Tag Archives: LGBT

Recent events in Florida’s Capital

[This was originally posted on the Tallahassee Socialist Organization’s blog]

By Mike C

There were a few events of interest in Tallahassee in the past week or so that should be noted:

Egypt Solidarity Demonstration 2/5/11

About a week an a half ago, a small crowed comprised of many TSO members stood at the Capitol to show their support for the Egyptian revolution.  The demonstration was a last minute call for a rainy day and was well received by those driving by on the crowded intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Monroe St.

The demonstration was covered by the newspaper of the Florida A&M University, the FAMUAN:

It was a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon as protesters assembled on the Capital Lawn carrying handwritten signs reading, “Freedom in Egypt” and “We Support Egypt.”

Local residents and organizations held a solidarity rally to express their support for freedom in Cairo.

Anti-government protests, demanding economic and political changes, began in Egypt on Jan. 25.

Since then, tens of thousands of people are filling the streets of Cairo and other cities and have called for President Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in power.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a famous quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., helps to define one of the many reasons why American protesters are voicing their opinions.

“It should affect us all as Americans because it is what a truly American concept is about putting in a democracy,” said Alla Hadi, an Egyptian-American attending Florida State, whose family, and friends that are worried about what is going on in Egypt.

“We have to voice our support.”

This demonstration was held the same weekend as demonstrations across the country, from California, to New York City, Washington, DC. and South Florida all held similar events, as well as other Southern cities like New Orleans. (For more information on other demonstrations, check out the ANSWER Coalition’s article)

Public Hearing on Racist Immigration Bill 2/7/11

On February 7th, a public hearing was held to discuss the possibility of the introduction of a bill similar to the now infamous  racist “SB1070” Arizona law that promotes racial profiling.  As the Florida Progressive Coalition Blog reports, 90 percent of the speakers at the hearing were opposed to the prospect of such a bill with only 2 people speaking in favor of it during the entire event.  Folks came from all over the state to voice their opposition to the bill as well as people from Tallahassee.

Here’s one example of the opposition voiced during the hearing:

Pro-Choice Action 2/17/11

Last but certainly not least was the recent visit to the Florida State campus by a group that attempts to equate abortion to genocide.  Florida State students organized a counter demonstration to show that groups that go around attacking womens’ rights are not welcome on their campus and that opposition will be loud and heard.  Chants like “When choice is under attack, What do we do? Stand Up, Fight Back!” were heard in a busy section of the FSU campus while those promoting their anti-choice message were attempting to spread their message of hate.

While the group that was traveling by may seem like a fringe group in its message, their visit to Tallahassee comes at a time when abortion rights are under attack by the Right-wing in America (including attempts to limit access, attacking Planned Parenthood).

The pro-choice counter-demonstrators outnumbered those anti-choice by dozens, and stayed until the anti-choice folks packed up for the day, opposition to their second day is expect as well.  The student newspaper is also expected to run a story on the event.

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Filed under ANSWER Coalition, Florida, Gender, Human Rights, immigration, Imperialism, Leftists in the U.S. South, LGBT, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Students, Women

Cultural Politics and Resignification: The Case of July 4th

By hastenawait

A couple of years ago when July 4th rolled around, I began thinking about the contradiction between my celebration of the holiday and my leftist politics. Those who oppose racism, imperialism, genocide (e.g. the slaughter of the indigenous population of North America) and other forms of oppression perpetrated by the United States have many reasons to be critical of the holiday.(1) Despite the more manifest meaning of the holiday (the celebration of values like freedom, liberty and so forth), for many it has come to represent oppression, and there are ample reasons for that; like other social phenomena, it is contradictory. At the immediate, personal level, I was faced with the question: Should I opt out of my family’s holiday celebration, one of the few times during the year when we all get together to enjoy one another’s company? Ultimately I decided not to opt out, and here’s why.

The celebration of a holiday is a cultural practice, which can be analyzed as a performance (or rather collection of performances) which bear meaning. To say that a holiday has inherent meanings which cannot be changed is essentialist and ahistorical. A holiday, like any other cultural practice, can be submitted to a process of resignification. Todd Holden describes resignification as follows.

As its name implies, resignification is a semiotic process—meaning that it involves the creation of meaning from signs. However, resignification is a particular kind of semiosis: one where new sign elements (signifiers, signifieds, signs, significations) are lifted from their original contexts and inserted into other semiotic sequences, though not always (indeed seldom) in the position they occupied in their prior incarnation.

Two aspects are most salient about resignification: first, strung together in unrelenting sequence, such recycling amounts to a phenomenon of sociological import. Most especially, because, procedurally, resignification both reflects and assists cultural mutation. [Italics added by the present author.](2)

In other words, the concept of resignification – an extension of the concept of signification – has been developed to indicate that not only is meaning dependent upon the social context, but that meaning changes over time. The social radically conditions the ability of individual actors (or even groups of actors) to create meaning, but agency is also involved in the production of meaning. Critical intervention is always possible. Despite his emphasis on the determining power of social structure (particularly the economic base) Marx still said that “History does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men [sic.], real, living, who do all this.”

In terms of holidays, the history of Christianity offers an instructive example of successful resignification. It is well known that as the influence of the Catholic Church spread across Europe, many indigenous traditions, including holidays, were transformed into Christian traditions (but at the same time the emerging “Christianity” was also modified by the absorption). An uneven, dialectical synthesis took place, in which Christianity was the dominant force. That the early Church was able to do this was an important factor in its ability to transform the European continent after its own image, in other words, to establish a hegemony which lasted over 2,000 years. Whatever we think about it today, Christianity was certainly a successful revolutionary force that changed the course of world history.

When I was thinking about the 4th of July a few years ago, I wrote

…it’s undeniable that this country has a lot going for it, things that are worth celebrating. War hawks often say, with a sense of deep satisfaction, that the freedoms and stability we enjoy were won through blood and sacrifice. They’re right, but not in the sense that they intend. They usually say such things to defend an imperialist foreign policy and the military industrial complex, things which I believe have done nothing but curtail freedom and stability around the world. But there are altogether different struggles and sacrifices that have given us something to be proud of.

…That we have anything close to a system with a human face, in other words democracy, is absolutely the result of popular struggle. Democracy doesn’t come from anywhere else.

I’m talking about the struggles to end slavery, racism, exploitation and sexism. I’m talking about struggles for peace and equality. I’m talking about the movement for LGBT rights. The list goes on.

…For all these reasons I’m celebrating the Forth of July this year. I’m celebrating the democratic rights that we have, and the people who fought to make them a reality. I am celebrating to embolden myself for the future, because the fight for democracy, really, is just beginning; what we have now is just a taste of what we can achieve if we put forth the collective effort. The Right doesn’t own this holiday any more than they own this country. In fact, let me say something that will infuriate right-wing patriots: It is Left-wing and progressive forces that have made the United States live up to its promises of freedom and democracy [to the limited extent that it has], and we’re the ones who should be celebrating; it’s our victory.

In other words, I was suggesting that we could celebrate the 4th of July in a radically different way. We could resignify it. I ask: Would the Catholic Church have been as successful in its efforts to conqueor Europe if it hadn’t transformed some existing cultural practices, instead of simply trying to wipe them out? Would the process have gone less smoothly if they had taken the latter course?

I honestly don’t think that it will do for the left to simply tell working people that their holiday is racist and imperialist. It is a deeply embedded cultural institution, in which people of various classes, nationalities, genders, sexualities, and more, have made powerful libidinal investments. In fact, most of the African Americans that I know here in southern Louisiana celebrate the holiday very enthusiastically, and wouldn’t be too impressed if I told them that they should give it up in the name of struggle. Communists and other progressives should realize that many of the traditions which have developed around the holiday are the expressions of oppressed and working people (contradictory though they are), and should not, therefore, be dismissed in a heavy-handed or patronizing way.

Let me juxtapose two hypothetical cultural activist interventions in regard to this holiday.

Imagine a leftist group on a street corner, protesting the 4th of July, chanting angrily and holding up provocative signs. Then, imagine a leftist group throwing a big 4th of July celebration in a major park, in which the workers’ movement, the civil rights movement, the American Indian movement, the LGBTQI movement, the immigrant’s rights movement, the women’s movement, etc. were celebrated. Imagine an event which popularized the history of struggle in this country, brought attention to those who have really worked to bring about the modicum of freedom and equality that we enjoy. What if we held up banners with the faces of great U.S. Americans like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, John Brown and Cesar Chavez?

I ask: Which of these interventions would be more alienating to working people raised in a culture of patriotism? Which of these is more patronizing? Conversely, which of these is more subversive? Which would help to win more people over to the side of radical social transformation, i.e., revolution?

(1) Check out Frederick Douglass’ Independence Day Speech at Rochester, 1841.

(2) http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0104/japtele.php

In addition to the works of Ferdinand de Saussare and Roland Barthes(semiotics), Judith Butler (performativity) and Mao Zedong (the mass line), I am also influenced in my thinking on this matter by Alain Badiou’s insistence that we remember that, in the process of revolutionary dialectics, it is not enough to negate an existing condition, but also to affirm or create something new. All too often this is a weak point on the left, whether reformist or revolutionary. See, for example, his lecture, Destruction, Negation and Subtraction, which you can watch on YouTube.

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Filed under African Americans, Anti-Imperialism, Anti-War, class struggle, Imperialism, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, National Oppression, Native Americans, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, Queer, Race, Revolution, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, The Left, Uncategorized, United States, Women, workers

Eyewitness report from the Mississippi Dignity Caravan

Thursday, May 27, 2010
By: Gregory W. Esteven

 Originally posted to PSLweb.org

Progressives mobilize to support Constance McMillan at her graduation

On May 22, members of the LGBT community, activists and allies took part in the Mississippi Dignity Caravan. The caravan started with a rally at the state capitol in Jackson and ended over 200 miles away in Fulton, a small town in the northeastern corner of the state.

The caravan was organized to challenge the Westboro Baptist Church—a notorious hate group from Topeka, Kan.—which protested outside the graduation of Constance McMillan, a lesbian high school student.

McMillan recently came to international attention when the Itawamba County School District canceled her high school’s prom to prevent her from bringing her girlfriend. After a court battle, she was then subjected to a “fake prom,” of only six students, while bigoted parents organized a private prom to which she was not invited. Her story has become a rallying point in the fight for equal rights for LGBT people.

The Mississippi Dignity Caravan was a successful effort to show that progressive people in the state are standing up. The caravan was organized by Unity Mississippi, GetEQUAL.org and dozens of other organizations within the state to celebrate the first annual Harvey Milk Day, and to present a “unified front against hate mongers,” according to Amy Hinton of PFLAG-Laurel.

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Filed under Gulf States, LGBT, LGBTQI, Mississippi, Queer, Southern United States, Students, United States

Nashville Westboro Baptist Church Counter-Protest

The day after the Mississippi Dignity Caravan, i.e. May 23, 2010, the Westboro Baptist Church will be in Nashville, Tennessee. A counter-protest is scheduled.

Here is the information from the Counter-Protest Facebook group, which already has 1,002 members:

On May 23, the Westboro Baptist Church has scheduled picket protests outside of three major churches in the Nashville area. A counter-protest is obviously in order.

The Westboro Baptist Church is a radical hate group based out of Topeka, Kansas best known for their protest activities which include picketing churches and funerals and desecration of the American flag. Since its first service in 1955, the WBC and its founder Fred Phelps have dedicated themselves to spreading a message of hate towards homosexuals, American soldiers, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, and any other organization that disagrees with their radical views. Since 1991, the church claims to have participated in over 41,000 protests in 650 cities nationwide, using signs bearing such strong messages as GOD HATES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS, FAGS DOOM NATIONS, GOD HATES THE U.S.A., THANK GOD FOR AIDS, and GOD IS YOUR ENEMY to propagate and publicize their campaign of intolerance.

The WBC’s Nashville Picket Schedule:

MAY 23, 2010

7:50-8:20AM
Christ Church
15354 Old Hickory Blvd.

8:45-9:15AM
Two Rivers Baptist Church
2800 McGavock Pk.

10:30-11:15AM
Mount Zion Baptist Church
7594 Old Hickory Blvd.

Counter-protests of this sort are a regular occurance when the WBC shows up somewhere. For example, a similar counter-protest took place at Dutchtown High School in the small community of Prarieville, Louisiana, back in March. The Advocate newspaper and WBRZ News out of Baton Rouge estimated that 400-500 counter-protestors attended.

Here is a video from the event.

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Filed under Demonstration Announcements, LGBTQI, Southern United States, Tennessee, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events

Mississippi Dignity Caravan

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, instersex and queer etc. activists in Mississippi have organized a “Dignity Caravan” to take place this coming Saturday, May the 22nd. It will begin with a rally at the state capitol in Jackson, and will then proceed to the town of Fulton. Please attend if you can and spread the word. As proto-fascist forces are on the rise in the U.S. (racist legislation in Arizona and similar legislation being considered in other states, the Tea Party movement etc.) it is increasingly important to maintain a united front against bigotry of all kinds.

Here is the information from the website set up for the campaign:

Details

  • Rally at Mississippi’s Capitol – 9AM
  • Caravan to Fulton leaves Capitol – 10AM
  • Rally in Fulton – 3PM

More details to come… Save the date and spread the word.

You may have heard. Fred Phelps and his “God Hates America” and “God hates fags” Klan are coming to Mississippi to spread their message of hate and intolerance.

In light of Mississippi’s recent negative headlines regarding discrimination and the planned presence of Westboro “Baptist Church”, we need to take a stand and declare that Mississippians do not endorse hate.

The plan…

We are organizing a meet-up and rally on the steps of Mississippi’s capitol to declare that these recent actions against Constance McMillen, Juin Baiz, and Ceara Sturgis (and the message being sent by the Westboro Baptist Church) are not Mississippi’s ideals; Mississippi MUST lead the way in making schools, workplaces, and families safe places and secure for all. The action on the capitol steps will be a call to action… The message: bullying, hate and discrimination will no longer be tolerated in Mississippi. It is NOT Mississippi!

The rally will then caravan to Fulton, Mississippi to hold a vigil/peaceful rally… One that contrasts the hateful message of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Our peaceful presence and message of love will starkly contrast the hateful message. Our hopes? To begin a deeper dialog in Mississippi and the US about the discrimination, bullying and homophobia that occurs in schools, workplaces, pulpits, and our places of government.

The line must be drawn in the mud of Mississippi…

Everyone is invited to the rallies under the condition that we RESPECT the people of Fulton. It may be a challenge and we may be angry with their actions against Constance and Juin, but these rallies are NOT attacks against them; they are to contrast and overshadow the hateful message that the Westboro “Baptist Church” hopes to make heard in Mississippi.

  • We will be setting up contacts throughout the state and country.
  • We will be establishing meet-up points and contacts throughout the state/US.
  • We will be establishing carpools for those unable to drive within Mississippi.

Click here for the Facebook group and here for the Facebook event invitation.

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Filed under Demonstration Announcements, LGBTQI, Mississippi, Southern United States, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events