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Sunday, May 29, 2011

BLACK GAY PRIDE (ACCORDING TO BERNARD JACKSON)

This week I wanted to have a different voice on a particular subject.  I asked my friend Bernard Jackson to tell me what he thinks about Black Gay Pride.  His response was a broad and poignant understanding of this event.

BERNARD JACKSON
Gay America seams to be okay with having a marginalized community. Feeling less part of the whole gay community  in participation, organization and administration blacks and other ethnic groups hold there own pride festivals.  There was also the social, cultural, economic and political factors that prohibit all cultures full participation in the gay community movement.

The Black Gay pride was born when a small number of friends decided to gather at the beach Los Angeles in 1988 for an event known as ATB "At The Beach". Understanding the strong rejection of the larger black community, due to strong family structure, cultural and religious factor, many refused to be seen while others yearned to celebrate and enjoy their identity as black gay men. ATB was held several miles away from the city at Dunes Beach. The success of this even eventually started a movement that grew to be know as Black Gay Pride. Today Black Gay Prides is well established in over 30 cities in the United States with events that unite and bring together black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people to celebrate both their African heritage and sexual orientation.

There are those who wonder why there is such a thing as black gay pride.  Why can’t we all be one voice and stand united. The truth is were not united. Being gay in America means different things for different people. Wearing it as a badge has different ramifications for those who pick up the banner of “gaydom” and decide to run with it.  Not every one wants gay marriage nor is it the biggest issue in the gay community. If there was more cohesion within the community there would be more healing. For gay America to be one voice America has to be one voice. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

It’s important to see communicate and fellowship with others who have similar experiences, mindset and understanding. Internationally we’ll all americans. Internally we sub divide ourselves, our friendships and our communities. Our bars are sub divided into categories, where we choose to live and congregate gets sub divided. Its part of being American.

Friday, May 27, 2011

AN INTERVIEW WITH ANGEL POVENTUD

Angel Poventud is one of Atlanta’s gay icons. Everyone knows who he is—some for very different reasons than others.  Some know him as “that Latin guy with the long hair that rides his roller blades while wearing a green dress and smiling a lot”.  Some know him as the guy who is making the Beltine happen.  Some even know him as the best option for the next mayor of Atlanta.

Angel is a very dear friend of mine—but if you have ever met him, even only once, would be inclined to say the same thing.  He has no capacity for ignorance, hate, or ill intentions.  He is the most loving and caring creature you could meet.  He lives for Atlanta, and the bettering of many aspects of the city.  Without people like Angel, my faith in humanity would take a sore beating.

No matter what, people know Angel as prominent member of the gay community and the Atlanta community alike.  He is wonderfully optimistic and naturally progressive, and he lives to invoke positive change in individuals, communities, local politics, and Atlanta as a whole.

As I conduct this interview, he is cooking lunch for a slew of visitors headed to his home.  This weekend is Mondo Homo—an annual queer arts and music festival of gigantic independent proportions.  This festival draws lots of Radical Faeries from around the country—and most of them end up at Angel’s to eat at least once during their stay.  Angel is preparing a three-course meal.  Everything is entirely vegan, ridiculously healthy, and undeniably better than anything you can find in an Atlanta restaurant— R. Thomas: eat your heart out.

Have you ever heard of the rail transit system that Atlanta is building, the Beltline?  You probably wouldn’t have heard about it if it weren’t for Angel.  Since the idea was put out there, Angel has made it his mission to increase awareness, raise money, and hassle the local politicians to not let such an amazing idea slip through their fingers.  Angel has organized the art efforts on the beltline, taken several thousand people on tours of the beltline, and even had 500 people walk the beltline from Freedom Park to Piedmont Park holding homemade Chinese lanterns.  Angel believes, as do most that know anything about the Beltline, that this transit system would be the biggest and most beneficial transportation developments since Marta.

I started off the interview with the basics.

How long have you lived in Atlanta?

13 years. April of 98. Before there, Miami for 26 years.

Why do you love Atlanta so much—what keeps you here, and makes you need to make it a better place?

I think its got to be the trees.  HAHA.  It’s really a couple of things that most people don’t know about Atlanta.  We are the most forested urban environment in the country, and the least dense in population.  We just have a lot of space—and a lot of that space is green.


Because people want to know—and because so far there have been several obstacles along the way--when is the first operating station on the Beltline going to open?

Best case scenario: January 2015.  If the one penny transportation sales tax goes through next year, funding for the Beltline begins immediately.

How tough will it be to get this tax hike through the books?

No city votes yes on this tax the first time--anywhere.  However, we just had a bunch of people here from Denver, holding a symposium for us on this subject, and they believe we have a 55% chance that it will pass on the first try.

Toll roads on I-20 (on both ends of 285) are another option that has been discussed as a method of raising money for transportation and the beltline—as well as regulating traffic.  Would you think this would work well?

Yes, except we would have to have toll roads on 75/85.  London is doing it, New York is doing it—these congestion alleviation efforts.  That’s the only way to reduce traffic: charge people for the specific use of the highway while regulating the flow of traffic.  If you build more roads, you don’t decrease traffic—you increase mobility.  You should never do any project--whether it’s a road, or transit, or trails—and say, “if we do this, it will alleviate congestions”.  By providing more options more people use more options.  The Dutch figured out that the more transit you make available traffic would increase.  The infrastructure is so that having mobility increases more mobility.

But if we get this Beltline up and running, wouldn’t the goal be to reduce traffic?

It will INCREASE traffic across the board.  More people will be coming to the city—in their cars—because they will have more options.  Right now it’s the car, or MARTA—but even with those two, there aren’t a lot of options.
           
When the streetcar funding came through, experts insisted that nothing is going to alleviate traffic on the highway—unless you tax the highway usage.  That’s the only thing that would.  No transit project outside of the highway is going to affect the use of the highways until to start doing congestion taxing.   It’s a specific cause and effect.

People think that the fourteen cents a gallon transportation tax should cover all the cost needed to make the changes need to deal with transportation issues.  The average car will get you twenty miles with one gallon of gas.  Fourteen cents does not cover 20 miles of highways, roads, and transit projects.  Its silly that these people argue “I pay my taxes, I shouldn’t have to pay more…I don’t want to support transit, because you want to tax me on it”.  Transit is never paid for—but we continue to build roads.

There is also a stigma applied to new transit systems: new transit will bring more poor people to the areas it is offered.  That is a ridiculous way to think about it, but the people that are needed to make these changes believe it.

Beyond the transportation tax, another simple way of raising money for transportation needs would be to tax people based on the mileage of their car when getting their tags renewed—you use the highway this much, then you pay this much.  It seems like this would work, but something tells me that it wouldn’t be hard to pull off.

We are in the South, so it takes a little longer for progressiveness to happen.  But we have to talk about it; you have to put these ideas out there.  If you just throw your hands up and say, “Oh, that will never happen here”, then you can’t expect it to happen.  You just have to get the ideas out there, have to start talking about it, get people excited and involved—you HAVE to get people involved, get them behind it.  That’s the only way things change.  Rather than staying home and watching TV, thinking your government isn’t doing these things for you.

I am sure you get this one a lot: why the green dress?

Instead of answering my question, Angel linked me to a written response he gave to that question.  To sum it up:  For costume purposes, Angel developed an affinity for wearing a dress.  Only under specific weather conditions and a certain mood.  He likes to gently push the societal norms, feel the freeness of form that comes with wearing the dress, and rollerblading all day long.

I really wanted to hear what Angel had to say about the Eagle Raid—specifically, the implications behind a large cash settlement for the individuals involved in the lawsuit.

Do you think the settlement made in the Eagle case showed an admittance of guilt—or at least an apology to the victims—from the city of Atlanta, the Mayor, the Chief of the Police and the APD?

Neither.  The judge decided that settlement—not the City of Atlanta.  To the point that the victims that were not included in the lawsuit:  when the city issued an apology, they intentionally left out the other people who were victimized at that raid because they would then be liable to those people.

There were 70 people in that bar that night—and the only people that were issued an apology were those that filed a lawsuit.  That is fucked up.

Its obvious at that point that there was no real admittance of guilt—merely a legal settlement made to prevent an admittance of guilt from being necessary.  I think what happened was the city paid X amount of money to each person and a whole lot more to the lawyers.

Would you consider the settlement made to be “hush money”?

No, because they should be paying us hush money NOW.  They should be paying each and every individual that was there that night the same amount of money for having to go through what they went through.  Instead they pay out about a million dollars—say half of it goes to the lawyers, and the rest is split between 30 or so people.  If that is the way the city apologizes, then pay the other 40 people who were there that night to make those people whole.  But that would be an admittance of guilt, and a proper apology, after the fact.

My research shows that the efforts made by city sense them have been valid and honest efforts to better the relationship between the City of Atlanta and the gay community.

Regardless of whether or not they are making such efforts, they HAD TO.  According to the courts, these measures were mandatory.  If the courts had not decided this, who knows what the City of Atlanta would have done to improve this relationship.

At this moment, his home became flooded with gay hippies, laughter, and feast.  If you ever want to know more about Angel, just ask him.  He is an open book—and a wealth of useful information, inspiration, and insight.

Friday, May 20, 2011

SPORTS: GAY IS ON ITS WAY INTO THE BIG LEAGUES

STRAIGHTS HELP GAYS FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT

Recently, a famous rugby player retired from the sport to start the world's first anti-bullying foundation: Ben Cohen's Stand Up Foundation.


He started his international campaign tour in Atlanta--partnering with Atlanta's gay rugby team, the Atlanta Bucks.  Ben understands that people are being bullied because of their sexual orientation.  He wants to make a change and raise money for LGBT organizations to help end the bullying and suicides that happen because of peoples intolerance.  Even adults are being bullied by other adults--especially when it comes to sports.

DID I MENTION THAT BEN COHEN IS STRAIGHT?

Recently, many athletes have been called out for using prejudice slurs against gays.  Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for calling a referee a "faggot".  Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger Mcdowell was suspended and fined for using anti-gay slurs against fans of the opposing team.  The Kansas City Chiefs' running back Larry Johnson was fired for ill behavior that included using anti-gay slurs against his coach.  There are several other instances, but I think you get the point.

Gays are finally being recognized and defended by the media and major sports organizations.  Using anti-gay slurs to be mean is no longer okay.  If I wanted to offend someone that I had a problem with, should I call them a "nigger"?  No.  And that is what is happening with the public's understanding of the use of such words as "faggot" or "homo".  Hopefully, the rap industry will start using the same rationale--but that might take a while.

SPORTS: PRETTY DAMN GAY IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT

GAYS AREN'T USUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH SPORTS

Most people think of straight dudes when they think of sports.  You know, masculine men that curse and chew dip and scratch their crotch with a mean look on their face.  This makes sense.  I understand that most people don't think of gay guys when they think of a football player, or an NBA star, or one of the Atlanta Braves.  Although major sports culture usually doesn't vocally support the gay community, gays love their sports!  We have gay sports bars, gay sporting leagues, and even the gay olympics!

In Atlanta (as well many other major cities) there thousands of gays involved in gay sports leagues--GAY RUGBY, GAY TENNIS, GAY WATER POLO AND SWIMMING, GAY SOCCER, GAY SOFTBALL, GAY VOLLEYBALL--even GAY RODEO!  There are teams of gays in every sport you can think of.

Now, try and consider sports from my point of view.  When I think of sports, I think of a team of dudes.  These dudes play hard, sweat a lot, grab their crotches and spit.  They share a locker room, wear jockstraps, and smack each other on the ass for encouragement....who cares if they are straight?  That sounds about as gay as you can get.  Don't even get me started on the Boy Scouts.

I grew up watching action flicks, playing sports and going to watch other people play them, hollering for my favorite American Gladiators and professional wrestlers--Jake the Snake lived right around the corner from me where I grew up!  This didn't make me straight--in fact, I think these things helped me understand my sexuality better.  Gays and straights like a lot of the same things.  Straight guys don't really stop to think why gays (other than just being a fan) could enjoy these types of things.  They also don't stop to consider how much their attraction to the same sex plays into their love of muscular, sweaty, grunting men that beat each other up for fun.  I will leave that topic for another time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

WHAT GAY ATLANTA IS PROTESTING

Did you know that Chik-Fil-A is considered a threat to equality?

Over the past several years, Chik-Fil-A has been found to support and facilitate many different efforts to keep gay marriage from becoming possible--i.e. they are using their customers money to prevent them from achieving equality....not to mention, they are doing what they can to maintain the obesity rate of this country.

Many argue that the accusations made against Chik-Fil-A are mere matters of unintentional association...most of the people that make this argument either don't know what they are talking about and/or can't pull themselves away from that amazing spicy chicken sandwich.

Chik-Fil-A constantly insists that they are not anti-gay--that they love all of gods children.  No matter how often they refuse the connections made between them and anti-gay causes funded by their contributions, another discovery is made to prove that their association is far from coincidental in nature.

An imaginative protest was brought against Chik-Fil-A in Atlanta recently.  Using cow suits and signs fashioned after the wretched and ingenious "Eat Mor Chikin" ad campaign, protesters tried to put Chik-Fil-A in their place.

I do not support Chik-Fil-A.  I stopped eating there YEARS ago when A) I was sick and tired of only craving their food on Sundays (when they refuse to open, regardless of the religious beliefs of their employees or their customers) and when B) I realized that their food always makes my stomach hurt.

Though I refuse to release my sources on this information, I have been told on several occasions that Chik-Fil-A has the highest likeliness of food poisoning among any fast food chain in the United States...but honestly, that wouldn't stop people from eating fried chicken.

THE ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT KEEPS MAKING CHANGES

APD IS DOING EXACTLY WHAT THEY SHOULD DO


Not only have the Atlanta GLBT Liaisons been approaching issues within the LGBTQ community by means of compassion and personal attention to the victims, the APD has been sending their people to the heart of the heart of Gaylanta to build trust with the community.

A few weeks ago, the APD made an impressive appearance at Outwrite Bookstore and Coffee House for a meet and great.  The group consisted of the APD's GLBT Liaisons, a few members of the Community Oriented Policing Services unit (C.O.P.S.), and a handful of other APD officers came to.  Members of the APEX team--the new swat team that has replaced the Red Dog Unit that was known for Atlanta Eagle Raid--were there to assure that things were going to be different in the APD and its Swat Team operations.

The big surprise was Brian Walters.  He used to be part of the Red Dog team, and was there the night of the Eagle raid.  He claims to have nothing to do with the harsh allegations against the Red Dogs--because he was a rookie and left outside the raid to survey the perimeter.  Now he is a member of the Atlanta C.O.P.S.

There is a lot of buzz going around about this guy...partially because he is incredibly attractive.  This guy doesn't know what he has gotten himself into!

Friday, May 6, 2011

GAY PRIDE: SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GAY PRIDE?


Although Atlanta's Gay Pride isn't for another five months, there are some things that I think everyone should know about this holiday: how is started, and why it is an important and meaningful holiday.

HOW IS STARTED
In late 1960's New York, people that openly identified as homosexual were not welcome in many places.  Bars were about the only place that provided a space for these people to gather--and police raids on these gay bars were very common.  In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police without cause.

The Stonewall Inn was an establishment owned by the Mafia.  Often this bar would be the meeting place of New York's most ridiculed Gays--drag queens, hustlers, gay youth, etc.  This brutal police raid was the last straw for gays in New York.  Gays gathered in large numbers and started riots against the police and the establishment that had spent so long trying to keep them down.  These are known as the Stonewall Riots.  You could compare these riots to the Watts Riots of Los Angeles in 1965.

Two years later, on the same date as the Stonewall Riots, the first Gay Pride marches began in L.A., Chicago, and New York.  The people that died during these riots, and the people that fought back against a corrupt and violently prejudice system are why we have Gay Pride on this date.  Today, most people--including younger gays--have no idea about what these riots meant and what they started.

WHY GAY PRIDE IS IMPORTANT
If you are not clear about what we mean when we say "pride", here it is: as a people, we are proud to live in modern society as the homosexual individuals we were born.  We are proud to say that, in the face of prejudice and at the threat of physical, mental, and social harm, we stand up to affirm our beliefs as equals in this society.  As a community, a minority, and a people, gays could not remain cohesive or socially accepted by a society--that still finds it easy to ridicule and speculate of the fundamental ideas of equality that this country was founded on--without a sense of pride for what they believe in.

Aside from Gay Pride being about a proud people, this event is also there to remind everyone else that we are here...we are queer...get used to it!