Archive for November, 2010

>Bullied

November 30, 2010

>Tonight is a free film screening of the documentary Bullied followed by a panel discussion. The film is being presented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and is sponsored by the UAB Safe Zone and Co sponsored by the UAB Gay/Straight student alliance, the Alliance for LGBT Equality at UAB, UAB Chi Sigma Iota, and Alabama Safe Schools Coalition.

The film will be shown at Hill University Center Auditorium at UAB, 1400 University Blvd, at 7:00 PM November 30 (today).

Here’s the trailer to the film.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see this important film. It should be shown in every school, and Southern Poverty Law Center will see that you get a copy for your school.

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>Our One Mile coming to Bessemer

November 29, 2010

>Are you interested in hiking or biking along established trails? Now’s your chance, if you live in Western Jefferson County, to let your voice be heard.

I attended their kick off meeting in October. Here’s a review of that meeting.

Our One Mile will hold a meeting on Tuesday, November 30, at Lawson State Community College, Bessemer Campus, from 5:30 to 7:00.

They want to know where you live, work and play.

Our One Mile will connect places that matter most throughout Jefferson County through greenways, trails, and sidewalks. You will be able to walk, bike, or roll from your home to desired daily destinations such as parks, schools, libraries, churches, or shopping areas. You, your family, and the rest of your community will have a safe path to travel to these locations in a new way – without a car.

Our One Mile is an initiative of the Freshwater Land Trust, funded through the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership. This Spring, the Partnership received Federal funding to combat obesity and to improve tobacco cessation efforts throughout the county—all part of their mission to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone. Our One Mile will improve the community’s health by creating a comprehensive and implementable greenway master plan for the county, identifying both shovel ready projects and the funding to make them happen. The master plan is expected to be completed in early 2012.

Here’s a short video about Our One Mile.

Our One Mile from jason hamric on Vimeo.

So take a few minutes Tuesday at 5:30 and be there. For your health. For your community.

>Response to Western Star bigotry

November 24, 2010

>Bessemer’s Western Star is published by Trib Publications, Inc., and their president, Bob Tribble, exhibited his lack of education and his bigotry in a recent editorial. You can read it here.

Three letters appeared in today’s Western Star in response. One is from me, the others are from Elisa Macon and Trey Noland. This will make for a long blog post, but I am posting all three letters here. Click “Read more” to view the letters.

Trey Noland is a former Assembly of God minister and foreign missionary.

Dear Editor,

In his editorial regarding the repealing of DADT, Mr. Tribble manages to present himself as level-headed and makes sense until the last 4 paragraphs of the letter. That is where his logic is replaced by superstition (disguised as faith).

Mr. Tribble, as do many religious men and women, begins to claim to know what “God calls” and what “God wishes”. I would say Mr. Tribble may know as much about God as he does about gays. Just like his knowledge of gays is obviously prejudiced, here-say, and stereotyped perception (it’s ridiculous to claim all gays are covering up misery and unable to find peace)…so his understanding of God is prejudiced by his own perceptions and what others have told him about God.

Now, that’s a common human trait and not so horrible in and of itself. However, Mr. Tribble is going beyond just believing something…he is using his personal understanding and beliefs to condemn others.

There are only seven scriptures which address homosexuality in the Bible. Every one of those scriptures refer to either rape, sexual idolatry, or pederasty between two people of the same sex.

There was no concept of modern-day, committed, monogamous gay relationships…not to mention any understanding by Biblical authors of recent advancements in science that suggest one’s orientation is innate and unchangeable. Even if one believes the Bible to be without error, it is arrogant to believe your understanding is without error. Mr. Tribble and other Christians (myself included) need to keep this in mind before we speak out in condemnation of others.

Trey Noland

**********

Elisa Macon is a Birmingham Realtor, and former educator.

Dear Editor,

A recent letter writer spoke in support of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Please allow me to offer a different opinion.

It is wrong to expect our distinguished men and women in uniform to lie about who God made them to be. There is no honor in suppression of the truth. Therefore, DADT is wrong. Period.

The letter writer continued to share his opinion of homosexuality. He stated opinion as fact, and he was wrong on at least three very important points:

1. “The Bible is clear about homosexuality.” This is a false statement. As all Biblical scholars know, the King James version of the Bible is a translation from original language, and there was no term related to sexual minorities when the Bible was written. The translation of “homosexual” in Romans is from a word meaning “weak-spirited” and referred to those who refused to acknowledge Christ in public. The passage from Leviticus is also often quoted, but those who follow Christ know that He said the law (Leviticus) is to be put away, and He is the new high priest. Those laws were to a specific people at a specific time of near-extinction, and no one obeys these laws today (unless you sacrificed a calf on your front lawn last Saturday). There are in fact beautiful homosexual love stories in the Bible, including Jonathan and David. Read it for yourself. Finally, Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with homosexuality, but with inhospitality and greed; again, stop taking passages out of context and read the whole Bible for yourself.

2. “Homosexuality is a sin.” This is a false statement. Sin is an act, not a state of being. For instance, according to the Bible, judging and condemning others is a sin, because it is a chosen act; but Jesus himself embraced diversity in making sure we understood that there is no male or female, no Jew or Greek, but that we are all the same in God’s eyes. Homosexuality and other sexual minorities are just beautiful diversities in creation, like height and hair color. Though redheads are in the minority, it is not a sin to be born red-headed. It is a sin, however, to turn souls away from Christ’s love through discrimination, as this letter-writer has done.

3. “Gay lifestyles can never produce peace and happiness in their hearts.” This is a false statement. First, gay is not a “lifestyle” any more than being short or tall is a “lifestyle”- again, it is a creation by God. But those who are living God’s will for their lives are filled with the fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace- whether gay or straight. The only misery comes from denying who God made you to be. This letter-writer obviously lives in misery, but there is no misery in truth. God blesses and loves his gay children who have the courage to acknowledge Him and be honest about who He created them to be.

This letter writer would do well to observe Jesus’ commandments to love God with all his heart and love his neighbor as himself. This includes everyone- every “whosoever” God ever made.

Elisa Macon

**********

My letter. Y’all know who I am.

Dear Editor,

A recent editorial in the Western Star (written by their out of state owner) urges congress and the military to keep the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in place.

The writer bases his position on the errant belief that military chaplains would have to leave the service if they could not preach against homosexuality. As the acting chairperson of Equality Alabama I feel that this issue should be addressed, but it was another statement in the editorial that motivates me to respond.

“Homosexuals call themselves gay but that is only an attempt to cover up their misery. Gay lifestyles can never produce peace and happiness in their hearts,” the writer says.

Across this state gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are leading happy and fulfilled lives, some in partnered relationships, and others as singles.

To assume that all gays are trying to “cover up their misery” is ludicrous, and stems from outdated mid 20th century beliefs that homosexuality is a mental disease, which we now know it is not.

It is true that some gays suffer from low self esteem and depression but so do some heterosexuals. And many of the problems that those gays have stem from the uneducated and hateful rhetoric they hear from people like this editorial writer.

At a time when anti-gay bullying and LGBT teen suicides are in the news, one would think that an editorial writer could show more compassion and sensitivity toward their gay readers.

As for the issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, 75% of Americans (ABC News/Washington Post 2010), including 60% of churchgoers (Gallup, 2009) are in favor of repeal. The recently leaked military survey reveals that those currently serving are also comfortable with lifting the ban, and that there will be little if any effect on the operations or effectiveness of our military.

Let’s base our support for repealing the policy, or lack thereof, on whether it would affect military readiness and on the wishes of the American people, not on hateful rhetoric based on decades old research.

LGBT soldiers are serving and are dying for our country now. If they can die for our country, they should be able to do so without being asked to lie about who they are. Where is the honor in that? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be repealed now.

Joe Openshaw
Equality Alabama Interim Chairperson
Bessemer, Alabama

>The vigil and the editorial

November 22, 2010

>Over the weekend I spoke at the vigil held in memory of Tre’ Juan Figures, the 12 year old Anniston boy who killed himself one year ago after being pressured by gang members to join their group, and bullied because he wouldn’t join.

The speakers were Jason Childs, founder and director of Center for Progress in Alabama, State Representative Barbara Boyd, Grace Episcopal Church (Anniston) Youth Minister Andy Harris, and myself, Joe Openshaw, Interim Chair for Equality Alabama.

Jason Childs speaking at the vigil

Jason Childs organized the event to honor Tre’s memory and to bring attention to the continuing problem of bullying in this state.

State Representative Barbara Boyd told of her own experiences with bullying as a child and encouraged others with her story of success and how she overcame the perils of her childhood.

Andy Harris spoke about the choices we make stressing that we can (and should) choose kindness. He also spoke of his parents, both of whom took their own lives.

Jason Childs shared that when he was asked why he was holding a vigil for a child he didn’t even know and was asked what Tre’ was to him, he had to answer, “Nothing. That’s the problem.”

He explained that he will never know the difference this boy could have made as an adult, what he would have become, what the world is missing because of this loss, what the true cost of his untimely passing is.

I spoke about Equality Alabama’s efforts in getting Alabama’s anti-harassment policies strengthened, and said that this one tragedy was enough, we don’t need another tragedy to remind us that something needs to be done.

Here are my remarks.

Tre Juan Figures Vigil http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=43620284&access_key=key-2mor88p7uueube9ile88&page=1&viewMode=list

Tre’s mother gave an emotional interview to the media. Here is Jason Childs and Veronica McGee, Tre’s mom.

Here is a story about the event on ABC 33/40, and here is one from CBS 42, where you can read about or watch video of Ms. McGee.

Also

Also over the weekend my editorial that I wrote for the Mobile Press-Register was printed and posted online, here.

The editorial also covers bullying among teens, but also the bullying that occurs in the military because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Thank you Frances Coleman of the Press Register for asking me to do this.

This editorial has gotten at least 38 facebook posts, by far the most of any Press Register editorial of late, including those concerning the oil spill. To me this means that this is an issue of major importance to the public. The more people that read and understand these issues, the more pressure will be put of our state legislators and school board members, and on congress regarding DADT, to make a change. Please share.

>Business as usual

November 19, 2010

>Bessemer Opinions poll responders are pretty smart, it seems.

I asked what would happen in Congress over the next two years.

39% said it would be business as usual. Only 3% predicted the Republicans and Democrats would work together.

Of course, the new congress is not even seated yet, but the lame ducks certainly aren’t showing an indication of cooperation. Get the Tea Partiers in there and there won’t be a chance of cooperation.

Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits in the house. This is their way of saying “Merry Christmas,” to 2 million families that will have no assistance coming to them during the holidays.

I predict the more compassionate Democrats will still be able to get the benefits passed…probably a week after they expire at the end of this month.

Now let’s see if the Republicans are willing to compromise on the tax cuts. They can’t give a few billion to struggling families, but they are willing to give hundreds of billions to the nation’s wealthiest.

There are many studies that show unemployment benefits act as more of a stimulus to the economy than tax breaks because those receiving the benefits spend the money on goods and services thus creating a need for production, while tax breaks to the wealthy obviously don’t create jobs. I mean, look around you. Those tax breaks have been in place the entire time our economy was spiraling down, and while we have been in the slow recovery, and they aren’t creating jobs now, so why should we think they would if they are extended?

I shudder to think what America will look like after the new congress begins to dismantle the economy. Let’s enjoy ourselves while we can.

Adele

Twenty two year old Adele is set to release her second album, 21, in January 2011 (February in the U.S.).

This album has heavy influence from the American south and country music. She had never been exposed to country music until her group took a tour through the south.

She’s a Grammy winning songwriter and powerful singer whose video’s I’ve featured before.

Here’s a song from that album, performed November 16 on Later…with Jools Holland.

>In a cave

November 18, 2010

>The Alabama Baptist Convention yesterday passed a resolution calling on President Obama to “abandon his efforts to normalize homosexuality in the United States Military.”

I don’t know what to say. Me? Speechless?

I mean, it’s to be expected from a group that doesn’t accept that science and medicine consider us normal and that, as their newly elected leader said yesterday, “are often characterized by what they condemn, such as homosexual behavior.”

If the Baptists would only treat homosexuality like Jesus did. Oh, wait. Jesus didn’t say anything about it. Not a single word. (Other than his interaction with this gay man). Are you listening, Baptists?

I am about ready to propose a resolution opposing Southern Baptists.

Since they seem to live in cave, metaphorically, I will send them this song.

Mumford and Sons – The Cave

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

>Today’s council meeting

November 16, 2010

>Finances

At last week’s Bessemer City Council meeting a lot of numbers were thrown out. One was that the Library account, which is funded by the 3.5 mil library bond passed by voters years ago, had a balance of $1.4 million.

Upon further investigation (get used to hearing this term), it was discovered that there was only $764,987.19 in the account.

Hmmmm.

Upon further investigation, it was determined that on September 20, 2010, that $325,000 was transferred from the account, and on October 14, 2010, $450,000 was transferred from the account.

Both of these transfers were made in order for the city to meet payroll and payroll expenses. The transfers were authorized by former mayor Ed May, but were not authorized by or known to the city council. There is some question as to the legality of the transfers, both from the standpoint of granting authority, but also as to whether the money, voted on by the citizens to be used for library purposes, can be used for other purposes.

Council President Jesse Matthews suggested that the mayor look back further to see if such transfers were made during previous years.

Mayor Ken Gulley has asked the council to meet with him in a workday session on fiscal issues. He said some “harsh decisions” will have to be considered but that he will not “sugarcoat” or “exaggerate” the situation as he informs the public.

Judges speak before council

Today is Judge Annetta Verin‘s last day as a Bessemer municipal judge, and she and Judge Scott Roebuck, Bessemer’s other municipal judge, spoke to the council about their duties, their dockets, and what the council should look for in a candidate to replace Judge Verin.

Judge Verin was recently elected to a Circuit Court position.


Judge Roebuck watches as Judge Verin speaks to the mayor and council

Judge Verin suggested that her replacement be someone who has (1) practiced law, (2) has a passion for the job, including domestic violence, (3) have certain qualities, i.e. honesty, integrity, dignity and respect. Judge Roebuck agreed and added that a judge should have a vested interest in the city and in the community. Both Judge Roebuck and Judge Verin live in the city of Bessemer.

I know some who have applied for this position, and I know who I would place in the position if I were in a position to do so. Someone who meets all those qualifications. I’ll let the council members know.

>Bandelier National Monument

November 12, 2010

>Back in September I was planning to post some pictures and a bit about our trip to New Mexico. Boring, I know, but some news story happened that bumped it.

So, instead I will bore you today.

We visited Bandelier National Monument which is a mostly natural area whose cliffs and canyons were formed long long ago by volcanic ash.

We didn’t know it, but when we drove up we learned that the park was having their grand reopening and admission was free that day. Dignitaries included several governors of nearby Pueblos and staff members from Senator’s offices that were involved in the planning of the upgrade to the Visitor Center and other areas.


Local Native Americans performed. These are the drummers that supplied the rhythm for the dancers.


And these are the dancers.


While hiking along the main loop trail we came across this deer that didn’t seem to mind us at all.

The high elevation wildflowers were beautiful.


The Ancestral Pueblo dwellings were carved in the mountainside. This house was accessible by ladder after climbing a trail leading up the cliff. Some of the houses had petroglyphs carved on the inside walls.

There were several artists with their work on display and for sale. This young woman makes these figures from the root wood of cottonwood and other types of trees.

This bird watched us eat lunch.

This was my second trip to Bandelier, but I hope it won’t be my last. There is a lot more to see, and there are other seasons of the year to visit. This trip was in the summer. I’ve gone in the fall, when there was snow in the higher elevations, but I would like to be in Bandelier when snow is falling. And again in the spring when the springtime flowers are blooming.

I like to imagine I’m one of the Ancestral men, oh, about 19 years old, 10,000 years ago, wandering through the woods and climbing the cliffs and ladders. Finding a private place down the stream in the woods or among the cliffs, with my male friend from the Pueblo. No Christian mis-interpretation or hateful politicians, just two early Native persons doing what is natural for them.

>Thanks

November 11, 2010

>Today is Veteran’s Day and we honor those who have served our country. In Bessemer a Veteran’s Day program will take place at 12:00 noon at Watermark Place at the Discovery Alabama Event Center. Retired Col. Dan Fagan U. S. Air Force will be the speaker. Lunch will be available.

In Birmingham the nation’s oldest Veterans Day Parade takes place beginning at 1:30 starting near Linn Park on 19th Street.

This picture is of my father, a World War II Veteran. Thank you dad, for serving our country. The United States exists today because of your generation.


He fought in the Rhineland, in the Central Europe campaign, and then in Luzon in the Pacific Theater. He received the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Here is a video honoring all Veterans, including one from Alabama.

Here is a preview of songwriter Tom Goss’s new single Lover which will be released November 18.

The song tells the story of a gay man whose partner is killed in battle.

Thank a Veteran today.

>A big hubbub over the hub

November 10, 2010

>Last night I attended a public hearing mediated by a judge that was part of the process necessary for Norfolk Southern to build their railroad hub in the McCalla area. I had attended the first two public meetings, and thought that since the “McCalla residents” have had over a year to familiarize themselves with the proposed facility they would be more reasoned in their opposition.

Boy was I wrong.

I neglected to take into account that most of them are white Republicans, so they are conditioned to opposing everything, by their Republican leaders in Washington and by their Tea Party leaders, who ignored facts and relied on misinformation to propel like minded folks to office in the recent election.

It worked in the election. It didn’t work last night.

Most of the questions asked by the public have already been answered either at other public forums or in the Environmental Assessment that has been available for several weeks.

But they haven’t read that. And from talking with several of them, they don’t intend to. They act as though reading 500 pages is an impossible task, and maybe for some of them it is.

Incidentally, there are several thousand people in McCalla, and there were less than 100 at this meeting protesting the facility. A noisy minority, like, again, the Tea Party.

Several of the people asking questions made it a point to blame Bessemer for their problems.

“Is the City of Bessemer represented?” asked the first person. Part of the road from the interstate to the proposed entry to the hub is owned and maintained by Bessemer. and apparently that part of the road needs some repair, and widening.

The next person to ask a question actually said, “The problem is Bessemer.”

I do agree that the City of Bessemer should have been represented at the meeting. This is a huge project that promises to bring hundreds or thousands of jobs to the city. Wake up Bessemer, get on board!

One of the men on the panel answering questions did mention that Bessemer has new leadership and the people from Bessemer that frustrated them for the past few years are gone, so they should approach Bessemer again about upgrading the road. (Maybe they should wait a month or two until some of the dust settles at city hall).

But the most ridiculous question award goes to the man who, with kids in tow, asked for a “100% guarantee” that nothing would happen at the facility that could harm his children. Judge Art Hanes, the moderator, didn’t even let the question get to the panel. He said, “No,” that they can’t do that and that nothing is 100%.

“Then why risk it?” the man replied, and the McCalla hub-bubbas applauded.

My questions to that man, and to those who applauded are these.

1. Is the school bus that you put your child on every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?

2. Is the school room that your child sits in every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?

3. Is bringing a child into this world 100% safe? Then why risk it?

I overheard one lady who had concerns about terrorism and security. Norfolk Southern’s security will be state of the art as far as access to the facility. But I would hate to live in such fear as some of these people seem to do. Muslims, terrorists, gays! Oh my!

Here are some things that have been ignored by the anti-progress people.

Norfolk Southern will spend $100 million dollars ($97.5 million actually) on the facility. That’s a lot of money being invested in west Jefferson County.

Hundreds or maybe even a thousand or so jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project. A few hundred jobs will be created at the facility once it opens and thousands of jobs at warehouses and distribution facilities will be created also.

Over the next 10 years the economic impact is estimated to be $4 billion.

As a result of the facility there will be fewer emissions (by trucks) and less wear and tear on our highways and a smaller carbon footprint.

Here is system engineer for facilities for Norfolk Southern Charlie McMillan explaining the security aspects of the facility.

Norfolk Southern public relations head Rudy Husband explained to the group why Norfolk Southern cannot make promises about community enhancements at this point in the process.

Speaking of the process, this was the third public meeting, and now the concerns brought up will (once again) be addressed and by December a final approval by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration should be set.

And here is the project schedule. Site work could begin in May of 2011 and the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility should be complete by October 2012.

Hey McCalla – I hear the train a comin’.

Here’s the best railroad song written.

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues