Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speaking Truth to Power

Last week we blew the roof off the LGBT Resource Center!

On Monday we received a letter that was written by the American Family Association (AFA) to its local members. This letter stated that in conjunction with the launch of the website, the AFA had produced an hour-long infomercial entitled "Speechless: Silencing Christians" decrying advances in equality for the gay community. The show was set to air that night -- Monday, February 9th -- at 7 p.m. on WOOD TV8.

The following were high points from the AFA letter informing its members of the content of "Speechless" and why they should tune in:
"The TV show will reveal the truth about the claim that homosexuals are born that way and cannot change; the negative impact on children resulting from schools promoting the gay lifestyle; protected minority status for homosexuals.
The AFA letter went on to say "it will attack the major lies of militant gay activists head-on; alert viewers about what's at stake for the family if they get what they want; present helpful information to stop the radical homosexual political agenda.
Quickly the students and I set up a Facebook group entitled “Tell WOOD TV8 to Stop Hate!” and we sent an invitation to all our friends asking them to please contact WOOD TV8 to let them know this kind of irresponsible broadcasting is biased, unprofessional and leads to hate violence.

Melissa Pope, Director of Victim Services for Triangle Foundation – Michigan’s leading anti-violence organization serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities – states, “There is a direct connect between this kind of anti-gay programming and violence against the LGBT community.” It is especially important to acknowledge this potential risk considering hate violence against the gay community in Michigan increased 133% last year!

In a lightning fast response, WOOD TV8 pulled the programming for the evening and announced “Speechless” would be rescheduled later in the week. But we didn’t stop there.

We continued to work with hundreds of campus allies as well as eleven local, state, and national organizations to let WOOD TV8 know that we value the diversity, as well as the safety, of our community.

On Wednesday afternoon, after two reschedules of the program, WOOD TV8 rescinded their offer to air the show stating, “Our station is being bombarded with calls and messages, and we find ourselves in the middle of someone else’s fight.”

GVSU’s “Do Something Guide” states the following:
“Students also need to become active participants in making a difference outside of the classroom. Applying what you know to real life situations will help you better understand and educate others on the need for awareness and diversity.” (Fall 2008 p. 42)
The students of the LGBT Resource Center certainly put that into practice and received an electrifying education in the power of using their voices to address injustice and create change. The cancellation of the anti-gay infomercial “Speechless” by WOOD TV8 was a victory for fairness and safety. By the end of the week, our Facebook group had over 1,100 citizen activist members! Our grassroots effort received national media attention and changed the course of West Michigan history.

I encourage all of you to join us, whether LGBT or ally, as the LGBT Resource Center works to educate and develop student leaders who are empowered to create social change. Join our Facebook fan page “Grand Valley State University LGBT Resource Center” to follow our work and become involved in the equality and justice community.
“When will justice ever come to Athens? Only when those who are not injured are just as indignant as those who are.” ~Thucydides

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight!

Last week LGBT Resource Center Director Milt Ford and I were in Denver for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference. This event was attended by over 2,300 activists from around the country who pursue equality and justice work on behalf of the gay community. This was my second Creating Change conference and no less life changing than last year’s event. The opening plenary for this conference always features the Executive Director (ED) of the Task Force delivering “The State of the Movement” address. This year new Task Force ED Rea Carey shared her perspectives.

Understanding the state of the movement is particularly important at this time in history. The November elections were politically significant for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities. The election of Barack Obama marked many firsts for our nation including the fact that his acceptance speech was the first of its kind to acknowledge the gay community. As leaders in the movement, we celebrate the election of an LGBT-friendly President who believes that the United States Constitution applies to ALL Americans.

There were other substantial victories that bright November day. Representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, Jared Polis became the first openly gay candidate to run for the U.S. House of Representatives where he handily won victory! A new day also dawned in Michigan. Our citizens voted in record numbers and loudly rejected the divisive and discriminatory politics that have polarized this state. In an exhilarating rout, Barack Obama won Michigan with 57% of the popular vote changing the political landscape of our state! Additionally, a significant upset occurred when Judge Diane Marie Hathaway unseated Clifford Taylor on the Michigan Supreme Court! The impact of Judge Hathaway’s victory is immeasurable, considering Judge Taylor’s longstanding opposition to LGBT equality. Judge Hathaway’s election provides renewed hope for justice and equality in the LGBT community.

However, the losses were profound. Sadly, Hamtramck no longer has a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy. Additionally, equality suffered devastating blows in California, Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona.

In her “State of the Movement” address Rea Carey commented on these losses, “As we look back on this year, our confidence has been shaken and our anger has been roused — but now is the time to turn our anger into action and our action into long-lasting change. We must now refocus on regaining marriage equality in California and winning across the country. But we need to remember that these anti-marriage ballot measures are fundamentally about the larger right-wing assault on the ever-expanding diversity in the United States, our freedom to live openly and to create and define our sexuality, ourselves and our families. . . As the magnet on my grandmother's fridge says, ‘Fall down seven times, get up eight!’”

And so we brush ourselves off and renew our commitments. As we remember President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech and his acknowledgement of our community, we remain hopeful that this new President will bring the values of inclusion and equality to our broken nation and help us in the continuing journey on the road to equality.

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