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Creating Change 2019 creates controversy, again

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For much of its 31-year history, the National LGBT Task Force’s Creating Change conference has been a mecca for intellects, movement leaders, grassroots activists and allies eager to engage in coalition building. The gathering created a cauldron of ideas, sparking analysis and sometimes messy debate over strategies for fighting institutionalized oppression and ugly anti-LGBT discrimination developing its own organized Religious Right movement in states around the country. And the conferences almost always made news. This year, Creating Change made news again—but not particularly favorably.

In years past, LGBT reporters eagerly pursued thought leaders expressing powerful, political assessments of surviving under siege and their passionate strategies for confronting the struggles ahead.

During the 1993 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, for instance, radical, Marxist-leaning former director Urvashi Vaid surprised herself by calling for traditional 50-state get-out-the-vote organizing to combat the Christian Coalition. “We must develop a more pro-active and clear political strategy” to “knit together” different efforts, she said, and build a powerful movement to secure a federal equality act and beat back Newt Gingrich’s revolution.

NGLTF executive director Matt Foreman stunned the Creating Change audience in 2008 by calling HIV a “gay disease” and chastising the LGBT community for allowing HIV/AIDS to slip as a priority and spread among people of color through institutionalized racism and lack of access to healthcare. He received only a smattering of applause but the issue was hotly debated by activists once home.

NGLTF executive director Kerry Lobel, who with Lynn Cothren brought Coretta Scott King and Dorothy Height to NGLTF, called Creating Change “the political hothouse of our movement,” the “incubator of countless projects, campaigns, strategies and initiatives that help to bring our movement into the 21st century.”

Lobel later served on the Coastside Jewish Community’s Board of Directors. One wonders how she or Foreman or Vaid would have handled Creating Change 2019, which made LGBT news for a disruption by the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition and the Task Force’s muted response amid charges by national LGBT Jewish leaders and online commenters that the protest and reaction were anti-Semitic.

On Jan. 24, as the opening plenary was getting underway in Detroit, a handful of activists started chanting “Free, free Palestine!” As they made their way onstage, Creating Change organizer Andy Garcia stepped aside and the lights dimmed. Undeterred, the leader, who identified herself as a Jewish, lesbian, transgender woman, proceeded to slam the Task Force for what she said was a continued “ban on Palestinian content and that has stretched into Jewish and Muslim content at this conference and we won’t stand for that.”

She noted that the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition submitted seven workshop proposals about Palestine and pinkwashing to Creating Change, all of which were rejected. “Pinkwashing” is a term derived from “whitewashing” applied to LGBT rights. Generally it suggests a marketing or political ploy that makes a product, person, or country appear pro-LGBT while diverting attention or covering up an opposite intent. The term was original coined by Breast Cancer Action in 1992 to expose companies that claimed to support the cause through pink ribbons while actually profiting from the illness, according to Self Magazine.

The Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition wants “robust programing that reflects the Task Force’s so-called commitment to change, dignity and equality,” the Jewish trans lesbian leader said. “We want a conference and a space where radical queer and trans people, radical Jews, radical Muslims, radical Palestinians, radical people from across the globe and around the country can come together and discuss all parts of our liberation. And right now our content is being censored. Our liberation is being silenced and our voices are being shut down because the Task Force is too cowardly to have a conversation on one of the leading social justice issues of our time—Palestinian freedom.”

The leader blamed the ADL—the Anti-Defamation League—for encouraging the Palestine ban “as part of a reaction to protests that took place in 2016.”

That protest in Chicago left an indelible mark on the consciousness of anyone who heard about it. A Wider Bridge, an organization that promotes LGBT equality in Israel, was hosting a reception for Sarah Kala-Meir and Tom Canning from the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance when more than 200 yelling people crammed the hallways outside the third floor reception room, terrifying the guests and causing them to flee for fear of violence. The group opposed what they claimed is Israeli pinkwashing to deflect from its policies toward occupied Palestinians—but their message was lost in the storm of fear they created. The Chicago police were called, which lead to a slew of other issues.

After the 2016 controversy, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey told the Washington Blade that the Task Force “does not have a policy stance on the Israeli Palestinian conflict….We are not an organization with an international mission.”

But that did not satisfy the Coalition, which protested at Creating Change last year, as well.

“I’m Jewish,” said the Cancel Pinkwashing Coalition leader at the Jan. 24 opening plenary. “I’m here to say that the ADL does not speak for me and the ADL does not speak for queers. In fact, if you look into their history, they have committed acts of severe violence against the queer and trans liberation movement. The ADL spied on – the reason that many of us are here – Queer Nation. And they spied on ACT UP in the ‘80s. Is that an organization that the Task force should have a partnership with – one that pied on ACT UP? No. No. No.”

This attack infuriated LGBT Jewish leaders. In 2012, the ADL, which monitors and educates about hate groups, submitted substantial testimony to support the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  and has been actively involved with educating about hate crimes.

But the accusation about ACT UP is true. As reported by the New York Times and others, the San Francisco offices, homes and storage facilities of key ADL members were raided in 1993 as police investigated an illegal spy ring. They uncovered thousands of index cards with names of 12,000 Americans and 950 groups—including the NAACP, ACLU, and ACT UP. That scandal has been lost with time.

But it was the chant at the end of the 15 minutes of seized protest time that unnerved many Jews and non-Jews alike. “Hopefully, one day – from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The group left the stage to a standing ovation.

The phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is generally perceived as a call to eliminate the state of Israel. That alone was enough to set off howls of protest claiming the group called for the murder of Jews—three days before Holocaust Remembrance Day. They also charge the Task Force with anti-Semitism for not stepping in and stopping it.

“We are deeply troubled that an uninvited group of disruptors breached the opening plenary of Creating Change to voice hate speech and slander against the Jewish community and our institutions, without action or consequence from the leadership of the National LGBTQ Task Force,” Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood and Tyler Gregory of A Wider Bridge wrote in an open letter to Executive Director Rea Carey demanding an apology.

“The fifteen-minute disruption ended with calls of “from the river to the sea,” an anti-Semitic dog whistle from those wishing to see the Jewish State and its inhabitants disappear.”

“Bruce Voeller, who founded the National Gay Task Force, and the Jews he invited to serve on its early board, such as pioneering activist Frank Kameny, would have been horrified at the present anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism that has been allowed to take over the Task Force,” historian Lillian Faderman told the Los Angeles Blade. “They would not have felt welcome in this organization that they built. How tragic that this has been allowed to happen. The present leadership has a responsibility to put an end to anti-Semitism in the ranks of the organization and to disassociate from it by apologizing in the name of the Task Force.”

“The National ‘Task Force’ not only needs to apologize, but Non- self loathing Jews need to be put in leadership positions on the board and in Executive positions. Until then, all donations to the task force must stop, and they need to be put on the National anti-Semitic organization list. Right now,” longtime activist Robin Tyler told the Los Angeles Blade.

Carey made a statement from the stage on Jan. 27, which is apparently the only comment she is giving.

“We are aware that some have expressed concerns about protests at Creating Change, including the protest on Thursday regarding Israel and Palestine,” she said. “As we have before, the National LGBTQ Task Force firmly condemns anti-Semitism. We firmly condemn Islamophobia. We firmly condemn attacks on each other’s humanity. The perpetuation of white supremacy is harmful to all. There are a number of misunderstandings and misinformation being thrown around. As Kierra said Thursday night, we want and appreciate all feedback, and part of being in community together means holding each other as we evolve. We are committed to staying in respectful conversation as we move forward towards Creating Change 2020. For your feedback, please send an email to [email protected].”

Few were happy with Carey’s response, fewer still were happy with what the late activist Morris Kight used to call “oppression sickness” that seemed to dominate discussions on the Internet.

Meanwhile, on the ground at Creating Change, [email protected] Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo told the Los Angeles Blade, the protest made no waves among the roughly 4,000 attendees. “No one was talking about it,” she said, unlike the huge #TransLivesMatter protest she staged at Creating Change, which not only yielded results but Salcedo was a plenary speaker this year.

Nonetheless, many are questioning Carey’s leadership: why she didn’t see the protest coming and tackle the issue head-on as a matter of importance to the LGBT community—once a trait of NGLTF.

“Anything that happens under my watch is my responsibility, and I take it seriously. I and we are learning and I think we’re going to come up with some creative and concrete recommendations with how we can move forward for the conference, for the organization and for the movement,” Carey told the Washington Blade in Feb. 2016.

What happened to that commitment?

(The Los Angeles Blade is presenting the Open Letter and a transcript of most of the protesters’ remarks as op-eds so readers can be better informed.)

 

 

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Russia

Russian Interior Ministry launches probe into Netflix’s ‘LGBTQ’ content

Part of the political pressure to further restrict LGBTQ+ equality stems from anti-LGBTQ+ remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin

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Photo by Strekoza.nyc

MOSCOW – Olga Baranets- the “public commissioner for the protection of the family” accused the American streaming giant Netflix of violating the 2013 Russian law regarding what the Russian government deems “gay propaganda.”

In a formal complaint filed with the Russian Interior Ministry, Baranets, a resident of the Russian capital, alleged that Netflix was violating the law’s provisions that prohibit “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations among Russians under the age of 18” when Netflix broadcast LGBTQ+ themed series with a 16+ label.

A source for the Russian Interior Ministry told the Blade on Sunday that it is investigating the matter. The law requires that there is a 30-day deadline for responding to such inquiries, Baranets sent her complaint to the Ministry of Internal Affairs on November 10.

A person familiar with the Russian government probe and Baranets’ complaint but not authorized to speak to the media at Netflix’s European headquarters in Amsterdam said that it was doubtful the company violated the tenets of the so-called “gay propaganda” law. The source added that company had found no series and films about the lives of LGBTQs with a 16+ label when it checked earlier this month that would have been available in the Russian Federation.

Netflix’s “colorful collection of films and TV series tells about the lives of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people,” Baranets told Vedomosti, a Russian-language business daily newspaper, which first reported the story.

Vedomosti noted that should Netflix be found guilty of violating the law it could face a fine of up to $1 million rubles, ($11,844.48 Euros)-($13,400 USD) or a temporary suspension of its service for 90 days.

The Moscow Times reported that earlier this month, a Moscow court fined Russia’s Muz-TV music video channel 1 million rubles ($14,000) after its awards show featured gender-flipping stars and what viewers said resembled a same-sex wedding.

The Russian internet watchdog agency Roskomnadzor, the state media and communications regulator, has stepped up its efforts to implement sweeping bans of so-called “perverted” television shows and movies on all streaming platforms in addition to the complaints about Netflix.

Officials are also working with Vitaly Milanov, deputy chairman of the Committee on Family Affairs, Women, and Children, in the Russian State Duma, (Parliament) to sponsor legislation that would make changes to three laws that regulate media, regulate the protection of children from harmful content and banning displays of “gay propaganda” toward Russians under the age of 18.

Interviewed by RIA Novosti, the state-controlled news agency last week, Milanov told the news outlet that “Russian citizens don’t want such content to be broadcast widely.” He then added that “the legal solution to this situation is just around the corner. Whoever wants can have special access to such videos as well as with pornography.”

The English language Moscow Times reported that Russian film distributors in recent years have edited LGBTQ sex scenes and characters from movies before they were shown in theaters. Roskomnadzor’s proposed rules would for the first time affect online streaming and could lead to movies like “50 Shades of Grey” and shows like “Billions” being blocked by Russian internet providers.

Milanov has long been a vocal fierce opponent of the LGBTQ+ community. Legislation authored by him while as an elected official in St. Petersburg was later the boiler-plate model for the national 2013 ” gay propaganda ” law. This past August he stated that LGBTQ+ people are the “lowest stage of development of the animal world” and should be “sterilized” as stray cats are.

Part of the political pressure to further restrict LGBTQ+ equality stems from anti-LGBTQ+ remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech he made in October in Sochi.

The Russian president  accused “monstrous” Western countries of forcing “transgenderism” onto children.

We’re surprised to see things happening in countries that see themselves as flagships of progress… The struggle for equality and against discrimination turns into aggressive dogmatism verging on absurdity.”

People who dare to say that men and women still exist as a biological fact are almost ostracized… Not to mention the simply monstrous fact that children today are taught from a young age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa.

Let’s call a spade a spade: This simply verges on crimes against humanity under the banner of progress.”

Roskomnadzor head Andrei Lipov reportedly cited Putin’s Sochi speech as justification for the proposed streaming bans.

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California

California expands broadband infrastructure & internet access across state

The initial project locations based on unserved/underserved areas that don’t reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Advancing California’s commitment to bridge the digital divide, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state has identified 18 projects to begin work on an open-access middle-mile network that will provide missing infrastructure paths to bring broadband to all communities.

As part of the historic $6 billion broadband investment advanced in partnership with legislative leaders earlier this year, the initial project locations are based on known unserved and underserved areas across the state. The projects will connect to the core of the global internet and interconnect to last-mile infrastructure, which is the final leg that provides internet service to a customer.

“California is committed to taking on the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities across the state,” said Newsom. “These projects are the first step to delivering on our historic investment that will ensure all Californians have access to high-quality broadband internet, while also creating new jobs to support our nation-leading economic recovery.”

The initial 18 projects represent a range of geographic locations and technical approaches. Projects are being initiated in the following tribal communities, counties and cities: Alpine County; Amador County; Calaveras County; Central Coast; Coachella Valley; Colusa Area; Inyo County; Kern County; Kern/San Luis Obispo Area; Lake County Area; Los Angeles and South Los Angeles; Oakland; Orange County; Plumas Area; Riverside/San Diego Area; San Bernardino County; Siskiyou Area; and West Fresno.

Evaluation of project areas included consideration of public comments, prioritization of unserved or underserved areas of the state, and inclusion of tribal communities, cities and counties. An unserved or underserved area has households that do not reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload of at least 3 Mbps.

“Core to our success will be the deep partnerships we’ve built with a diverse set of community organizations and last mile providers. Through many years of engagement with metropolitan planning organizations, CPUC-supported broadband consortia, Tribal organizations, community-based broadband advocacy groups, and organizations like the Rural County Representatives of California, the NAACP, and the California Emerging Technology Fund, we are now ready to take this historic step towards broadband equity for California,” said Louis Fox, Founder and Chair of GoldenStateNet, the state’s third-party administrator.

State partners implementing the middle-mile initiative include the California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Caltrans. GoldenStateNet was selected as the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) to manage the development, acquisition, construction, maintenance and operation of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network. As the TPA, GoldenStateNet will partner with key stakeholder groups across the state to investigate the best technical, financial and operational models to meet the needs of the project sites.  

A map and additional information on the initial projects can be found here.

“A reliable broadband connection makes the difference between having access to full-service health care, education and employment or sometimes going without,” said State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong. “Through a historic partnership between our Governor, the Legislature, state agencies and a third-party administrator, we are taking immediate action to improve connectivity for Californians in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.”

“These initial routes have been identified to accelerate projects in areas of the state that are unserved because of the lack of open middle mile infrastructure to serve them. We are accelerating the selection of a diverse set of routes — those that are ready to build and those that are not ready to build.  This allows the state to partner with locals on these diverse projects and learn by doing, as we concurrently work to finalize all the needed routes in the State. There are many more communities like those in Phase I that will be included in the final map,” said Martha Guzman Aceves, Commissioner at the CPUC.

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Michigan

Michigan teacher walks off job & resigns after told to remove Pride flag

“To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community”

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Three Rivers Community Schools administrative offices (Photo Credit: TRCS Facebook)

THREE RIVERS, Mi. – A middle school health teacher walked off the job Nov. 22, then resigned after the school district’s administration ordered LGBTQ+ Pride flags removed from classrooms.

Russell Ball, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, told local media outlets that “The rumors kind of floating around is that one or two parents that complained about the flags being in the classroom.” 

“To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Ball said during an interview last week with NBC News affiliate WOOD TV 8 on Grand Rapids. “I felt very disheartened and saddened. The students losing that representation throughout the classrooms really hurt, losing my own representation in the classroom really hurt. It was just something I was not prepared to do.”

He told NBC 8 that, combined with burnout, caused him to resign from his position as a health teacher.

“It all comes down to having some open communication and building understanding that we’re not out to vilify anybody, but we are here and we do exist,” he said.

In a statement posted on its website, the school district’s Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash said officials were notified by what he referred to as an “an external party,” Nov. 18. According to Nash, the person questioned information shared within the school day, which also included an inquiry of the Gay Straight Alliance after-school club and pride flags within Three Rivers Middle School classrooms.

“We continue to work with the district’s legal firm and board of education to ensure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students,” the statement continued. “There is a board meeting on December 6th.”

Attorneys representing the district did not reply Tuesday to multiple requests for comment.

Comments on the school district’s Facebook page reflected anger over its decision, with one person writing; “It is disappointing Three Rivers Community Schools has decided to kick protections and support for LGBTQ+ students to the curb for some undisclosed reason. The district claims protection for all students but somehow figured LGBTQ+ students don’t fit in that category for all students and are now willing to show the students and their support network of teachers to the door.”

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