The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I have recommended that you vote a straight Democratic ticket on Tuesday. Many of you won’t do that, for one reason or another, so I want to list several candidates where your vote is essential, and might make a difference, or that for one reason or another I support. These are candidates on my ballot in Bessemer, you may or may not have these candidates on your ballot.

United States Representative District 7 – Terri Sewell. Terri will be the first African American woman elected to represent Alabama in congress. A historic election and a well qualified candidate with a vision and drive to make a difference for the Black Belt region and the rest of the state.

Governor – Ron Sparks. Robert Bentley scares me, both because it is Halloween, but also because who knows what he is thinking?

Lieutenant Governor – Jim Folsom, Jr. Kay Ivey scares me too. And there’s something she’s not being quite open and honest about…but my lips are sealed.

Attorney General – James H. Anderson. Funny how Luther Strange talks about fighting special interests (lobbyists) and that’s all he’s ever been. Fighting with yourself…there’s a diagnosis for that.

Supreme Court Justice, Place 1 – Rhonda Chambers. She is more qualified and has experience that will serve her well on the high court.

Supreme Court Justice, Place 3 – Mac Parsons. Tom Parker was named Man of the year by a group that wants to take the right to vote away from women. We do not need him on the bench.

Court of Civil Appeals – Deborah Bell Paseur. She has a great name. She has served as district judge for 27 years and this would be a good fit for her.

State Treasurer – Charley Grimsley. Don’t let Boozer bankrupt the state. You’ve seen the commercial, haven’t you?

State Auditor – Miranda Karrine Joseph. I met Miranda at the Bessemer Farmer’s market one Saturday and we talked about the state and the people and moving forward.

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries - Glen Zorn. We need an Ag Commish with experience and he’s got it. Plus, he’s been on a farm.

Public Service Commission, Place 2 – Susan Parker. She’s done a great job and keeps the people informed on issues. Keep her in there.

State Board of Education, District 4 – Yvette M. Richardson. Hang down your head, Tom Dooley, hang down your head and cry...

Circuit court Judge 10th circuit, Place 3 – David Carpenter. I’ve met David and he’s got good ideas about this court and is a great guy too.

Circuit court Judge 10th circuit, Place 4 – Helen Shores Lee. Doing a good job, needs to stay there.

Circuit court Judge 10th circuit, Place 12 – Anetta H. Verin. Hate to lose her in Bessemer but she’ll do a great job.

Circuit court Judge 10th circuit, Place 20 – Agnes Chappell. Lot’s of experience as a judge. She will do well.

Circuit court Judge 10th circuit, Place 24 – Stephen Wallace. Stephen is fending off hateful, misleading attack ads. Desperation on the part of his opponent.

District Court Judge, 10th Judicial Circuit, Place 10 – Lynneice Washington. Lynneice has served as assistant DA for eight years and is very familiar with the court.

Circiut Court Clerk, Bessemer division – Benny R. Watson. You have to love a candidate named Benny. He’s the current clerk and we need to keep him.

Now wouldn't it just be easier to vote a straight Democratic ticket?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Don't mix your hatred with your free speech

This is a free country and thanks to the First Amendment we have freedom of speech.

We have freedom to hate also.

But when a person mixes their hatred with their speech problems arise.

Take Clint McCance. He's the School Board member for the Midland School District in Arkansas that earlier this week urged gay kids to commit suicide and stated that he would totally disown his own kids if they were gay.

He was responding to Spirit Day on which people wore purple in support of safe schools and in honor of LGBT young people who have committed suicide due to bullying and harassment.

He was publicly shamed and will resign from his position, after apologizing.

Anderson Cooper interviewed McCance, where he announced his resignation.

Anderson asked him about his statement that he would disown his kids if they were gay and that they would not be welcome in his home or in the vicinity. He did not deny that he still has those feelings, saying that he does not know what he would do yet, that "time will tell."

In part 2, Anderson brings and David and Amy Truong, parents of 13 year old Asher Brown, one of the recent bullying related suicides, into the conversation.

Part 2.

Or consider Texas NBC affiliate KETK which aired a segment in which their viewers were asked to weigh in on the question, "Will the acceptance of homosexuality be the fall of this country?" Radio station KTBB host Garth Maier aired the question and it was simulcast on the TV news.

After the rest of the nation heard about it and watched the clip on YouTube the radio station heard from thousands and has apologized. Here is the apology from KTBB Radio president Paul L. Gleiser.

The Talkback question that aired on KTBB Radio and was simulcast on KETK NBC 56 television in Tyler on Wednesday, October 27 was unfortunate in its wording and unfortunate in the perception that it created among a large number of thoughtful individuals. The question, “Will the acceptance of homosexuality lead to the fall of America?” is poorly worded at best and inappropriate altogether at worst. For that, we apologize.

There are many issues surrounding homosexuality that are fair game for discussion in the media and in opinion journalism. The proper role, if any, for openly gay individuals in the military, the legitimacy of same-sex marriages and the public behavior by some individuals at gay and lesbian events held outdoors in public view are among topics about which reasonable people may disagree. These and other topics surrounding homosexuality are topics that talk radio hosts and opinion journalists may legitimately pose to their respective audiences.

With that said, the way our Talkback question was posed might be seen as asking, “Do homosexuals, by their very existence, threaten to bring down America?” We believe that such a question, posed in such a manner, is likely to generate more heat than light.

I understand how those who either heard, or heard about, KTBB’s Talkback question on Wednesday might have been offended. For the offense that was taken, we sincerely apologize.

Paul L. Gleiser, President
KTBB Radio

KETK general manager Dave Tillery has also responded to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's (GLAAD) concern and will be issuing an on-air statement confirming that such a segment has no place on programming of a reputable news organization. GLAAD has also suggested they ask Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns to do an interview with the station.

My suggestion to people who hold such hatred in their hearts is to keep it there unless you can do something about it, such as educating yourself or getting counseling to deal with whatever issues are causing you to have those feelings.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More reasons not to vote Republican; and ...

Keith Olbermann took up where I left off in his Special Comment last night regarding the upcoming election and the Republican Tea Party candidates. Fortunately none of these candidates are from Alabama, but that doesn't mean the Republican candidates here don't have the same backward moving ideas that these candidates support.

Part 2

I know you might not have time to watch these two videos, so let me summarize.

The Republican Tea Party want to elect candidates who will...well, if you think Jim Crow was bad, just wait and see. They are trying to scare white voters by instilling fear of the different folk. Oh sure, the targets are brown instead of black this time, but it is no different than the racist candidates of the past trying to scare white voters in to voting for the racist candidates. Remember Jesse Helms?

Senator Hank Sanders is concerned. "I ain't going back to the cotton fields and Jim Crow days," he said in a robocall urging people to vote for "Ron Sparks, Jim Folsom and others who would do right by all of us."

So here's the deal. When you vote for Republicans, you empower that party and those within the party that do want to return to Jim Crow days, that do want to return to pre-Lawrence v Texas days, that do want to do away with Social Security, that do want to take Alabama children off of the insured list and return them to the uninsured list (Robert Bentley wants to repeal health care reform. He's a doctor, yet would remove children from their insurance).

And what will the Republicans in Washington focus on after the election? Their Senate leader let us know. If you only watch one of these videos today, watch this one.

Ok, that concludes the negative portion of this post. Now for the positive.

The president appeared on The Daily Show last night, where he reminded us of the accomplishments that have been made during the past 2 years, and that the change we were hoping for is ongoing, and that the promise was not that we would see change that we can believe in within 18 months.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Part 2

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Part 3

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 3
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The president also met with progressive bloggers (my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail) yesterday. Read a transcript here of what he said about DADT and gay marriage. Here's a bit of it.

But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents.

And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today.

So...the President's attitude, like the country's as a whole, is changing. "The arc of history," he said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

About Republicans and their beliefs

I posted the following on Facebook yesterday.

Republicans believe our best days are behind us. I'm voting Democrat because they believe our best days are still to come.

And the other day I wrote that I'm voting a straight Democrat ticket.

Here are some reasons I cannot support any Republicans.

Monday night in Kentucky a (Republican candidate) Rand Paul campaign worker stepped on the head of a woman who was trying to get a picture of the candidate with her RepubliCorp sign.

The Republican candidate wrote this off as "passion." And he wants to be a Senator.

Republican candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada has used anti-Hispanic rhetoric and pictures in an ad where she says "waves of illegal aliens streaming across our borders."

First of all, Nevada does not have a border with any other country, let alone Mexico.

Second, crime actually decreases as immigrants come into our cities.

Yet she demonizes Latinos and insults the intelligence of Nevada voters (and the rest of America). She wants to be a Senator.

In 2007 the Republican presidential candidates debated and the question of evolution came up. That such a question even had to be asked of prospective leaders of the country amazes me, but when three candidates raised their hand after being asked who does not believe in evolution I couldn't believe it.

The three were Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo and Mike Huckabee.

Tancredo is now the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado.

Republicans in that state actually want to elect someone who does not believe in science to lead their state.

Republican Christine O'Donnell also does not believe in evolution (or self pleasure).

She says evolution is a myth. Republicans in Delaware (all 7 of them) chose her to represent their party. She wants to be a Senator also.

Oh, one more.

I am making an assumption here, (that this guy is a Republican), but Midland, Arkansas, School Board member Clint McCance has publicly stated (on Facebook) that he would only wear purple "if they (gays) all commit suicide" and that he "enjoy(s) the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die."

This is a school board member, whose duty is to make policy, including providing a safe learning environment for kids. All kids. Except for the ones he wants dead.

He also said he would "disown" his kids if they were gay, and he would "absolutely run them off." I can't wait till one of them comes out...but I feel for them.

These are just a few examples of the uncaring, hateful, uneducated, bigoted, racist, frightening Republicans running for or already in office. How can anyone support a party that believes in these things.?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Got religion?

Remember Antoine Dodson, the Huntsville guy whose interview became an internet sensation?

Well now the hit doggie costume at New York's Halloween Dog Parade is Antoine Dogson.

Photo credit Jim Kiernan

Here is an "It Gets Better" video from three United Methodist pastors. It's good to see the church, any church, getting involved.

Alex Day is a smart young guy. He frequently posts videos that are interesting. Here Alex talks about religion and skepticism and atheism and the history of the universe (what happened at 11:45 PM on December 31?). I like young smart people. They are going to be in charge one day.

So he "doesn't need religion to make the world seem more impressive than it is."

A lot of young people feel that way, it seems. Drew Dyck wrote a book that examined why young people stop going to church. The book is titled Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith...and How to Bring them Back. (And I thought my book had a long subtitle). The author was interviewed by Greg Richter of the Birmingham News.

Dyck says that there are several categories of church leavers.

1. Post-modern leavers reject Christianity because of its exclusive truth claims and moral absolutes.

2. Recoilers leave because they were hurt by the church.

3. Modernists reject supernatural claims.

4. Neo-pagans leave for earth based religions.

5. Spiritual rebels leave to indulge in behavior that conflicts with their faith.

6. Drifters just drift away as God becomes less important to them.

Wow. There are a lot of reasons for a someone who does not just follow like a sheep to leave a church, it seems.

Did you leave the church? For one of these reasons? Or another? Post a comment on this blog.

Dyck also addresses the question we often hear about American culture causing young people to leave the church. Nope, he says. It's what happens inside the church that pushes young people out, rather than peers and pop culture pulling them.

The fact is that most churches today do not fit into the modern world, for whatever reason. Some will claim that they are supposed to be separate from the world, and don't want to fit in. But they run the risk of becoming a sort of anachronism in the way that many view the Amish today.

The churches should look at that list of reasons and, without changing their doctrines, address them in ways that answers young people's questions. That is, and will continue to be, a challenge.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Choosing to be straight

Here are the sample ballots for Jefferson County for the November 2, 2010 election. There are several ballots there, because there are County Commission races and state legislator races and such where everyone does not have the same choices so they will receive different ballots.

The ballot is continued on the back.

There are 44 races on the ballot, if I counted correctly. If not, it's close. There are a lot of candidates to become familiar with in order to make a decision as to who to vote for.

There are a few races that you might be familiar with: Governor, Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, but how about State Board of Education District 4? Quick, tell me the candidates.

But there is a solution. Use this quick guide to voting provided by Bessemer Opinions.

Make one mark on the ballot.

Straight Party Voting.

Mark "Alabama Democratic Party" on your ballot.

Remember, if you are voting for Republicans you are supporting a party whose members want to do away with Social Security, wants to take health care away from those who now have it, want to increase unemployment in our state, want to do away with the 14th Amendment, want to re-criminalize homosexuality, want to take away a woman's right to choose even in the case of rape or incest, want to allow Wall Street to run rampant, who don't believe the part of the 1st Amendment about not establishing a religion, who want students to carry guns to class, who want to censor books like mine, that have gay characters or are written by gay authors, who want to demonize immigrants, who want to remain in Afghanistan for 1000 years, who disagree with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (If you aren't familiar with these issues and the Republicans that support these positions, ask me in the comments section).

This picture is actually a message to those 19th century holdovers that believe one's sexual orientation is a choice.

This is one time that flaunting your straightness is allowed.

I decided I will be straight, on November 2. A Straight Democratic Party voter, that is.

Won't you be Straight with me?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The bad news

Two more young gay people have taken their lives this week. There is so much hatred directed toward these kids that they cannot see the love and support that the LGBT community and our allies have been sending their way over the last few weeks (actually all long, it's just been more publicized over the last few weeks).

Corey Jackson was one of the boys. Corey was 19 years old, and a student at Oakland University. He hanged himself on Tuesday.

“Corey lived to please people; he lived to make everyone around him happy,” his friend Justine Roy said. “He gave off this positive aura, this positive vibe that you couldn’t help but be happy and smile.”

The president of Corey's fraternity, TKE, Nick McCormick, said “I think the bullying may have something to do with it; maybe it was some negative support he may have gotten. If I had to give it a guess, the perception of his lifestyle might have had an effect on him.”

Other published reports say bullying did not play a role, but I can see where officials would try to sweep that under the rug. The family says bullying is to blame.

The other young man was Terrel Williams, a 17 year old student from Beverly Hills. He left a suicide note.

“I’m sorry to my immediate loved ones, but I feel suicide is the only way out. I felt coming out, and being happy with Daric, was the best thing I could’ve ever done. But I didn’t think it would lead to my death at an early age.

“Today, was the record worst day of my life, some kids at school stole some of my stuff that I got from people I really cared about, and that really pushed me over the top, next to being shoved into a wall, and my ribs being broken.”

His mother released this statement after an errant picture and some errant information was released.

So I am not posting a picture of Terrel.

Two thirds of Americans believe churches contribute to gay suicides. Obviously.

President Obama has come on board to tell young people "It Gets Better."

The good news (and an endorsement)

Hey, good news. The lawsuit challenging Ken Gulley's residency was dismissed yesterday afternoon. I wonder how many more frivolous lawsuits will be filed before he's sworn in.

A reader left a comment that I found interesting.

The irony is that Jessie Burrell is Gaston Randall's mother. Gaston ran for City Council in Bessemer using his office as his home address - he really lived in Lipscomb, where he later ran and became a city council person (forced from office due to scandal). I never heard her say anything about Gaston. In fact, her political action group, the Voter's League, actually endorsed Gaston in that election. This is the same group (Burrell, Dudley, McAdory, et al)that were supporters of Ed May.
At least they are providing some comedy in a city that really needs to lighten up a bit.

In other election news the race for Ag commissioner is not too exciting. Let me say this, though, we've had a good one, that being Ron Sparks. He's right when he tells us that his history of expanding markets for our agricultural products indicates he has the experience necessary for talking with foreign interests and such in bringing business to the state. So, yes, vote for Ron Sparks for governor.

And speaking of governor, what is with Bob Riley wanting to increase unemployment in the state again by closing Indian casinos. What kind of legacy is he trying to create? Hey, cowboy Bob, Indian casinos are regulated by Federal law. Send your task force in there and let's see what happens.

But I'm interested in the race to replace Sparks as Ag commissioner. Democrat Glen Zorn is running against Republican John McMillan. Zorn has been assistant commissioner of Agriculture. McMillan has served in the legislature.

A letter writer in the Birmingham News today gave an endorsement for Zorn.

Zorn will not need any on the job training. He is an able administrator, a fiscal conservative and proven public servant.

The other day John McMillan was a guest on the Lee Davis talk radio show. They had talked about some agriculture programs at Auburn, and Davis asked if there were any other ag programs in the state, such as at junior colleges or tech schools. McMillan replied that he didn't know. And he wants to be Ag Commissioner? Hint, there are. Horticulture programs are just one example.

Here's an interview with Zorn where he covers the issues important to Alabama.

And here's his ad. "Zorn. Glen Zorn."

Visit Glen Zorn's web site here.

Vote for Glen Zorn for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still waiting on a phone call

I hope the Bessemer Board of Education realizes I'm serious.

I went by there yesterday, wearing my purple "Port St. Joe" t-shirt, to follow up on the letter I sent last week, and to get a copy of the Bessemer bullying policy.

I was unable to meet with the person I had sent the letter to, and was told he would give me a call, but I haven't heard anything. I'll go back today, and every day, until I get to speak to someone, and until we see a change in the policy.

Update: I went back this morning and was still unable to anyone. I was, however, told that I needed to speak with Mr. Foster, the superintendent. He is who I mailed the letter to, so he knows why I am trying to contact him. In fact, in the letter, I told him I would.

Why am I pursuing this? Because the Bessemer policy has not been updated since 2008. The Student Harassment Prevention Act was passed in 2009, and required the policy to be updated by July 2010.

The Board knows this. I mean, even if they didn't get word from the State Department of Education, surely they had seen my column in the Western Tribune (you know, that weekly newspaper that used to be), where I mentioned it in a story about gay kids getting a break.

The model policy developed by the state lists the following personal characteristics regarding harassment: race, sex, religion, national origin and disability.

Bessemer does not even do this. There is no list.

The law states "Based upon experience, a local board of education may add, but not remove, characteristics from the list. The additional characteristics or perceived characteristics that cause harassment shall be identified by the local board on a case-by-case basis and added to the local board policy. The list shall be included in the code of conduct policy of each local board."

And from Fort Worth

You've seen the video of Fort Worth council person Joel Burns delivering his emotional message at the city council meeting.

Joel and his husband, political consultant J. D. Angle, were on the Lawrence O'Donnell show yesterday.

If you haven't heard the part of Burns' speech that describes him popping the question it's included in this video. Nice.

If you haven't seen the entire 12 minutes of Joel's speech, watch this. Watching the full 12 minutes is much different than watching the 30 seconds or so that we've seen on the news. You can use a few minutes of your time to watch this. Heck, you're surfing the internet anyway. Slow down and watch.

I'm just wondering if we live in a community where elected officials would feel comfortable speaking out like this. Will the leaders in Bessemer, the new council and the new school board, step up to the plate and move this city forward, helping to make it into a city, and a school system, that values all of its citizens and students and provides a safe environment for learning?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take her with you!!!

Update: Breaking news (around 4:30) - a Bessemer judge has dismissed the challenge to Ken Gulley's election.


Another challenge to the election of Ken Gulley as mayor has been filed by the same person, Jessie Burrell, that filed the earlier suit that was thrown out. The election had to be certified before it could be challenged.

She lays out 20 points in a statement which according to her prove that Gulley does not live in Bessemer.

This suit was filed Friday.

The entire statement from Burrell is printed in the Western Star today.

I don't understand statement number 1.

"1. On October 5, 2010 the City of Bessemer held an election for the office of Mayor. Ten persons, including Ms. Burrell and Mr. Gulley, declared themselves candidates for the office."

First of all, ten people did not declare themselves candidates for mayor. There were two people on the ballot on October 5, Ken Gulley and Ed May. It was a runoff. Ms. Burrell was not on the ballot on October 5, having lost her city council bid. And she was never on the ballot in the mayor's race. And there were never 10 people in the race.

If the wording of this statement is any indication of the inteligence behind this case, they have no chance.

I have the court documents that she filed. Here is the first page out of 5.

When you read the Western Star, what you read is actually what she wrote.

The Western Star, in their "Why?" column, says this suit is a joke. Among other things:

"Over 70 percent of the people of Bessemer have said, "May go back to Mobile or go back to Birmingham."

Can I add, take Jessie Burrell with you?

Ms. Burrell is not asking the court to find Mr. Gulley unqualified based on legal grounds, it seems. She concludes with "wherefore, premises considered, Plaintiff prays that this court will take jurisdiction...The Plaintiff further prays that upon this declaration, that Mayor May be declared the winner of the election..."

I pray that this case will be thrown out before it makes Bessemer look even more foolish. I mean, here's a guy that over 70% of the people want out. 4,145 people voted for Gulley, 1,543 voted for May. Yet he still has his minions fighting for him?

I notice on page 5 there was instruction to the sheriff to serve the defendant at ... his Hueytown address. No, his Bessemer address. Wait, it's f**ked up.

Kenneth D. Gulley

306 Westlake Circle SW (that's his Bessemer address that he swore to in his affidavit)

Hueytown, AL 35023 (that's his former city of residence, and zip code)

Will the sheriff even be able to deliver it?

Of course, legal issues are unpredictable. Bessemer Opinions will be following this.

It Gets Purple (and purple is better)

This is a colorful blog. We've turned pink for the month of October (and turning pink has messed up our format a bit, the videos overload some if the sidebar items, but that's OK, for a while. If you're new, Bessemer Opinions is normally not this sloppy looking).

And for today, we are purple, to bring awareness to the problem of bullying in schools.

We are getting ready for fall around here. More pictures below.

If you've kept up with this blog for the past couple of weeks, you already know how concerned we are about the bullying problem. Well over 200 people have sent letters to their state Senators and lots of people are wearing purple today. If you haven't sent a letter, please go here, add a personal note to the suggested text, and send it away. We do the work. We print out your letter and deliver it to the senator.

The employees of Google say that it gets better.

I've not reported much on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell developments, one reason being is that by the time I write something and you see it, other new developments have occurred. But this is neat. Dan Choi has re-enlisted in the army as an openly gay man.

Now, we all love Hillary. She's joined in with those making "It Gets Better" videos. From the heart, and compassionately, she makes the case. and sounds very presidential in doing so. Ahem.

I've added a new blog to My Blog List on the sidebar. Shadetree Theology is the reflections of a man who is still recovering, if I may, from being a minister in a "charismatic/Pentecostal" denomination, and having to break through that cloud when he came out as a gay man. He is going through a lot of what I did with his family, and he reveals a lot of the unfairness of the process of divorce and trying to do so amicably. Been there. There are hundreds if not thousands of such stories, but Trey is local. Trey, I can offer you this: It does get better.

Today I am visiting the Bessemer School Board. This could be interesting. If you are a Bessemer student, read this.

I think there are going to be some stories about Bessemer in the next two weeks, but for now, things are calm and cool. Martha would be proud of my fall decor.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Deep Purple

Tomorrow I'm going to be purple.

You should too.

Wear purple on Wednesday as a way of demanding safe schools. Let people know why you are wearing purple. Teens gotta feel safe.

Specifically, in Alabama, the Student Harassment Prevention Act which was signed into law last year neglected to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression while offering protection for such things as race and religion as characteristics about which students should not be harassed or bullied. In other words, kids can get away with calling fellow students fag or queer or pansy until that kid begins to skip school or harms them self. But use a racial slur, or challenge someone's disability, and it stops right there.

"Oh, the gays are screaming again about a perceived problem that really doesn't exist," you might say.

A survey by the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition of Alabama high school students revealed some startling facts.

59% have been verbally harassed at school (called a derogatory word)

22% have been physically harassed

58% have had mean rumors or lies spread by other students

Remember, these are Alabama students. These actions have consequences.

34% felt unsafe at school

18% have skipped school because of harassment

60% report they have been unable to concentrate in classes

36% report they have had lower grades because of harassment

43% report they have had thoughts of suicide

These are students in our schools. 43% are thinking of suicide.

Harassment and bullying is affecting their grades.

And the problem is not just with other students.

29% felt that they had been treated unfairly by their teachers or administrators.

Over 50% reported problems with anger, self esteem issues, and increased problems interacting with peers. Significant numbers also report feelings of spiritual isolation, eating disorders and headaches.

It could be your kids, or your grand kids, or your niece or nephew being harassed. and it affects all the kids, not just the gay ones.

So do this.

First, go here to send a message to your state Senator. Over 180 messages have already been generated, including a good number from Bessemer. Priscilla Dunn will be getting the message, but I am 100% sure that she is already on the right side of this issue. But we want the Alabama Senators to know that they can fix this problem by passing an "upgrade" to the bill to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression..

2. Wear purple on Wednesday, and tell people why.

Now, you don't have to go this far. This Brit boy turned his whole self purple.

Now I am about to make a major upgrade to my laptop. So I may come back here tomorrow very happy, or I may not come back at all. But regardless, I'll be (wearing) purple.

And, I'm reminded of my favorite Deep Purple song from the days in my parent's basement when there was a smoky haze in the air. You might be more familiar with the Tina Turner version, or even Celine Dion, but this is the original, and the instrumentals at about the 3:00 mark are unbelievable.

River Deep Mountain High

Monday, October 18, 2010

Discourse: Us v Them

The public discourse over the last 100 years or so has really not changed. We think the current contentious campaigns for public office are something new. Conservatives act as though this is the first time liberals have threatened to implement a progressive agenda, and progressives are raising the alarm that Christian extremists will return us to the dark ages.

I was watching the PBS series God in America between football games yesterday and learned that during the 20th century the dominant debate revolved around the inerrant nature of scripture, highlighted by the "Scopes monkey trial" in Dayton, TN in 1925.

But let's go back to 1895. In that year, the Woman's Bible was published by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This challenged the traditional role of subservience for women that was the common Christian interpretation of the Bible. The nation was shocked. Some conservatives still resist the ways that women serve in the work place and in politics. Just ask Lilly Ledbetter.

In 1915, conservative Protestants published a series of pamphlets titled "The Fundamentals". The series stresses the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth and the resurrection of the body. The Fundamentalist movement began and the name still identifies those with such strict beliefs.

In the 1920's, commercial radio programming began, and Christian evangelists dominated the airways, as they still do. Billy Sunday, Sister Aimee McPherson and Father Charlie Coughlin were popular radio personalities of the 1920's and 1930's.

In 1925 the Scopes trial pitted fundamentalist orator William Jennings Bryan against trial attorney Clarence Darrow. While the trial focused on the accusation that high school biology teacher John Scopes was violating the law by teaching evolution, the underlying theme was whether the Bible should be interpreted literally or not. Darrow got the court to agree to let Bryan take the stand to defend the Bible. Darrow tore him up. The proceedings were broadcast nationwide over the radio. The trial judge throws out Bryan's testimony, Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution, the decision is overturned on a technicality, and Bryan dies a few days later.

The press claims the trial is a big defeat for the fundamentalists, and thus begins (or reinforces) the animosity between conservatives and the mainstream media that continues today.

With Bryan's death the fundamentalists retreated from the public sphere. Modernist thought expands.

Of course history tells us that the fundamentalists make a resurgence in the latter half of the 20th Century.

History also tells us that we can go back even further to document the divide in this country. President Obama is criticized for his statement that we are not a Christian nation.

"One of the great strengths of the United States," the President said at a press conference in Turkey in 2009 , "is ... we have a very large Christian population -- we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

Maybe, rather than being an indication that Obama is not a Christian (he is) it is an indication that he is educated (many are not).

In 1797 president John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, assuring the Muslim nation that we will not start a religious war. Article 11 states:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Now Adams was present when the documents that created our country were written. In fact, he was one of the Founding Fathers and therefore should have a pretty good idea what the consensus was.

Religious conservatives want to deny history and deny science. The battle continues.

Update: A reader has strongly suggested seeing the movie, "Inherit the Wind" staring Spencer Tracy, about the Scopes Monkey Trial. Here it is on Netflix. I second his recommendation.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

For When I Feel Hated

It's the evening before Sunday, the day that many chose for worship. Or, as some believe, that God chose for worship.

Regardless of what you believe, you may sometimes call out to God, or the power above. You may feel hated. Here is a prayer for those who feel hated. I got this from my friend Michael at The Wild Reed.

A Prayer When I Feel Hated
By James Martin, S.J.

Loving God, you made me who I am. I praise you and I love you, for I am wonderfully made, in your own image.

But when people make fun of me, I feel hurt and embarrassed and even ashamed. So please God, help me remember my own goodness, which lies in you.

Help me remember my dignity, which you gave me when I was conceived. Help me remember that I can live a life of love. Because you created my heart.

Be with me when people make fun of me, and help me to respond how you would want me to, in a love that respects other, but also respects me. Help me find friends who love me for who I am. Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.

And God, help me remember that Jesus loves me. For he was seen as an outcast, too. He was misunderstood, too. He was beaten and spat upon. Jesus understands me, and loves me with a special love, because of the way you made me. And when I am feeling lonely, help me to remember that Jesus welcomed everyone as a friend. Jesus reminded everyone that God loved them. And Jesus encouraged everyone to embrace their dignity, even when others were blind to that dignity. Jesus loved everyone with the love that you gave him. And he loves me, too.

One more thing, God: Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you, that you have a way of making things better, that you can find a way of love for me, even if I can’t see it right now. Help me remember all these things in the heart you created, loving God.


Lots of young people feel hated for one reason or another. This prayer can be a reminder. Read some of the other recent posts on this blog if you need further encouragement.

Oh, and for the next two weeks the survey to the left will be available for readers to complete. Let me know a bit about you (anonymously) and what you want out of this blog. Now I don't know that the blog will change as a result, but you never know!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Well alright, it's OK

Well alright, it's OK,

We all get the slip sometimes, everyday.

This is for you. Yes, you.

You may not feel like dancing down the hallways of your school, or your workplace, or maybe you do.

If you are young, and gay, or questioning your identity, or a parent of a child you suspect might be gay, or if you don't know any LGBT people and don't know why someone would be this way or what it's all about, watch this video. Thanks David, for sending this to me.

Now you may not appreciate the Christian lean of this video, but its not about that. It's about being honest with yourself and others and opening lines of communication.

Let me hear your story. Tell me what school you attend, or attended, and how things are, or were, there. And if you are a Bessemer student, read this. I need your help. Email me. .

Have a good weekend. Here are a couple of music videos to start the weekend off.

"Thieves" by She and Him

And just in case you think Zooey is zombie-like as she stares straight ahead while singing, here she is a little more active. This is the video that picture of the kids in the hallway (and the title of this blog post) came from.

"In the Sun" by She and Him

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A call out to Bessemer gay kids

There are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students at Bessemer City High School and at Davis Middle School in Bessemer, Alabama.

If you are LGBT or describe yourself as any other sexual minority, I need to hear from you.

If you are not LGBT but know a student who is, please have them contact me.

You can reach me by email at

You can reach me on Facebook and send me a private message.

You can contact me anonymously if you want, and our conversations will be confidential. Your identity or personal information will not be shared.

After your initial contact, we might talk by phone if you want to.

Specifically, what I want to know is if you feel you are being bullied at school, if you feel the school is not doing enough to protect you. I will also ask if your family knows you are gay and if you get support from home. I will also give you some phone numbers of organizations that can offer you help or if you feel you need to talk to someone.

I want to add your information (without revealing your name) to the information I already have.

And remember, it does get better. Last year I saw the Broadway production of Chicago. The cast of that musical has made this video to offer you encouragement.

Others from the diverse Broadway community teamed up to make this video.

And there are people all across this country that are working hard for your rights, for your safety, for your equality. Here are three pictures I took at last years National Equality March in Washington, DC, last year. More about our experience at that march can be found here.

It does get better. I hope to hear from you. But if you feel that you need to talk someone right now, there is a welcoming ear at The Trevor Project, 866-488-7386, or 866-4U-TREVOR.

Bessemer - 2010 style

There were no changes in the vote totals in Bessemer after provisional ballots were counted, according to reports. That means that on November 2, the day after they are sworn in, the new mayor and council can get started. Cleo King, district 7 council person elect, has said more than once he's "ready to make a difference," and let's just hope the rest of the council is, too.

The council will be as follows.

District 1 - David Vance

District 2 - Sherrina Rice

District 3 - Sarah Belcher

District 4 - Donna Thigpen

District 5 - Ron Marshall

District 6 - Jesse Matthews

District 7 - Cleo King

And of course, Mayor Ken Gulley.

This change occurs in 18 days and some very interesting things are going take place pretty quickly. Some people might want to run and hide. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Our One Mile

Last night I attended the Our One Mile meeting sponsored by the Freshwater Land Trust.

Our One Mile seeks to establish and connect over 100 miles of greenways in Jefferson County.
Bessemer is part of Jefferson County, but you wouldn't know it because of the lack of elected official representation at the meeting. Mayors and council members and even school board members from other cities in the County were there.

What is a greenway, you ask?

A greenway is a long, narrow piece of land used for recreation, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. A greenway can be anything from a narrow grassy path or a concrete sidewalk to a wooded trail. Greenways can connect neighborhoods, parks and businesses to downtown city streets.

Our One Mile will be a system of greenways through which you will be able to walk or bike from your home to such daily destinations as parks, schools, libraries or shopping areas - without the car.

Our One Mile from jason hamric on Vimeo.

"The need of public parks is generally recognized in this day and generation by thinking men of growing and progressive communities; it needs no argument."

That's not one of today's progressives saying that. It's from the Olmstead Brothers, who developed "A Park System for Birmingham" in 1924 that city leaders failed to implement. that was a missed opportunity.

Now we have another chance.

One hundred fifty or so people crowded the room and each person was able to suggest a trail or two. I proposed the connection from the greenway near the Hall of History in Bessemer to Red Mountain Park south of the city by way of the "high line" railroad trestle and rail bed that curves to parallel 14th street.

They had large maps of the county and wax pencils that we could use to draw our trail, and I drew this one. I also personally pitched the connection to Brian Rushing, the Director of Land Conservation for the Freshwater Land Trust (who I found out had learned a bit about Bessemer from this blog) and to Jane Ross of Goodwyn Mills and Cawood who is the Landscape Architect heading up that aspect of the project. They both expressed keen interest in the connection.

Whether this trail becomes a reality will depend a lot on the new mayor and new council and their attitudes toward developing greenways in our city. They can expect the same information from me that I gave the group last night.

They will learn that studies have shown that green spaces and parks positively impact a community by increasing tourism, sustainability, health, water quality, biodiversity, transportation, recreation, business and quality of life. These are all measurable benefits that could be impacted in a positive way with this trail.

I agree with how the Auburn University Urban Studio described such a connection in 2007.

"This extension of Red Mountain park west to Highway 150 could transform the city."

Well, only if Bessemer connects to it.

Here's a short video about Red Mountain Park.

Our One Mile is a partnership between the Freshwater Land Trust, Goodwyn Mills Cawood, Clarus Consulting Group, Health Action Partnership and Modern Brand.