The Year of Moving Forward

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Healthcare, Poverty, Homelessness...and Matt

Thank you all for the suggestions about getting My Book published. Maybe it will be in print by the time the anniversaries of the historic events portrayed occur. That means about 6 weeks.

Do you remember your third grade crush? Well, Matt does...later in this post.

U. S. News and World Report focuses on Health and Wellness in their February 2009 issue that came the other day. It will take a while to read all the "good stuff," but a couple of things already stand out.

There is a listing of the nation's "Least Fit Metro Areas." This is based on per cent of residents who follow expert's advice and exercise 150 minutes per week. Birmingham is number 6 least fit(39.5%). Chattanooga was the # 1 least fit (37.3), and Mobile and Tuscaloosa followed B'ham at number 7 and 8. The most fit Metro area is Boulder, Co (67.1). No southern cities are in the "most fit" top 10. All 10 "least fit" are in southern states.

The magazine also offers "12 Most Effective Prevention Measures," things like smoking cessation, colorectal screening, pneumococcal immunization...and others. Since I score the maximum on all of these (two had to do with women's health and do not apply) shouldn't my health insurance cost be lower than average? A lot lower? Well, it's not.

Tomorrow, New Baptist Covenant is holding their regional meeting in Birmingham at the Civil Rights Institute and historic 16th Street Baptist and Church and St. Paul's United Methodist Church. The theme for the day will be Good News for the Poor. Bobby and I are registered to attend and look forward to hearing Dr. Wayne Flynt speak on "The History of Poverty in Alabama," a documentary "Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism," and a worship service with President Jimmy Carter. There are lots of other sessions to choose from, but we can't attend them all.

Today, remember the free BeatLads concert on the roof of Church of the Reconciler. Don't forget to bring a blanket or a coat to benefit the homeless .

Oh, people are apparently missing the music videos, so here is one. This guy, Matt Alber (already claimed by Homer as his new internet crush) has a wonderful voice. Listen to "Monarch" the first song that plays on the Matt Alber link (or watch the video below). He's got a little Rufus Wainwright sound to him.

Then watch this. He performed the alto soloist in Handel's "Messiah."

Here's how he describes it. "I performed Handel's "The Messiah" as the alto soloist with the world renown baroque orchestra Musica Angelica in Los Angeles, directed by Chunguk Lee.Singing with these players was one of the most exciting musical experiences of my life. This is a challenging aria, but these players provide the true fire with which to fly upon. Thank you, Chung, for an experience of a lifetime."

At the Matt Alber link you can listen to several of his songs...including song #3, Field Trip Buddy, about his same-sex third grade crush. Hmm...I remember mine... (Big sigh)

Here's his video for Monarch:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Book

I have basically finished my book that I have been writing for the past few months. I still have some editing to do, and I want to tweak the ending a bit. I also have to get a couple of permissions to use materials that require such.

Now comes the hard part. Publishing.

If anyone has any advice, email me.

In the meantime, I have to consider self-publishing or finding a literary agent, those types of things. E. Lynn Harris, the author of Basketball Jones who will be in town Friday(The Book Seller, St. Vincents (11-1) and Books-A-Million, Wildwood, (7 PM), self published his first book and sold copies out of his trunk. Now he's on his 11th novel and has had 5 New York Times best sellers. I don't really want to sell books out of my trunk. I drive a pick-up and there is no trunk.

Other popular self-publishers are Richard Paul Evans (The Christmas Box), Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), Christopher Paolini (Eragon) and Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen(Chicken Soup for the Soul). Oh, and James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy).

So, much of selling a book seems to be marketing, and creating anticipation and that type of stuff. So here is the first publicity regarding my book. The genre is historical fiction. The time is 1965. The setting is Washington, D. C. Here's a preview.

Those Others
Navigating "The Riddle of Homosexuality" in 1965

In January and February of 1965 The Washington Post published a major series of 5 articles (titled "Those Others") dealing with homosexuality. (They really did, my uncle, who lived in D.C. at the time, sent me the articles last year which were given to him by a friend in 1965). These articles play a major role in the book.

My main character, 18 year old Michael, is sent from Tennessee to Washington by his family to find direction for his life under the guidance of Senator Ross Bass (Tennessee's junior senator at the time).

Michael is forced to deal with issues regarding his sexuality, and he uses the information in the newspaper articles to further his understanding. But the mis-information of the times also leads to confusion.

Michael also confronts his lack of understanding of race issues, and he befriends two college age civil rights workers from his home state who are in DC lobbying for passage of the Voting Rights Act, and in March, joins them and thousands of others in the Selma to Montgomery March, where he learns from certain high profile speakers about equality and human rights. But that trip is not without conflict and drama as well.

1965 was a turbulent time and Washington saw the first large scale anti Vietnam War demonstration (25,000 people) and the first gay rights picketing (10 people), which both occured on the same day, April 17. That was the day before Easter, and Michael's family was in town visiting for the first time. Things did not go well.

Woven through this is the story of Michael and his first lover, Alan.

The historical figures in the book include Senators Ross Bass and Al Gore,Sr., Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Viola Liuzzo, and Frank Kameny (who I spoke to about this work).

Doing the research on the Selma to Montgomery march, Bayard Rustin, and Frank Kameny not only helped create the basis for this book, but also increased my own understanding of history. And this, at a time during which so much history was being made, made all the research and time spent well worth it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Humans have Values"

Be sure to read my column from The Western Tribune, which follows this.

Update: Mother and son released from detention , will not be deported.

Had a certain comment regarding Muslims not been posted on yesterdays blog, I probably wouldn't be writing this. But this blog believes that, yes, humans do have value. All humans. Yet comments continue to come in that slight Muslims, blacks, gays. (Some of those comments I refuse to post, some I post reluctantly, so I can counter).

But this isn't really about Muslims or religion at all. It's about respect and values. So yes, I would have posted this.

Imad Mohammad and his mother are facing deportation. Imad is a Spain Park High School grad, in college, but he and his mother are being held in a "detention center" (the quotes are because we know about the detention center in Etowah county) in Louisiana.

"Why?" You ask.

His father, mother and he came to this country, it seems, in 1993, fleeing civil war in Lebanon. Imad, 18 now, must have been around 2 years old. They were ordered to leave the country in 2001. Being Palestinian, they don't really have anywhere to go. They were picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for still being here.

Imad's father, Mohammad Mohammad was released so he could care for his other five children, who are all U. S. citizens.

Why did they flee to the United States? "Here, humans have values. That's why I came here," Imad's father said.

But isn't it sad when a father has to speak to his son by phone and apologizes for bringing him here. I mean, this kid has had all the opportunity in the world. His high school English teacher said, " I'm not exaggerating when I say that he is among the top, top students I've ever taught or expect to teach."

He was the track captain at Spain Park. What seemed like a promising future now seems bleak.

Of course laws are laws and immigration laws are no different. But immigration laws are ignored about 12 million times, so why pick the brightest kid around to make an example out of?

Thursday is the deadline set by a federal judge for the feds to show just cause for holding the mother and son.

In a story in The Shelby County Reporter Imad had this to say, "I’m holding up the best I can. I don’t want to break down because my family will break down too. If I start complaining and crying then my dad is going to start getting more antsy. If I’m strong, they’re strong."

After this experience Imad wants to become an immigration attorney. Well, if he gets to stay.

We will see tomorrow whether that "values" thing holds true in this country. We're pulling for you, Imad.

Western Tribune Column January 28, 2009

Restoring a historic home does not happen overnight.

Fortunately there are dedicated individuals in Bessemer who understand the importance of preserving these sometimes simple, sometimes grand, structures. Slowly, historic Bessemer is being restored.

Restoring the liberties, rights and protections granted by our Constitution will also take some time.

Fortunately our new president understands our Constitution and international law as it relates to human rights and has taken some initial, important steps toward that goal. He has issued several executive orders that set a new path toward an America we can be more proud of.
His orders include shutting down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and putting an end to torture as a means of extracting information from detainees.

The orders are not that simple, however. He understands that some of those being held may be dangerous, some may need to be returned to other countries, and some may need to be held in detention here in the United States. There are evaluations to be made and new policies to be developed, and for this reason he has established an Interagency Task Force to handle the details. It may take up to a year to complete the task. But the world immediately recognizes the change and a little respect is regained for America.

Opponents cry that we don’t need these terror suspects on U. S. soil, but what they really seem to be saying is they don’t trust the federal detention system. If our prisons are not secure enough to hold the worst of these would be terrorists, then should we trust them to hold the murderers and rapists that are held there now? If the prisons need upgrading, let’s fix them now, to protect from both the terrorists and the murderers.

As for torture, it’s odd to me that the same people who claim to value the very essence of life seem to believe that it’s OK to perform inhumane acts on living humans. Even more surprising is that they still hold those beliefs even when shown that torture does not work.

A civilized society, just as it would not put humans to death as a form of punishment, also would not torture.

And with less inhumane treatment of individuals, the world is made a better place.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inspiring Through Song

Who said this:

"It is our routines and our comforts that allow us to ignore social issues. For some of us, it is our privilege to be ignorant. This video tells the story of social issues challenging our privileges and entering our routines making them impossible to ignore. Social injustice cannot be ignored when you are forced to deal with them. That is the idea behind this video.

What would happen if you were forced to deal with something that you may think has nothing to do with you? If suddenly the world's problems came into your own home? You would have to realize that you are connected to everything and everyone one earth."

Last night we visited WorkPlay and heard (and saw) Brett Dennen. Thanks to Live 100.5 for bringing Brett to Birmingham. You can listen to yesterday's interview with Brett at the 100.5 link.

Brett is one of those singer/songwriters whose songs have meaning, and inspire. Brett was describing this video with the words above.

Brett was recently on Current TV with this video about bringing change.

He says we shouldn't leave it all up to the politicians, which is true. It's going to take all of us working together to bring positive change to this country, and our President challenged each of us. We can already see that President Obama is doing his part (Obama lays first piece in Energy Policy puzzle ). Environmental change, social change, it's all important. It's all necessary. Let's join in.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Birmingham Interstates

A couple of weeks ago I posted this about Inaugural Festivities and in the comments, in defense of Birmingham's $50,000 party, I wrote this:

"Since taxpayer money went toward spraying fire hoses at Birmingham residents, and toward police dogs attacking children who wanted their rights, and taxpayer money went to build an interstate that was designed to break up neighborhoods and destroy as many black churches as possible, don't you think we can use a little taxpayer money to show how far Birmingham has come? "

Another comment followed by a retired Highway Department employee who wrote this (and more...go read):

"I am retired from the Ala Dept of Transportation (Highway Dept). The comment above about the interstate system targeting black communities and trying to break up black churches is a complete myth..."

I responded with some quotes from some research done by Raymond Mohl, a UAB professor who has studied the situation extensively, including (from this document ):

"In Birmingham, Alabama, where three interstates intersected, a black citizen's committee complained to the Alabama state highway department and the BPR in 1960 that proposed interstate freeways "would almost completely wipe out two old Negro communities [in] eastern Birmingham with their 13 churches and three schools." "


"The route had been chosen by the Alabama state highway department and approved by the Bureau of Public Roads, Whitton wrote, "based on a thorough evaluation of all engineering, economic, and sociological factors involved." If that was the case, then it would seem that the destruction of the Birmingham black community was indeed a planned event." "

Now it doesn't take a genius to understand what "sociological factors" means in reference to 1950's and 60's Birmingham.

But I knew there was another reference, and I found it in "The Most Segregated City in America" City Planning and Civil Rights in Birmingham, 1920-1980, by Charles E. Connerly, a professor at Florida State University. (The book can be found at the Birmingham Public Library , several branches have copies, and you can have one delivered to the branch near you by going to the library web site and pasting the book name in the search engine and just follow the directions.)

This book explains the racial zoning regulations that we had to live with since the 1920's. African Americans were greatly restricted in where they could live in Birmingham. The book has maps that show the areas zoned for blacks.

The book also shows show show the original interstate plan for I-59 through Birmingham took a straight route, bypassing black neighborhoods, but how curves were added which allowed the interstate to bisect several black communities, and form a barrier between black and white neighborhoods in other areas. Oddly enough, these interstate "barriers," on I-65 as well as I-59, fall along the same racial zoning lines that had been declared unconstitutional.

Areas in particular where black neighborhoods were destroyed include Ensley where the interstate cuts off part of Tuxedo Junction and separates that area from Ensley Highlands, the white neighborhood (of the time) to the south.

Also, in east Birmingham, a ridiculous curve was added to I-59 in order to bypass (white) Woodlawn (a route favored by the Woodlawn Chamber of Commerce). This created a dangerous sharp turn in the interstate that requires slowing. I'm sure you have driven that stretch. Your lives are jeopardized because of targeting black neighborhoods to save white neighborhoods.

"In 1960, Mrs. Lala Palmer, a resident of eastern Birmingham and spokesperson for a community organization there, publicly decried the "many curves and twists" of the proposed interstate that resulted in the bisection of the East Birmingham and East Lake black neighborhoods. Her preferred alternative, she noted "is practically straight, yet both routes begin at essentially the same point and end at the same point." According to a telegram Mrs. Palmer sent to the Alabama Highway Department, the impact of the "curves and twists" was that the interstate "would almost completely wipe out two old Negro communities [in] eastern Birmingham with their 13 churches and three schools." (Connerly page 159)

It is worth noting that her suggested route approximates the original Alabama Highway Department and U. S. Bureau of Public Roads planned routes.

While the book repeatedly states that "no evidence" has been uncovered that these things were purposely done, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that with the racial climate in Birmingham at the time and an Alabama Highway Department director who was a known KKK* member, that racial issues were part of these decision.

*"A notorious racist, Alabama's state highway director Samuel Englehardt served simultaneously as a high level officer of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and of the White Citizen's Council, which organized against school integration." (Mohl)

We have to live with the decisions of leaders of the past, whether we like it or not. Bringing this up is not to incite but rather to educate and learn. We can learn from our this case we should learn that creating barriers and divisions, whether physical (such as zoning laws and interstates) or psychological (such as policies that create second class citizens out of GLBT persons) is wrong. Like unjust, un-Christian, unconstitutional and unfair. Fortunately, we have a leader now in Washington that understands that.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Prayers for Bobby

Yesterday was movie day. One at the theater, one at home.

We ended the day after coming home by watching Prayers for Bobby on Lifetime (check your listings, it repeats several times over the next few days). Here is the movie Bobby, played by Ryan Kelley. Sigourney Weaver plays his mother, Mary.

This movie is based on the real life and death of Bobby Griffith, a young gay man whose rejection by his Christian conservative mother led to his suicide. His mother Mary, then realizes that her understanding of the Bible was wrong, that her lack of compassion and understanding of her son was the reason he killed himself. Here is a picture of the real Bobby Griffith.

His mother, Mary, went on to become an advocate for gay equality, but look at the cost she paid for refusing to accept the truth. For refusing to even listen to the truth. Oh, his father didn't help much either.

Ryan does a great job of portraying the emotions that a gay kid might go through as he struggles for acceptance. I want the readers of this blog, especially those who are so outspoken about gays, to imagine if they have a child who reveals he or she is gay, how they would react. Would they still love their child? Not the fake, "love the sinner" type love demonstrated in this movie and that we hear so much about.. But real, true, Godly love, where you love your child because of what he is, not in spite of what he is. Or would they reject their child, drive their child away from home, drive their child to suicide.

Here is a preview. There are more on the site.

This movie is likely to earn some Emmy nominations. Watch it.

If you are visiting this blog, in search of answers about your own sexuality like Bobby, and are approaching a crisis point, visit The Trevor Project , or call 866-488-7386, where you can find help. the Trevor project is a round the clock helpline for gay or confused youth.

I guess that is enough for today. The other movie review will have to come later.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Free Concert...and Weekend fun

On January 30, 1969, The Beatles surprised the people of London with a free concert from the rooftop of their Apple Building headquarters.

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Beatles' Rooftop Concert, local Beatles tribute band
The BeatLads will hold a concert from the rooftop of Church of the Reconciler as a benefit for the homeless of Birmingham.

The concert is free; however, those attending are encouraged to bring a blanket or a coat for the homeless.

The Beatles were about peace and love. Nobody in Birmingham needs more peace and love than the growing homeless population in our city. Come, bring a blanket or coat and help the homeless enjoy the day.

Date: Friday, January 30, 2009

Time: 1:00 p.m.

Location: Rooftop of Church of the Reconciler United Methodist Church, Downtown Birmingham, 2nd Avenue North and 14th Street

The BeatLads is a local Beatles tribute band that has been playing charity events and paid events for approximately five years.

Church of the Reconciler is a multicultural, interracial United Methodist Church in ministry to the homeless. Church of the Reconciler has offered the venue for this afternoon of music and fun.
For some weekend fun:
Visit The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks for a few minutes of fun. Or an hour or so. I never realized that so many people use quotes inappropriately. I mean, I know I do, ...
Here's a "sample". Oops, I just did it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Presidential Biographies

At the White House site there is a slide show of the 44 presidents with brief biographies of each.

I was looking through the pictures, noticing things like when the first photos were taken, wondering why some of the paintings (or photos of paintings) are in black and white, wondering why they don't mention that James Buchanan, the 15th President, was gay.

What? Yes, gay. And it seemed pretty out in the open at the time.

In this book, Lies Across America, James Loewen disputes several things that we are taught in school, or brings up things that are true, but that are ignored.

One thing Loewen reveals is that at Wheaton, the historical home of President James Buchanan, his sexuality is denied. Buchanan was gay, and was partnered with Alabama Senator Rufus King for years. Read about it here . That link came from this post on Birmingham Blues about Tom Parker.

King was referred to as "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy." I can see that. Check him out.

While there are other writings that suggest Buchanan was gay, I like these snippets from the book.

When King was leaving for France in 1844 after being appointed Minister, he wrote to Buchanan,"I am selfish enough to hope that you will not be able to procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation."

And then Buchanan wrote to a Mrs. Roosevelt, "I am now 'solitary and alone', having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection."

Of course the concept of "gay" or having different sexual orientations was not known at the time, and there were no organized anti-gay groups to rally against them. The D. C. elite seemed to take it in stride, using such terms as "better half" and "his wife" in referring to King in relation to Buchanan.

And Buchanan had other things to worry about as president. He certainly left a mess for his successor, Abraham Lincoln, (who, we now know, was bisexual) to deal with.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Amazing Grace...and local folk

The state senator that represents my district, E. B. McClain, was found guilty of money laundering, mail fraud and other charges. So was Rev. Sam Pettagrue.

I have not been a McClain fan since the controversial land deal that resulted in Lake Cyrus being in Hoover. Still, I hate to see the man convicted. Sentencing will be in May.

I wonder who our next senator will be.

Mary Orndorff reports in today's Birmingham News that Tracie Jones of Bessemer was in D. C. this week but was unable to get tickets for the swearing in or the balls. But she did win the chance to go inside the White House yesterday for the meet and greet hosted by the President and First Lady.

"We just prayed, and thank the Lord!" she said as she shook his hand.

"Jones told Obama he was "beautiful" then corrected herself and said, "I mean, first lady, you're beautiful!" according to the report distributed to news organization.

Amazing Grace

McClain and Jones might both be thinking about Grace these days, one of them needing some, the other thankful for it.

Here's one more song related to the events of the last few days.

What do you get when you mix Anglican tradition and ceremony with Negro spirituals? This is from yesterday's prayer service at the National Cathedral.

Dr. Wintley Phipps says that almost all Negro spirituals were written using only the black notes on the piano, including Amazing Grace, which he describes as a White spiritual, built on the slave scale (the black notes). Here he gives the history of the song, with its African roots and white slave trader author, John Newton.

Phipps uses this history to remind us that we are all connected through God's Amazing Grace.

Phipps has an Alabama connection, having received his Bachelor of Arts in Theology at Oakwood College in Huntsville. He later received a Masters of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan.

I heard one commentator say that Barack Obama was assuming the role of spiritual leader for our nation. Isn't that something.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Work Begins...For All of Us

Be sure to read my column this week. It addresses some issues seen here on Bessemer Opinions. It follows this post.

I'm not sure if it was a request or not, but for John, and for the rest of America, here is the President and First Lady's first dance to "At Last" sung by Beyonce. I'm not sure how long this video will stay up, I will try to replace it if it is removed.

I want to clear one thing up. Barack Obama did not flub the oath. Chief Justice John Roberts did. He tried to cue Obama from memory, and screwed up. Obama knew the oath, and kind of laughed it off, but had to decide whether to repeat what Roberts was saying or say it right. Anyway, either then or later he said the complete oath correctly. Two previous presidents had to repeat the oath due to similar issues - Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur.

Now that the pageantry is over, the work begins. For all of us. We have been called to service. I have an idea for myself, more on that if it turns out to be doable.

In addition, the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association agreed last night to look into new service projects (in addition to our work at Jonesboro Community Garden and Davis Middle School) as a way answer the President's challenge by addressing needs in our community.

The administration has begun their work too. Look at the new White House web page, .

From there, you will learn that President Obama's first official act was to proclaim January 20 2009 a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation. Read the whole thing, but the meat of it is this:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

If you look under the "agenda" tab, you will see Civil Rights listed first, mainly because the list is alphabetical. From there, you can be assured that President Obama recognizes the importance of inclusion and equality for the GLBT community.

But President Obama also recognizes that there are serious issues at hand. He suspended prosecutions at Gitmo . This is seen as a first step in shutting the place down.

Western Tribune column January 21 2009

From Today's paper:

The karma of the nation is changing, and just in the nick of time.

The “miracle on the Hudson,” as the recent jet crash in which all 155 people on board survived has been called, is the latest evidence. The nation is cheering.

The inauguration of President Barack Obama further advances the positive karma of the nation. A strong majority still have positive feelings about the new administration, in spite of all the trouble the country seems to be facing.

Of course I realize there are still those who do not believe. Why, just the other night, I was at a concert in Birmingham, and the people sitting behind me were doing their best to hold on to the negative feelings of the past, and pronouncing the Obama administration as a failure before it even gets started.

And day after day I receive comments on my blog reflecting the same negative outlook.

But most conservatives are cheering Obama on. They realize that the president needs the support of Republicans and Democrats alike in congress to solve the problems we face. They realize that without this support our country may slide into a territory from which we cannot emerge.

Even Cal Thomas, a conservative columnist with whom I rarely agree, is backing the new president.

“Good luck, God bless, and I hope you succeed in the things with which conservatives can agree. And on those things we cannot agree, I at least promise to be more than a naysayer and suggest how they might be done better.”

The time for “naysaying” is over.

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, president George W. Bush had the support of everyone in the country. While his rush to an unjust war and shredding of the constitution diminished that support, at least he had a clean slate when he started.

Give Obama that chance. Quit complaining when there is not even anything to complain about. Join in the positive feeling the rest of the country is enjoying.

You might be surprised. As your outlook improves, your health will improve. As your health improves, you will feel better and your life with your family and friends will improve.

And you will be contributing positive energy to the karma that benefits us all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

We have a new president. If you have followed this blog at all, you don't need me re-hashing policy differences or the new direction we will be moving in.

You don't need me to dissect the president's speech.

You don't need me to tell you that Rick Warren's prayer was lack-luster, but that Joseph Lowery's prayer ended with a bang.

"We ask you to help us work for that day
When Black would not be asked to get back,
When Brown can stick around,
When Yellow will be mellow,
When the Red man can get ahead, man,
And when White will embrace what is right."

But you may not know this. There is a drive on to have the president create a new cabinet position: Secretary of the Arts.

A Secretary of the Arts would further legitimize America’s place in Art History and in the international dialog through the many disciplines of art - a language itself. People yearn for arts & culture and if they don’t, most are missing out on education, exposure, self-expression, & a creative outlet for internal strife versus unconstructive outlets that are too often used in our society. Production of art can be both a creative & an intellectual pursuit. Exposure to art has numerous benefits, one being for society as a whole to be elevated. Let’s put an arts leader in the Cabinet to start measuring up to other governments’ commitments to arts & culture.

Read the rest at the link. Sign the petition here. I am number signature number 159466.

On Sunday, Quincy Jones was asked about serving in that position, should it be created. Well of course he would.

Speaking of Arts, how about the Queen of Soul today. Let Freedom Ring, Aretha! You are likely to see replays of the Speech and the Oath, but here is a replay of the Song. Nice hat, too. This was posted by a guy in Germany.

There is something about this new direction that is inspiring musical artists to give us their very best. We saw that on Sunday, Monday and now Tuesday.

Now, let's go watch the parade.

In Honor of Barack Obama

Picture credit: The Obama Tree

Today. We are one.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Those words are from the Declaration of Independence.
It’s that “all men are created equal” part that we are inching toward today.
Yesterday we heard those words repeated as Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech was replayed. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Since this post is going up before our president elect’s inaugural speech, a comment on that will come later. For now, in recognition of the historic nature of today, I have put on display the historic flags that we use on such occasions.

Seeing the Capitol draped in flags reminded me that Bessemer should have a display as well. Since I haven't seen any other public displays in honor of Obama, I consider this the official-unofficial tribute from Bessemer, Alabama.

The flags, in order, are the Bennington Flag, that tradition says was flown at the Battle of Bennington (actually fought at Wallomsack, New York, not Bennington, Vermont) in 1777. This is the only U. S. historical flag with white stripes rather than red, as the outer stripes.

The next flag is the Betsy Ross flag, the first official flag of our country, with the circular ring of stars, and flown from June 14, 1777 to May 1, 1795.

The “Star Spangled Banner,” with 15 stars, is next. It inspired a song at Ft. McHenry.

Next is one of the flags that flew during the Civil War. This one has 34 stars. The flag changed a few times during the civil war, as states were added during wartime.

Behind it is the flag that flew during World War II, when my father fought in Europe and the Pacific.

The last flag is the flag with 50 stars that is flying today as Barack Obama becomes our 44th President.

Monday, January 19, 2009

America is Beautiful

Did you watch Oprah today? She premiered this song, which she had asked David Foster and to write. Faith Hill, Seal, Mary J. Blige and Bono and a choir of kids join in.

Here is a link to watch. America's Song . Downolad it for free until Tuesday afternoon here. Or watch it here. Go full screen. And feel good about our country.

Be sure to visit tomorrow to see what I have done to help Bessemer celebrate.

Almost Divine

1 Day. One day, and our country is racing toward becoming a more perfect union.

Picture credit Hell for Leather magazine

This is a picture of Walter Villa on a 250 RR Harley-Davidson/ Aermacchi in 1976 at the Nürburgring. The person who posted the picture said, "And yes, that numeral 1 on the number-plate means what you think it means."

And number 1 for our country ascends to the presidency in 1 day.

Programming Note: Bessemer Opinions will no longer be posting comments of a hateful nature. This site is not a community forum for debate. Bessemer Opinions is about moving forward, both in our community and in our country. Comments that bring people or groups of people down, without cause, do nothing to help our community or country.

"Almost Divine". Those are the word used by Dianne Mills to describe the convergence of the Martin Luther King Jr, holiday with the inaugural ceremonies of Barack Obama. Dianne hosted a party yesterday to celebrate.

But today is reserved for tributes to Martin Luther King, Jr. Watch this video tribute from Park Community Church in Chicago. Oh, it's different.

Read my post from last year, since Health Care (and war) is still an issue: Martin Luther King Jr: Pro Public Health and Anti War .

If King were still alive, I am sure he would be offering an inaugural prayer. Instead, it was offered by Bishop Gene Robinson yesterday. Here it is. Even if you are not particularly spiritual, read this prayer, as it embodies the spirit of our nation, and if we all heed its words, our nation will soar.

Good afternoon,

Before this celebration begins, please join me in pausing for a moment to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

Oh God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears, tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die a day from malnutrition, malaria and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger – anger at discrimination at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants; women, people of color; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy simplistic answers we prefer to hear from our politicians instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed any time soon and the understanding that our next president is a human being, not a messiah. Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the ways we care for the most vulnerable. And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of the president of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady calm captain. Give him stirring words, we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color blind reminding him of his own words that under his leadership there will be neither red nor blue states but a United States. Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods. And please God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents and we’re asking far too much of this one, we implore you oh good and great God to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand that he might do the work that we have called him to do. That he might find joy in this impossible calling and that, in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inaugural Celebration

What a celebration is going on in DC.

Each perfomer, in my mind, just got better and better. But thinking back, this duet by Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi just blew me away. (HBO keeps removing the posts from YouTube, but I will keep replacing it as long as I can find it). OK HBO, you win.

If you missed it, its on again tonight and several times over the next few days, on HBO. Or, come on over, we DVR'd it.

Enjoying Flowers in the Cold of Winter

Picture credit

2 days. In 2 days the United States will regain respect around the world.

Here are a few new features at Bessemer Opinions.

Over to the left you will see "Popular Posts You Might Want to Read." My statcounter lets me know what you all are reading and these are the most popular pages. I will be adding more.

Also, there is a slide show of pictures. Right now there are pictures of camellias, but from time to time the pictures will change.

In My Blog List there are a couple of new links; The Western Trib, for news updates, and The Wild Reed, Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.

I'm constantly trying to find ways to make Bessemer Opinions a better site (in spite of Randy's comment yesterday, "Can anyone find a way to do away with this pathetic blog.")

That's not gonna happen, so don't worry.

Two days ago our fountain was frozen and when the sun came out in the afternoon it just glistened. (It looks like David might have been a little chilly,too.) Last year the fish survived the freezing. It'll be a day or two before I know.

Recall I said that the camellias bloom all winter, but that freezing temps would kill the blooms that are open. So I rescued a few of the flowers before the big freeze. We will enjoy these for a few days indoors, and by the time they fade, more flowers should be opening outdoors.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Living Like Jesus, Voting for Obama

Picture credit :

3 Days. In three days our country begins its recovery.

This picture is of Tai Shan, a panda at the Smithsonian Zoo, celebrating his third birthday earlier this year. The fruit circle, cut to make the numeral, is made of water and gelatin. Tai Shan is the first surviving panda born at the zoo, and still lives with his parents in the National Zoo Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat. If you are going to Washington over the next few days, maybe you can visit Tai Shan.

Rev. Ed Dobson made pledge to live for a year like Jesus (Story). Dobson was one of the founders of the Moral Majority in the 1980's, now he is vice president for spiritual formation at Cornerstone University.

"The one-time architect of the religious right is in hot water with some conservatives over his statement that living like Jesus during 2008 influenced him to vote for Barack Obama -- his first presidential vote for a Democrat."

"Dobson acknowledged he has been criticized for linking his Obama vote to Jesus. While disagreeing with Obama on abortion, Dobson said the Democrat was closest to the spirit of Jesus' teachings of compassion and peace."

And while we are on the subject of compassion and peace, how about Kay Warren, the "purpose-driven wife" of now-controversial pastor Rick Warren, reminding us of this:

She spoke at Judson college in Marion, AL, and praised Obama for leading the way on HIV testing. She compared today's AIDS epidemic to the biblical references to leprosy.

"I challenge you to find anyplace in the Bible where Jesus asks how someone became sick," she said.

Warren, or Jesus for that matter, was not concerned about people's "lifestyles," to use a divisive term not used in his day. He cared about ministering, healing, bringing the downtrodden and the outcasts into the fold.

If only more of the churches that claim to follow Jesus would actually do so. You've got your angry, judgemental philosophy (and God) or your compassionate, loving philosophy (or God).

I will choose to follow the one Ed Dobson is following this year. The loving, compassionate One.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh...4 more days

Picture Credit Vicious Delicious

I forgot to include this.

4 Days. Then America can celebrate.

WW 2 Army Bracelet Resolution

I posted this request on January 3 about the World War II Army bracelet found by a man in Belgium.

Yannick, the finder of the bracelet, wanted to find the family of the man, who he found through some research was born in Randolph county here in Alabama. Yannick thought the man had returned to live in Bessemer, which it seems turned out not to be true, but it led Yannick to contact people here to help.

I contacted a woman in Roanoke in her 80's who said she was pretty sure I had the right family, but couldn't give me more information until a few days later due to her vision and hearing impairment. She needed to wait until she had some assistance. When I called her back she gave me the name of a relative (Tim) in North Carolina who was doing some research on the family genealogy.

At the same time, my post was picked up by The Randolph Leader, who printed my information in the form of a letter. A local man, there, Howard, a cousin of Andrew Barfield, saw the letter and emailed me.

While this was going on, Yannick had found World War 2 Forums, a site formed for veterans, families and friends to exchange information, and posted information. You can read the responses there, and Howard actually posted on the site as well. (This is a great site with forums for genealogical, historical, honor, WW2 weapons and more).

While it seemed to everyone, Yannick included, that the correct Barfield family had been found, he was not 100% convinced until I confirmed with Howard and Tim, with the Army Serial Number, that it was indeed the right family.

As it turns out Howard (who is a retired nurse), has made many visits to Belgium and Germany and the Netherlands researching his family and has actually traced the family back to William the Conqueror (thus relating to all the royal houses of Europe).

So the bracelet is being returned to Andrew Barfield's widow, who lives in Florida. But just as excited is his sister, Ollie Gay, who lives in Georgia, and will be celebrating her 100th birthday tomorrow! The family, and Ollie, are on cloud nine and this news will be the highlight of her (somewhat) surprise party on Saturday.

Thanks go out to Yannick for going to the trouble to make this happen, and to Jeff and the others at WW2F for providing the forum.

You can leave Birthday Wishes for Ollie here in the comments section and I will see that Howard delivers them to her tomorrow.

Music: Celine and NIck

This is just some fun to take us into the weekend.

Last night's concert by Celine Dion was Vegas brought to Birmingham. It's easy enough to find video of Celine singing, but here is something else she did last night.

The concert was great. It ended with "My Heart Will Go On." No videos yet of that from last night, but here is the same ending from her concert in Kansas City earlier this month.

Have you heard of Nick Pitera? Sort of a YouTube sensation. From that link you can listen to all of his songs.

Here he is sounding as good as Alicia Keys singing "No One." Alicia's version is here, in a marriage video I posted a while back.

And here he covers Jason Mraz, "I'm Yours." (Listen to Jason here, on an older post).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ted Haggard , Ex-...Whatever

Picture credit

5 Days. Then we will not have to listen to W anymore.

Another person we shouldn't have to listen to is Ted Haggard. You remember him, the evangelical leader disgraced evangelical leader who admitted to paying a male prostitute for sex. Then he went into gayhab or whatever, but he emerged just as tormented as he was when he entered.

Torment is something that the closet does to you. The closet can lead to destructive behaviors as one tries to find ways to satisfy his (or her) natural desires. Mark Foley and Larry Craig come to mind. But Ted Haggard is a special case.

In the article linked above we learn that Haggard confessed to beginning his gay play in the seventh grade. Even those without gaydar (or, for the technos, positioning system) can see that this guy is clearly gay.

"That being said, there is something even more disturbing about the implications of the Haggard episode. Here we have someone who has admitted to having gay sex repeatedly, has admitted to teenage sexual experimentation, and has admitted to ongoing confusion over sexual attraction, and most everyone still allows him to call himself straight."

The author asks what it means that so few are questioning Haggard's story.

"That so few people are challenging Haggard's illogical explanation for the person that he is today is disturbing. It furthers the myth that people choose their sexual orientation.

That is just plain false. Our sexual orientation is a natural part of who we are. The only choice we may make is whether or not we lie to ourselves and those around us

Of course it could just be that people have stopped listening to Haggard.

But his story will be told on HBO January 29 when The Trials of Ted Haggard, a documentary by Alexandra Pelosi premieres.

Haggard's story brings up the subject of "Ex-Gay." This "therapy" has been strongly discredited by the American Psychological Association. But nothing says it better than a personal experience. Here Peterson Toscano, from Peterson Tuscano's A Musing, an ex-gay survivor, explains what caused him to go ex-gay. (Warning/disclaimer: while the video is completely harmless and educational, the YouTube video suggestions after the clip are not suitable for work or small children. These links are not chosen by the video producer, rather by YouTube's crazy system)

Pretending one is not gay when one really is gay does not work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wrestling Spin

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column,which follows this post.

Picture credit Tom Philo

Six. The number of days until we have a new administration!

Today's Dear Abby featured a letter from an woman "over 21" who says she is tomboyish, and who loves to wrestle with her 200 # boyfriend. Sometimes it ends in a kiss or more. Friends tell her its dangerous and that the boyfriend could be a potential wife-beater. The writer says "to me, it's a good way to have fun and burn off calories."

Abby's reply is that since the woman is initiating the activity, that the man is not likely a "wife-beater." "What you have described sounds more like foreplay than abuse. And as long as you both enjoy it and no none becomes injured, what the two of you do is nobody's business, so keep it private."

Then there is this, in today's Birmingham News, (Sports section):

Two coaches fall through hotel window at convention

Story from NBC Sports

"Two assistant coaches apparently wrestling with each other fell through a hotel window Tuesday morning and fell four stories to a concrete sidewalk, leaving one in serious condition."

Hotel security was called at 4:10 a.m. because of noise.

The coaches were attending the American Football Coaches Association annual convention.

One of the guys was having surgery at Vanderbilt yesterday, the other was in fair condition.

Scott Coy is 29 years old, 6 foot 2 and 300 pounds. Darren DeMelo is 24 years old, 6-4 and 225 pounds.

This is 4 in the morning! Boys will be boys, but two men "wrestling" in a hotel room?

Sounds like foreplay to me!

Oh, and Abby's advice about keeping it private goes out the window (pun intended) in this case.

I sincerely hope the two guys recover fully, and are able to return to coaching and having whatever kind of fun they are in to.

But Geez guys, be careful.

Western Tribune Column January 14 2009

This sort of fits right in with yesterday's post, huh?


On Friday the House of Representatives passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, named after the Alabama employee of Goodyear Tire and Rubber who discovered her male colleagues were being compensated better than her.

She discovered this near the end of her 20 year career, but federal law’s statute of limitations would not allow her to challenge that discrepancy. The current law gives a six month period from the time the employer decides to pay a female less. The new law would allow the six month period to begin when the employee finds out.

Anyone with a clear mind can see that the current law does not make sense. There is no way an employee can be expected to know when an employer decides to offer male co-workers better pay. Most people don’t know what their co-workers make. And it’s not the employees fault if she doesn’t discover the difference in pay within six months of the change.

In Alabama Democrats are happy to have elected Bobby Bright of Montgomery and Parker Griffith of Huntsville to join Artur Davis, who represents most of us in Bessemer, in congress. Democrats have a history of advocacy for equality for women.

But Griffith and Bright both voted against the measure, along with a strong majority of Republicans.

They must be “Red Dog” rather than “Blue Dog” Democrats.

What message does this send to women in their districts, and in the rest of the state?

It’s hard to believe in this day and time that men who could not be elected without support of women would vote against equal pay.

Lilly Ledbetter, in the meantime, is preparing for a train ride. She will be among those riding with Barack Obama on his east coast whistle stop tour that delivers him to his inauguration.

"Not bad for an ol' Alabama girl," she said.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama called Ledbetter to invite her to the inauguration.

She said she’s “excited because this new president is not going to forget what it's like to work your way up and he's keeping people from all walks of life involved.”

A lot of people are excited about the president elect. In Birmingham, the excitement will be manifest with a $50,000 party to which the world media is invited.

I wonder what the world will think of the Birmingham of 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inaugural Festivities

Seven. The number of days left until we have a new direction for our country. Jackpot!!!

The inauguration is on Tuesday, but the festivities start Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial.

I wonder what this man would be thinking.

I think I know.

I wonder what this man will be saying.

Well I don't know the words he will be using, but as Bishop Gene Robinson opens the inaugural festivities with a prayer, I know that a feeling of hope, of inclusion, and of promise will be heard by all. The festivities will be taped and broadcast for free on HBO Sunday evening (6 - 8 Central time). Of course, I'm not sure the 2 hour broadcast will include the prayer, but I assume it will. Free, for all Americans (that have cable or satellite).

Robinson had this to say in an email to Episcopal Cafe:

"I am writing to tell you that President-Elect Obama and the Inaugural Committee have invited me to give the invocation at the opening event of the Inaugural Week activities, “We are One,” to be held at the Lincoln Memorial, Sunday, January 18, at 2:00 pm. It will be an enormous honor to offer prayers for the country and the new president, standing on the holy ground where the “I have a dream speech” was delivered by Dr. King, surrounded by the inspiring and reconciling words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is also an indication of the new president’s commitment to being the President of ALL the people. I am humbled and overjoyed at this invitation, and it will be my great honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."

It's nice to know that someone is "representing" me at the inaugural festivities. I haven't heard anything like that from Rick Warren.

Beyonce, U2, John Legend,, Usher, Garth Brooks and a bevy of other performers will entertain.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Davis for Governor? No thanks.

Bob Martin, publisher of The Montgomery Independent, published a column recently about Artur Davis and his chances of becoming governor. Well, not exactly, because anybody with any sense can see that the chance of that happening is zero. The column was more about how Davis running for governor could assure Republican success in the governor's race and other
races across the state.

Davis wants to follow Obama's lead. Martin points out that while Obama polled 43% of the white vote nationally, he only received 10% in Alabama.

This says nothing about Davis. His charismatic personality and republican-like talk plays well in our a point.

No, it says more about the people of Alabama. More on this later.

Davis has a good gig in Washington. He needs to stay there. Even though I don't agree with him on a few many issues, if he drops out of congress, Sheila Smoot has threatened to run. Yikes!

Ok, back to the people of Alabama. Over the last few weeks there have been several letters in the Birmingham News about the Civil War and why it happened and such. People from our state still argue that it was not about slavery. They argue tax issues, trade issues, economic issues...but those things all lead back to the slavery issue.

Here are some quotes from the Declarations of Secession from several states.

South Carolina: "...A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery..."

Mississippi: "...Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world..."

Alabama: "...Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of president and vice-president of the United States of America, by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions* and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama..." (*sugar coated term for slavery)

Georgia: "...A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia..."

Texas: "...We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable..."

Ok, that's just picking and choosing quotes from a few of the declarations, but there is a common theme. Some of the states, with the benefits of previous declarations, were not as detailed, but like I said, just read them and you will see a common theme...the south did not want to give up slavery.

Look back at the quote from Alabama. That is the mentality that today's white vote in Alabama evolved from. The "domestic institutions" of 1861 that allowed "peace and security" are comparable to the "domestic institution" of segregation that was overcome in the 1960's. In 2010, the "peace and security" that might be important to the whites in the state might be disrupted by elevating a black to the position of governor, so it just won't happen.

Alabama is slow to change. Davis running in 2010 will do nothing to bring change, especially as to which party holds the Governor's seat.