join in on?
* What is the motivation behind all of this?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get non-violence training before Saturday's rally!

Join The Impact NYC Rally
Join The  Impact gathering
As you may have heard, a grassroots movement called Join The Impact has sprung up in the days since the election to organize rallies in every state in the union on Saturday November 15 for the cause of LGBT equality. A gathering in New York City is scheduled for 1:30 PM at City Hall. While this is not a SFNYC organized event, I will be there and I hope to see you there as well! We recognize that marriage is not a city issue, however city halls are traditional gathering places for communities, and it is fitting for us to gather there as others across the country do the same. We are not protesting the city but rather standing up and being counted--that we are passionate about the cause of justice for LGBTQ people, that discrimination in all forms is unbefitting of our society, that gay relationships should be supported equally with straight ones, and also to remind ourselves that the journey for LGBT equality does not begin nor end with marriage.
Non-Violence Training at 11:30Non-Violence at Patrick Henry College
In preparation for the rally, Micah and I will be leading a non-violence training for Soulforce NYC. This will cover non-violence of the heart, communication messaging, and courageous responses to violent action. Marble Collegiate Church, located at 29th St & 5th Ave, has graciously opened their building to us for this occasion. We will meet from 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM before traveling to City Hall together to arrive by 1:30 PM.
We hope that if you are planning on attending the rally, that you will join us for this training so that we can be prepared to boldly confront this important issue.

Feel free to invite your friends.

See you this Saturday!
Facebook event information here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finding The Next Step

One of my best friends Micah writes today,

i don't want to protest the mormon church.

i don't want to protest city hall (i'll be there on saturday because i think it's important to stand in solidarity and be counted, i just think there are better messaging strategies).

i want to be intentional. i want my actions to make sense. i want to identify and address the source rather than the effects of oppression.

i want connection, narrative, humanity.

vulnerability, integrity, conviction.

i want to do something radical: i want to live my beliefs.
I know that we are both racking our hearts, minds, and souls to find our next steps. There is a part of me that is reacting to a great hurt caused by Proposition 8; but equally there is a recognition that this longing and these next steps are larger than any piece of legislation. My pastor Rev. Lewicki reflected on the movement between inward- and outward-focused energy in the life of faith. It feels as if I'm standing on the edge between inward-focused study, reflection, meditation, and preparation and outward-focused faith in action.

Where are you in life today? Inward-focused or outward-focused? And what do you want? What steps are do you feel called to that are perhaps not the steps you're used to?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marriage Rally in NYC

A demonstration in response to California's Proposition 8 will occur this Wednesday at 6:30 PM in front of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Temple in Manhattan. While over five million Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8, the LDS temple has been selected because the church officially urged members to donate time and money to the cause, estimates place donations from LDS members at 40-80% of total donations. As you may have heard, rallies have taken place across California, including one at the LA LDS temple; recently a protest was staged at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, UT. We feel it is important for you to know of this gathering in New York City, especially since religious rhetoric directly fueled support for Proposition 8.

I want to make it clear that Mormons are not our enemy. Many of my Mormon friends publicly opposed Proposition 8, giving their time, talent, and money for LGBT equality. In the aftermath of Proposition 8, a straight Mormon friend of mine held a sign reading "Churches can repent too," outside of his temple. Seeking Forgiveness is a blog featuring letters of apology from Mormons across the country, repenting on behalf of their church. You can read an open apology to the gay community here.

We understand that misinformation and misunderstanding--not individuals--are the sources of injustice against LGBT people. These rallies and protests can be a necessary and productive way for us to express our hurt, anger, and disappointment; they also serve to bring us together as a community. It is my hope that as you participate in the rally at the LDS temple, that you will bring with you a spirit of reconciliation. Use this rally as a place to express your deep and sincere hurt. The pain is real, let us grieve. And as we grieve, let us open up doors to justice; enrolling all people: gay and straight, Christian and atheist, Mormon or not, in the pursuit of of LGBT equality.

We invite you to use this rally as a conversation starter for friends and co-workers, to let it be your first step in activism, to use it as a catalyst for your friend's first steps into activism, as a place to grieve, as a place to be inspired. I invite you read and consider the journey into soulforce and the pledge to non-violence as you prepare for the rally this Wednesday.

Prop 8 Protest in New York City

Peaceful demonstration Wednesday night, November 12, 6:30 pm, New York Manhattan Mormon Temple, 125 Columbus Ave at 65th Street, New York, NY:

" Tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters are in the streets in California and Salt Lake City and around the country protesting the votes banning same-sex marriage in California. Join them! Make your voices heard right here in New York City. We will tell the Mormon Church how we feel about its relentless campaign to condemn and control our lives. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was, by far, the biggest financer of California's heinous and hateful Proposition 8. The Mormon Church begged their members to donate money to Prop 8, pouring 20 million dollars into the campaign. And their attacks on us didn't start there and aren't about to end. They're plotting right now to bring their money and influence to bear against the LGBT community everywhere in this country, including trying to prevent marriage equality in New York. "

Facebook event: http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=57450719688

This rally is not the only way to be active in the pursuit of justice for LGBT people. As the reality of Proposition 8 sets in, many of us are looking for new ways to become involved. Please email me at brian@sfnyc.org to find ways to engage the issues, change hearts and minds, and create equality!

A Hurt That Cries Out For Justice

As the pain of Proposition 8 continues to settle in, a few more voices come to mind. First and foremast is that of anonymous Gordon College student (from If I Told You) who says,

God knows that I am just looking for the same thing everyone else is: a little love in a cold world.

I won’t find that love in my family, my friends, my school, my church, or some random guy.

That love comes from God and is the only thing I have left to hold on to. Don’t try to take it away from me. You can take away my self-esteem and my dignity; you can kick me out of church and deny me rights; you can physically beat me or call me names; you can laugh at me and you can pity me; but you can never, never take away my God.

Or I will no longer be human.
Proposition 8 did something that no other anti-gay ballot initiative has done, it took away our rights. Unlike in Arizona or Florida, where the measures were redundant, the CA amendment changed the Constitution to remove protections and privileges for some citizens.

And yet, we are still here. LGBT people and their friends have taken to the streets. Proposition 8 may have erased from the law, but it will not--cannot--erase us completely. The protests and the gatherings may not change policy, they may not even change hearts and minds, but they are a collective cry that "we are still human, we are still human."

I also here Maya Angelou's famous words "Still I Rise"

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

And lastly, I remember the words of Audre Lorde, from The Black Unicorn


For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

We speak in the notes of condolences, we speak in conversations making sense of our lives and our future, we speak as we organize, we speak with signs, we speak with our bodies, we speak in protest, we speak over dinner.

We speak, we love, we live. We are here. Proposition 8 is a source of great pain for many, may that pain turn into cries for justice that move a nation. Find your voice, perhaps it starts with a Facebook note, but never let it end. Foster it, nurture it, spread it. It starts out as a thought, "I am as I should be," which turns into a word, which then grows into conversations and discussions, rallies, and movements.

Speak, for that is all you need to do.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Despite the hurt, ain't gonna let nobody

Two days after the stinging passage of Proposition 8 in California, a deep ache pierces my stoic exterior. As I resolve to not wallow in anger or vent aimlessly and I begin to take action, I feel my soul moving and a movement stirring as news comes in from Los Angeles:

It is time.

"Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" has been a constant refrain in the literal march for justice. It was sung during the quest for racial integration "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around, gonna keep on walkin', keep on talkin', marchin' up to Freedom Land." "Ain't gonna let no Jim Crow turn me around," "Ain't gonna let no fire hose turn me around."

On the Equality Ride, leaders who sang those songs passed them along to us adding "Ain't gonna let homophobia, turn me around," "Ain't gonna let administrators turn me around," "Ain't gonna let no handcuffs turn me around, gonna keep on walkin', keep on talkin', gonna build a brand new world."

Today let us add another verse "Ain't gonna let me no proposition turn me around." To walking, and talking, in the streets, in churches, synagogues, and mosques, in our living rooms, and our classrooms, in city halls, in public parks, from the margins to the center of power ... to building our brand new world!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Open Letter to California Queers

We didn't think it could really happen. The court handed down a compelling decision, the weddings had begun, photos were spreading, presents were streaming in, joy was contagious. This is California, we are safe. A few Facebook notes and status updates, along with perhaps a donation or two, would suffice in maintaining our civil rights. Nevermind only our like-minded friends read our Facebook and our blogs. Nevermind the polls. Nevermind the Mormon Church. There were rallies in West Hollywood and San Fransisco. Gavin Newsom gave a speech. “It's here whether you like it or not,” we were promised. We could observe from a distance, from the comfort of our living rooms, safely removed by a computer monitor.

But it did happen, didn't it? Five million one hundred sixty three thousand nine hundred eight people voted in favor of Proposition 8. Five million! Can you even wrap your mind around that number? I cannot. And here's the rub: those five million people aren't bad people, some of them even have gay friends. Five million Californians decided that it was good conscience and a good use of government to remove my constitutional equality and deny me marriage. Many (most?) of them may have felt this position is in line with the way the world is or should be—heterosexual relationships only.

And so today I'm not angry—I'm not going to yell about the bigots—I am challenged. There are five million people in the state of California that I have not reached. They do not know me and know what I bring to our community. Worse, they felt compelled to vote against fundamental rights for other humans. That is an awful place to be.

As I begin to wrap my mind around what Proposition 8 means for myself, my future relationships, my friends, and my country, I pause. Facebook status updates and blog posts were not enough to stave off Proposition 8, I cannot allow myself to believe that they will undo it. If history has anything to teach us, it is that great change does not come without great sacrifice--time, comfort, money, energy. Reaching out to Latino Catholics, Republicans in Central CA, Mormon neighbors, anti-gay co-workers, our sweet but uninformed grandparents, our cousins, even our vaguely supportive friends, and on and on; not with posters, stickers, signs or chants but with relationships and over shared meals and experiences. Deep connections, real enrollment. This is my plea to queer folks and our friends: do not update your Facebook status anymore about Prop 8, do not write another blog post about how insulted, offended, hurt, betrayed or disappointed you are. Take those feelings and that time and channel them toward the five million Californians who failed to connect with your humanity.

This is what I am going to do:

  • Write a card to all of my queer married friends in California, expressing my love and support
  • Host a small group at my church to unpack the decision, convey its effects, and further the movement toward acceptance and advocacy within our denomination.
  • Visit my elected officials to enroll their support for marriage equality in my state and return to visit as often.
From here out, I will only update my status or write blog posts to speak about my actions. I realized today that five million Californians didn't fail me, I failed five million Californians, and I— we—can change that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Reflections: Prop 8

I have an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and it's not from the street food I just ate. This is not the first time anti-gay measures and amendments have been on the ballot, it may not even be the last. This time it hits closer to home. I've lived in California, in many ways I still have a life in California. But I think, even more than that, it feels like this current bliss may have been nothing more than a cruel joke.

I can't help but think of my friends Diana and Robin, as each "Yes" or "No" ballot drops in piles next to their altar, millions crashing their wedding reception to offer unwanted toasts or jests.

As the residents of California are being asked to vote on every relationship I've had and every one I might form, I have to ask myself "Am I on trial?" It's like being on Survivor or Big Brother or something ... will we be voted off the island? Of course, I don't weigh in my parent's marriage, or my cousin's, or John McCain's, or even Bradgelina's lack thereof. But today strangers thousands of miles away are weighing in on mine. They're telling me whether I will be safe and secure should I return, they're telling me how many of my close friends will be treated. It's weird.

My married friends will continue to be married in their hearts, families, and communities regardless of what happens today. How awful is that--that I need to remind myself that stripping rights from millions of citizens won't completely destroy them? Thousands of couples currently married in California may have that whisked away from them. Friends, my friends, my married friends making a life together, finally recognized and supported by the state may have the rug pulled out from under them. ... But they will be strong and persevere. We will support them anyway, I will support them.

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to act. Confident that Prop 8 will be defeated? Defiant that a law can't undo my humanity? Embarrassed that our country in general and my former state in particular are even considering this measure? Scared that it might pass? Anxious that my relationship is on the line?

Perhaps in this moment I am supposed to find strength and faith. Strength to make sure this doesn't happen in other states. Strength to support my friends regardless of outcome. Strength to trust myself and my relationships. Strength to have tough conversations. And faith to know that whatever the outcome, I am good.

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