North Carolina’s favorite conservative columnist, Wilmington’s Mike Adams, brought back some fond memories of my days at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) today.

In his most recent column at TownHall.com, Adams rants and raves in his usual sarcastic, smart-ass-style against UNCG’s Speech and Hearing Center’s courses for transgender people undergoing transition. He brought back one of his trademark digs. Welcome to the return of “UNC-Gomorrah.” Continue reading this post…

Yeah, I forgot to post it. With all this Equality Ride stuff, I’ve just been way too busy. Here it is, as published on Tuesday, March 13, 2007:

Showing our strength
HRC Carolinas dinner shines bright

by Matt Hill Comer, Don’t Ask (I’m Telling)
Issue date: 3/13/07 Section: Opinions

No amount of protest could stop it. No amount of outcry against it could prevent it. On Saturday, February 24, 2007, over 1500 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight allied people from North and South Carolina converged on Charlotte, NC, for the twelfth annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Carolinas Gala.

Hosted at the Charlotte Convention Center, the dinner included an outstanding performance from Jennifer Holliday, the original Broadway star in Dream Girls and a stunning keynote address which served to be more like stand-up comedy night from the acclaimed comedian and actor Leslie Jordan (Sordid Lives, Will & Grace). The dinner attendees were also privy to what can be described as nothing but a brilliantly empowering and exciting political address from Joe Solmonese, the president of HRC and a special, surprise performance by pop/dance singer Amber, who sang her wonderful renditions of “If You Could Read My Mind” and “This is Your Night.”

North and South Carolina hardly seem to be the places in the nation where a top-level, star-studded, gay extravaganza could be held. You also would not think that our two little “red states” would play host to the largest HRC-affiliated evening dinner & fundraiser in the entire United States. Indeed, the HRC Carolinas Gala was so large that it beat out the national HRC dinner held in Washington, DC, every year.

I’ve been privileged to attend the HRC Carolinas Gala three times, first in 2004, then last year and again this year. Each time I have the chance to attend the dinner (something I hope to make a yearly tradition), I come back to Greensboro and Winston-Salem feeling empowered and refreshed. It is an absolutely wonderful feeling to be surrounded by like-minded people who believe in the struggle for full equality for LGBT people as much as I do.

The HRC Gala is much more than a simple dinner. In attending, I have the chance to meet and spend time with friends and colleagues from across the state. We get to chat it up with the leaders of our social justice movement, shoot around ideas for new activities, events and activism projects and catch up on all the latest, on-the-ground news of the current state and strength of the fight we know is right, the fight we know we will win.

While 1500 committed activists and supporters for equality enjoyed their evening safely inside the convention center, controversy expounded outside. A radical, right-wing Christian activist group known as Operation Save America and led by the Reverend Flip Benham, based out of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg metro area, held huge signs printed with Bible verses which, supposedly, condemn homosexuality and blasted their hate-filled and bigoted rhetoric through loud speakers. They even had the gall to get their protest permit for the corner of Stonewall and South College Street, the very corner in downtown Charlotte which Gala attendees would have to pass in order to get from the Westin Hotel to the entrance of the convention center.

Walking through the throng of wild-eyed crazies was tough enough, but then came the best part. The “fearless leader” of the band of radicals stood right in front of the entrance to the convention center. He looked right at me and said that I needed Jesus and needed to be saved.

“I’m already saved, sir, and Jesus is my Saviour,” I responded.

“Oh, no he isn’t son!” He exclaimed.

“Shut up!” I heard an elderly women scream toward Benham as I walked away.

All I could do was laugh and I did so, almost uncontrollably.

Echoing the statements of Leslie Jordan, I must say that it is refreshing to see the Irreligious Wrong so upset over the victories we know we will be making in this struggle for equality in years to come. They know we are winning and we are winning because we are right!

Empowering and refreshing, that the dinner was. The time spent having fun with friends and eating the fantastic dinner, meeting the other youth active and committed to the struggle for equality and going out afterward for a night on the town was definitely a great way to spend my weekend.

If you ever get the chance to attend the HRC Carolinas Gala, I hope that you will and I’m sure you’ll find the experience as invigorating as I did. It isn’t too expensive to go, especially if you apply for the youth “scholarship” award, which pays for youth ages 18-24 to attend the dinner (that is definitely the only reason I got to go).

You’ll come back feeling empowered and ready to continue our common goal to finally realize a day when all are equal, regardless of sexual orientation and gender-identity.

See the original online edition at CarolinianOnline.com

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Saturday: Busy Day… all over the state

Today is a busy day, for sure.

I have to pack some clothes and other things I’ll need for my stay overnight at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, NC, then head to Greensboro for my presentation on the Soulforce Equality Ride at the General Assembly of the state-wide UNC Association of Student Governments.

After that, I head down to Charlotte, NC, with my good friend and colleague Chris Cannon for the 2007 Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala at the Charlotte Convention Center.

We’ll leave around 1:30pm and get to the hotel by 3pm (I certainly hope we’ll be settled no later than 4:00pm). I’ll have some time to take a shower and get dressed in my fancy, cool tuxedo and then head to a news interview outside the convention center at 5:30 (if it doesn’t get canceled). After all that, I’ll finally get to go inside the convention center, check in to the Gala’s registration desk and schmooze for an hour before dinner is served and the program begins.

I think Chris and I have plans to go out on the town after the Gala. Either that or will hit up one of the free after-parties either in the convention center or the hotel.

I’ll then be back to Winston on Sunday.

Phew…

I’ll have my computer with me and I’ll surely be taking plenty of photos, but don’t expect me to be replying to any emails at least until Sunday evening or Monday.

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Guest Contribution: ‘One Word: Peace’

So… InterstateQ.com has its first Guest Contribution. Thanks to Micah Beasley, UNCG student for submitting to us his guest column he submitted to The Carolinian (UNCG). Micah’s guest column is in response to the guest column by Jason Crawford, entitled “The Matt Hill Comer problem,” published a couple weeks ago (see more about the aftermath here). Unfortunately, The Carolinian website has not yet been updated, so I can’t provide you the link to the online publication of Micah’s guest column, but he has sent me the full text for posting here.

One Word: Peace
by Micah Beasley

Submitted as a guest column to The Carolinian (UNCG), Issue 2/6/07

In light of Mr. Crawford’s thoughts on homosexuality that warranted two responses in the editorial section, I feel the need to offer my opinions on our society as a whole and how it affects those of us with so-called “alternate” lifestyles. I will not take the route of picking apart Bible verses; I believe that they change nothing. In my opinion, what these misplaced scriptural references do accomplish is to further discrimination and hate against homosexuals, a hate that leads to sign yielding radicals proclaiming, “AIDS cures fags.” I do not know when this started, but in this society the basic human right of respect has perished. When did America, the supposed land of freedom, prosperity, and acceptance become a society where you can be met with cruelty and harm because of your personal lifestyle?

I am not unpatriotic, but I am not proud of the society we live in today. Rather, I am disgusted by this society. Disgusted, because our country is running rampant with intolerance. Disgusted, because there are people out there in personal turmoil who are afraid to love because they fear they will be victimized.

I am in constant disbelief that there are those who have socialized younger generations into believing that we are not all created equal and that certain individuals should be ostracized for any reason, let alone their sexual orientation. Fortunately, though, there is hope. It lies within one simple word, peace. The ultimate gift that one human can offer to another. However this word and the ideas behind it have been left trampled upon and forgotten. It is no longer a mainstream thought for Americans. I no longer witness it in our relations with foreign nations and especially with the disregard for nations that really need our help, such as Darfur. We spread democracy, but not peace. I also certainly do not see it amongst my fellow Americans.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Mrs. Judy Shepard at UNC-Chapel Hill. Mrs. Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, who was heinously beaten to death simply because he was a homosexual. It was a shock to our nation, yet nothing was done to prevent it from happening again. Everyone turned their heads. What followed were similar crimes that received less media attention and affected less Americans. Mrs. Shepard urged homosexuals to tell their stories in attempts to further the acceptance of diversity and addressed how imperative it is that heterosexuals fight for gay rights. She commended those who have already done so, but blamed the society that meets diversity with hate—this same society that raised these two men to think it was perfectly acceptable to take a young man’s life.

I stand behind her thoughts whole-heartedly. Intolerance is at our doorsteps America. Will we continue to turn our head the other way, or will we finally face this problem, head on, and fight against oppression? In the words of Mrs. Shepard, “our voices are beautiful,” and they will be heard. I would like to encourage everyone to visit the Matthew Shepard Foundation at http://www.matthewshepard.org to learn how you can “replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.”

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Have an interesting writing? Want to give your wicked awesome opinion on the latest news or controversy? We accept Guest Contributors! In fact, we LOVE them! To email your writing or for questions or inquiries, contact me.

NOTE (02/11/2007 1:15am): The video below was only a preview of a more in-depth, well-researched and presented video. After learning of some very important and interesting information regarding the adoption of a completely new constitution for UNCASG, the focus of the video will be changing a bit. The interviews in the video preview below may or may not be included in the final video version.

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Many of you may remember, especially after I included it in the 2006 wrap-up, the big controversy surrounding a proposal in The University of North Carolina Association of Students Governments back in April 2006.

UNCASG is the state-wide student government and student advocacy organization representing each of the 16 UNC campuses and over 200,000 students. The group is entirely student-run and directed and funded directly from fees collected from each and every UNC System student.

The April 2006 proposal brought to UNCASG’s General Assembly was presented by me and was primarily a proposal arising from the UNCG Student Government Association. The proposal would have amended UNCASG’s constitutional Equal Opportunity Clause to include sexual orientation, gender, gender-identity/expression and socio-economic status. Of course, the majority of the debate centered around sexual orientation.

A couple of days ago I was finally able to buy my digital video camera and I got the editing software from Sony to go with it. Here is the a preview of the first video I’m committing myself to making. The video offers some more detail on the proposal and has some short comments from students and how they feel about the proposal. When the video is done, I hope to have something that can be used to help motivate students at each of the 16 campuses to urge UNCASG to push for this Equal Opportunity Clause change.

Watch the preview… more details coming later with the full video (as soon as it is done).

Past posts on UNCASG

Everyone remember last week’s guest column, “The Matt Hill Comer problem,” written by Jason Crawford in UNCG’s Carolinian? Remember how he said that I was a person “prostituted to a cause which wrecks the lives of other human beings,” and that, “In the wink of an eye, God can frown into hell all those rebels like Matt Hill Comer, the members of PRIDE!, and all those administrators and students that have foolishly desecrated what the King calls sacred”?

Remember when I said that the community discussion it prompted would serve as a test to see if UNCG and Greensboro were as open, accepting and welcoming of the LGBT community as it says it is?

Well… All you have to do is look at this week’s numerous letters to the editor and another – yes, another – guest opinions column.

Snippets provided below (if the links to The Carolinian don’t work at first – if the pop up with a DNS error or something – just refresh the page, then it will work):

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Christians: Christianity’s biggest flaw?
by Sarah Benedek, Guest Column

Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” I’m certain that when he made this statement, he had people like Jason Crawford in mind.

Mr. Crawford’s guest column, “The Matt Hill Comer Problem,” was ridiculous and offensive. (I’m going to refer to Mr. Crawford as Jason. He may have a problem uttering the names of people he finds reprehensible, but I don’t.) Not only did Jason’s column come out of nowhere, but it managed to simultaneously drag someone’s name through the mud who has done nothing to deserve it while validating the concerns of many who oppose Christianity. Congratulations Jason, you’ve helped your religion take two giant steps backwards.

I’m not defending or condemning what Matt does or does not do in his personal life. Personally, I don’t get the concept of a gay Christian, but you know what? It’s not my business. It’s no one’s business but said gay Christians. It’s especially not Jason’s business.

Last time I checked, “Jason Crawford” was not synonymous with “God.” Jason has no right to judge or condemn. Jason says that, “true love demands somebody get in (Matt’s) face.” I’m guessing that “true love” does not include slander or writing disparaging columns. For someone that “hates to name names,” Jason does a pretty good job of doing exactly that, even including Matt’s name in the headline.

Read the full column…

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Discrimination against gays not ok
by Samantha Korb, Letter to the Editor

A few days ago I read Mr. Crawford’s guest column “The Matt Hill Comer Problem.” Mr. Crawford’s column invoked the feelings of hate I and my fellow LGBTQI brothers and sisters have had to face because of who we are. Mr. Crawford called us, Matt Hill Comer, and all LGBTQI people desecrations from the King. My God is one who loves all, regardless of who we love.

Read the full letter…

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Crawford’s got it all wrong
by Caitlin Stroud, Letter to the Editor

I was outraged when I read in last week’s Carolinian a guest column entitled “The Matt Hill Comer Problem” by Jason Crawford. I am on the Student Government Association legislative board with Matt and I am also a member of PRIDE!, so I found this column doubly insulting. It is in poor taste to openly attack someone like that based on your standards of what is good, let alone an entire community of people.

Read the full letter…

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Our doors are opened: UNCG PRIDE! makes an official statement promoting tolerance and open-mindedness
by The Executive Board of UNCG PRIDE!, Guest Column/Published Statement

The previous edition of The Carolinian published a guest column by Jason Crawford. Since its publication, many people have come to the Executive Board of PRIDE! to see if we are going to take any action. We have been discussing what would be the most efficient way to get our point across. Our message is not to deliberately offend anybody for their beliefs, values, or lifestyle; it is intended for the people who were angered and disheartened by the distasteful guest column written by Jason Crawford.

We would like to clarify some assumptions that could have been made from reading the article, “The Matt Hill Comer Problem.” Matt Hill Comer has not been an active member of UNCG PRIDE! since September. Secondly, it can only be assumed that Mr. Crawford was using Matt as a scapegoat for what he really meant to say. Although he did mention Matt by name, he put emphasis on the whole entire GLBTQA community. Nobody will ever know whether or not this was his true intention, but we all can speculate.

Read the full statement/column…

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Not the same idea of non-violence
by Leehe Shmueli, Letter to the Editor
related to another guest column last week, “No tears need to be shed for Greensboro.”

In response to Mr. Ivey’s column comparing Mr. Comer’s acts of nonviolence to the antiwar demonstration in downtown Greensboro, I can only say this: The two hardly compare.

As a colleague and friend of Mr. Comer, I can honestly attest to the fact that his view of nonviolence is not near to that of Mr. Ivey’s. The two columns give your readers two very different opinions of the principle and I hope they see the differences.

Mr. Comer believes that nonviolence is a complete way of living and state of mind, whereas Mr. Ivey clearly admits his belief that nonviolence is only a tactic. Mr. Ivey also sanctions the use of violence in retaliation to violence. This is not the King and Gandhi-inspired principle of nonviolence. It certainly isn’t the view of nonviolence through which Gandhi successfully led the movement to rid India of British occupation.

Read the full letter…

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I have to say… I think The Carolinian has had a good run this year. Plenty of discussion and conversation for sure.

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Updates: “The Matt Hill Comer problem”

Quick updates on “The Matt Hill Comer problem” and what has seemed to become an internet, campus and community controversy…

Good friend and fellow blogger Pam Spaulding saw fit to post about the column on her site, along with her always wonderful, never lacking commentary. Thanks to the commenters there.

My friend and fellow Equality Rider, Cylest, is upset over the Mr. Crawford’s words.

Apparently, I’m a rock-star and a good Southern Gentleman. Thanks ExHack.

I’m also going to be the first openly gay President. Thanks Alan.

Commenter Regan DuCasse has some things to say to Mr. Crawford in this post’s comment thread.

According to “the rules” (The Carolinian‘s Code of Ethics) I’m not allowed to directly respond to any published letter to the editor or guest column. I made the mistake of doing that in the first post on this issue, and quickly corrected it when chastised by my editors. I thank Mr. Crawford for taking the time to comment directly to me on my site. I’ve enjoyed the very calm, polite and very Biblically-based, intellectually-stimulating conversation. If, at first, I doubted my ability to have a very calm, polite and Biblically-based discussion with another person with views on homosexuality so different from my own, I am now convinced that I’m adequately prepared to do it (although it wouldn’t hurt to study more).

Some choice comments regarding the column:

Hunter at The Carolinian‘s site
History has also shown that ‘seismic changes’ are almost always initiated by forward thinking, progressive individuals, not those who yearn to move backwards. We have come a long way in reaching greater equality for individuals suffering under oppression because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. – an oppression that was and is often enforced by the teachings of Christianity and other religions – however we still live in a world of injustice and inequality based upon unchosen traits. If you choose to follow the strict language of the Bible (a book you must acknowledge has been printed by mortal humans for centuries) you cannot pick and choose your morals. To follow this word of God directly, then you must agree that human slaves are acceptable, women are subordinate to men, and so on, enforcing many specifically-mentioned ethical obligations that much of our society has come to view as highly objectionable. Hopefully, through the hard work of people like Matt and PRIDE!, those that identify with a variety of sexual orientations will someday become accepted as they are.

Fellow Equality Rider, Bram (a straight ally) in the first post’s comment thread
Mr. Crawford,
You must be careful with the words you use because it is important to choose ones that accurately describe a given situation. Considering the context and reality of Genesis 19, the drive of gang rape is one of power, domination, and humiliation and has nothing to do with homosexuality as we are discussing it, here and now in the 21st century. No gay Christian would advocate gang rape.

Also, we could play the “pick and choose” verse game all day. This was how slavery, racism, sexism, etc. have been justified in our recent past. We’ll take our prejudices and justify them with Bible verses. All you need is to be well-read, analytical, intellectual and to possess an extreme desire to be “right” no matter what. There are many mysteries about God and the faith and it is wise to remember that. So I could retaliate back with a comment about suggesting that you continue reading Romans past verse 1:18 and see what Paul says about judgment. But I’m sure you’ll fire back with something else. And on and on we go.

But what is the point? While you may be very convinced that you are correct, can you not see that Matt and I could continue this conversation endlessly defending our position as well? I am a straight Christian who grew up hearing EVERYTHING you are putting forth…it is not a “herald” who eloquently summarizes the status quo as you have done. True prophetic voices are those who speak truth when very few believe it to be true or understand it. It takes little intelligence and bravery to regurgitate beliefs that have been ingrained in church-members and society for generations. The traditional views of homosexuality are pretty well known. We’ve heard them. Listen for a new voice of truth…every great change in human history was radical at first.

Many friends, community members, UNCG faculty members and at least one person in the media has approached me to discuss the column (I never really discussed it with the media… I can’t directly respond, remember?). From what I’m told, many of my friends and colleagues have opted to write letters to the editor. UNCG PRIDE!, our campus LGBT student group, also drafted an official, organizational, Executive Board-endorsed and General Body-notified statement regarding the column (more details on that when and/or if it becomes public).

This community discussion and dialogue is only a test… a test to see if UNCG is as open and as accepting and as welcoming of the LGBT community as it says it is.

All in one issue… all in one fell swoop. Two guest columns this week in The Carolinian, one focused on the evil of homosexuality, the other in response to one of my previous columns.

The first, written by a former member of the UNCG College Republicans states that I am a person “prostituted to a cause which wrecks the lives of other human beings.” Later in the column, the writer states, “In the wink of an eye, God can frown into hell all those rebels like Matt Hill Comer, the members of PRIDE!, and all those administrators and students that have foolishly desecrated what the King calls sacred.” Check out “The Matt Hill Comer problem: Where is God when smart people go bad?

The other, written by a member of the UNCG International Socialists Organization is in response to my column last week. Check out “No tears need to be shed for Greensboro.”

P.S. & Clarification – I am no longer affiliated with UNCG’s LGBT student group, PRIDE!. To be honest, I believe I’ve missed enough meetings, technically, to not be counted as a member anymore. Yup, according to the president of the group, I’m no longer an “active member,” in accordance with the group’s attendance regulations and constitution.

[Editor’s Note: Post edited on Thursday, 1/25/2007, 10:15am; Originally posted Wednesday, 1/24/2007, 12:36am ~Matt]

The Reverend Doctor Joseph Lowery, often referred to as the “Dean” of the Civil Rights Movement, was the keynote speaker at UNCG’s 21st annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Wednesday, January 17, 2007.

In a packed Cone Ballroom (seating capacity 700 people) in UNCG’s Elliott University Center, the Reverend Lowery spoke on being “Chaplains of the Common Good” and of “applying Martin’s healing salve to the ‘affected areas’ of life and society in America.”

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AUDIO: The Reverend Doctor Joseph Lowery, UNCG, January 17, 2007 (1 hour, 2 minutes)

The audio recording above, including both the Reverend Joseph Lowery’s speech and the Question and Answer period runs at approximately 1 hour and 2 minutes and is no where near 100% professional. While it is hard to hear him, at times, I tried to do the best I could in getting it (I was sitting in the middle of the audience and sometimes the laughter is just to the point of being louder than him).

If you like or if no embedded audio player appears above, Click here to listen or right click and “Save Link As” or “Save Target As” to download and save to your computer.

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Joseph LoweryThe Reverend was amazing. His speech really can’t be classified as anything but the classic, moving and aw-inspiring sermon of a deeply humanitarian, loving and compassionate Southern, African-American Preacher.

He began his speech by pointing to Scripture. Although at the time he couldn’t remember the chapter and verse (he told us, half-jokingly, half-seriously, that we should “look it up”), the Reverend pointed to I Corinthians Chapter 12, Verse 7 (see… I looked it up): “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

He said he came to “ordain” us all as “Chaplains for the Common Good.”

The Reverend related a story (oh, how us Christians like our parables) of how he had a rash on the back of his neck one day and he went to his son-in-law, who is a doctor. His son-in-law gave him a prescription for an ointment and on the label it read, “Apply to the affected area.”

In much the same way as one applies medicine to the “affected area” of the human body, the Reverend said, we should “apply Martin’s healing salve to the ‘affected areas’ of the ‘body politic’ and life” in the United States.

The Reverend hit on seven key areas to which he believes this “healing salve” should be applied:

  1. International Relations – At 85 years old, the Reverend readily admitted that he was the oldest person in the room. He said that in his entire life he had never seen America’s state of international relations in as bad a shape as it is now. He discussed Bush and his foreign policy, the invasion of Iraq, the occupation of Iraq and more. The Reverend said that our International Relations needed improvement and this was one of the most important areas needing quick attention and care.
  2. The Oneness of the Human Family – Black, white, red, yellow or pokadotted or green, The Reverend stressed the importance of living as one human family, offering up to one another true and mutual respect and honoring each other’s inherit dignity and worth.
  3. Economic Justice – How vulger, vile and obscene, said the Reverend, it is that a handful of people have way more than they should ever need, while so many, countless numbers of people have way less than they always need. He pointed to a study from Sweden analyzing and comparing the ratios between what employees and workers earn to that of what CEOs and top-level management earns and what, in reality, the ratio should actually be. According to the Reverend, CEOs and other top-level staffers should be receiving on 6-7 times more than workers and employees. The truth, he said, was that in American CEOs earn sometimes as much as 300 times more as workers (and with added bonuses, benefits and “severence packages” sometimes as much as 500 times more). He urged all of those in the room to push for economic justice and to challenge America to re-think the position in which it currently finds itself economically. The Reverend also pointed to a study which sought to find the richest and poorest counties within the United States. According to the Reverend, 80% of the poorest counties in the nation belonged to the South; he gave three reasons for why this was so: 1) Low wages. 2) Racism. 3) Lack of quality public education.
  4. Opportunities in Education – From his last point made in discussing Economic Justice, the Reverend stressed the extreme importance of quality public education for all people. He said the South has always had a bad track record when it comes to prioritizing funding and support for good and sound public education. He listed the lack of quality education opportunities as one of the most dire and serious problems facing America today. In discussing education, the Reverend also discussed Affirmative Action, warning us all not to let the true definition of Affirmative Action be hijacked and twisted for political gain. He said that Affirmative Action is NOT reverse discrimination or preferential treatment, but rather an intentional “closing of the gap.” He reminded those in the room that the gaps and inequites weren’t made by accident… that they were intentionally created through public policy, law and private actions. Much like the gaps and inequities were created intentionally, he persisted that they must be rolled back and done away with intentionally.
  5. Lowery at UNCG

  6. The Criminal Justice System – The Reverend related back to his home State of Georgia, saying that while African-Americans constituted no more than 30% of the general population, they accounted for more than 66% of those persons incarcerated within the criminal justice system. The Reverend said that the problem is not that black people commit more crimes, but rather that racism, whether we like to admit it or not, still plays a part in how African-Americans are viewed by the legal system and the authorities. He also added that inequities existed not only between how laws are written and enforced for different people, but also that many black people being unable to afford legal representation often take “deals” just to get out of more, possible jail-time (even if they may be innocent of the actual crime).
  7. Division & “Weapons of Mass Distraction” – The Reverend stated that we “are too easily divided and victimized by ‘weapons of mass distraction.'” Here he told the story of an African-American, Washington, DC-based pastor (who he kept nameless within his speech but who we all know to be the Reverend Willie Wilson of the 8,000-member Union Temple Baptist Church) who led his congregation down a path of division and mis-guidance, preaching and pushing for an amendment against same-sex marriage. The Reverend asked, Why care about something like same-sex marriage when millions of your own children are dying in starvation and poverty within the slums? The Reverend went on to speak on respect for all people and how that played in to Civil and Human Rights as a whole. He said that if you are one who says, “I believe in human rights for all people, except for…” then you really don’t believe in human rights or equality. To believe in equality and human rights is to believe in it for all people. If you don’t, then you are, according to the Reverend, creating an oxymoron and certainly not standing up for equality. He said no matter what race, color, religion, creed, sex, gender OR sexual orientation… we are all deserving of human rights, civil rights and equality. The Reverend said he “sometimes wonders about people who are so homophobic.” Quoting Hamlet, he said, “Me thinks you doth protest too much.” The audience responded with laughter and applause. He continued, “If a person is a secure in their sexuality, they have no time to waste on sneaking around to see what you are doing.”
  8. “Weapons of Self-Destruction” – In his final key area, the Reverend included both ignorance & complacency, and sexual irresponsibility, as well as drug and substance abuse and addiction. He said it’s just fine and dandy to know about JayZ or Beyonce, but he asked, “What else do you know?” He also warned against “babies having babies” and the dangers of taking on adult privileges when one is not yet ready to take on adult responsibilities.

Also… although I can’t remember exactly where it fit into his speech, the Reverend touched on political parties and political affilation. Of himself, he said, “I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat… I’m a Methodist.” Of the political parties, in general, he stated, “One of ’em takes us for granted and the other just takes us.”

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Neo Black Society Gospel ChoirI feel so honored, so humbled, inspired and awe-struck to have been able to just be in the same room as this wonderful man. I am so happy that he was able to speak at UNCG and I am grateful that I was able to hear him. (Pictured right: Neo-Black Society Gospel Choir)

At the end, during the Question and Answer period, I rose and walked to one of the available microphones not to ask a question, but to thank the Reverend for what his message had meant to me (you can hear this on the audio). As a gay man in American, it meant more than I can describe to just sit and listen to such a great and wise Civil Rights leader like himself affirm me as a human being and affirm me as an American citizen. Thank you, Reverend Lowery.

To this, Reverend Lowery responded: “God didn’t call us to judge. He called us to love… and when you love, you have no time to judge. The Bible says that when you judge, you will be judged. With the same measure you judge, you shall be judged and none of us wants to live with that.”

The Reverend also responded to a student’s question regarding Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Although the Reverend didn’t comment on whether or not he thought Obama was good for the job, he did say he knew Obama’s pastor, planned on meeting his pastor and that he thinks he is a “very impressive young man,” hopes Obama is grounded in truth and thinks that one reason why he has become so popular and that people are “so attracted to him in this moment in history” is because the American people are so sick and tired of the bickering taking place in politics today and Obama seems to represent a “breath of fresh air” and a sense of “reconciliation.” He added that the “jury is still out” on whether Obama could make it to the Presidency.

I hope that you will cherish the Reverend’s message and, well… to be honest, the Reverend’s sermon, just as much as I did.

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About the Reverend Doctor Joseph Lowery (src)

The Reverend Joseph Lowery, outspoken civil rights activist, will be the keynote speaker in 2007. He was born on October 6, 1921, in Huntsville, Alabama. Considered the dean of the civil rights movement, Lowery began his education in Huntsville, spending his middle school years in Chicago before returning to Huntsville to complete high school. From there, he attended Knoxville College, Payne College and Theological Seminary, and the Chicago Ecumenical Institute. Lowery earned his doctorate of divinity as well.

Lowery began his work with civil rights in the early 1950s in Mobile, Alabama, where he headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted to the desegregation of buses and public places. During this time, the state of Alabama sued Lowery, along with several other prominent ministers, on charges of libel, seizing his property. The Supreme Court sided with the ministers, and Lowery’s seized property was returned. In 1957, Lowery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and Lowery was named vice president. In 1965, he was named chairman of the delegation to take demands of the Selma to Montgomery March to Alabama’s governor at the time, George Wallace.

Lowery is a co-founder and former president of the Black Leadership Forum, a consortium of black advocacy groups. The Forum began protesting apartheid in South Africa in the mid-1970s and continued until the election of Nelson Mandela. In 1979, during a rash of disappearances of Atlanta’s African American youth, Lowery provided a calm voice to a frightened community. After becoming president of the SCLC in February of 1977, Lowery negotiated covenants with major corporations for employment advances, opportunities and business contracts with minority companies. He has led peace delegations to the Middle East and Central America. In addition to serving as pastor to several churches over the years, Lowery’s efforts to combat injustice and promote equal opportunities has led to the extension of provisions to the Voting Rights Act to 2007, the desegregation of public accommodations in Nashville, Tennessee and the hiring of Birmingham, Alabama’s first black police officers.

After serving his community for more than forty-five years, Lowery retired from the pulpit in 1997. He also retired in January of 1998 from the SCLC as president and CEO. Despite his retirement, Lowery still remains active. He works to encourage African Americans to vote, and recorded a rap with artist NATE the Great to help spread this message.

Lowery has received numerous awards, including an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, the Martin Luther King Center Peace Award and the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Ebony has twice named him as one of the Fifteen Greatest Black Preachers. Lowery has also received several honorary doctorates from colleges and universities including Dillard University, Morehouse College, Alabama State University and the University of Alabama.

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Dr. Joseph Lowery, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will speak Wednesday, January 17, 2006, 7pm, EUC Cone Ballroom at UNCG.

He will be speaking during the UNCG Office of Multicultural Affairs Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration 2007. The MLK Service Award will also be presented to a student, faculty or staff member on Tuesday.

The Gospel Choir of UNCG’s student Neo-Black Society will also perform.

Tickets are free and available through the UNCG Box Office. More information at UNCG Office of Multicultural Affairs site or at 336-334-5090.

About Dr. Lowery: (src)
The Reverend Joseph Lowery, outspoken civil rights activist, will be the keynote speaker in 2007. He was born on October 6, 1921, in Huntsville, Alabama. Considered the dean of the civil rights movement, Lowery began his education in Huntsville, spending his middle school years in Chicago before returning to Huntsville to complete high school. From there, he attended Knoxville College, Payne College and Theological Seminary, and the Chicago Ecumenical Institute. Lowery earned his doctorate of divinity as well.

Lowery began his work with civil rights in the early 1950s in Mobile, Alabama, where he headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted to the desegregation of buses and public places. During this time, the state of Alabama sued Lowery, along with several other prominent ministers, on charges of libel, seizing his property. The Supreme Court sided with the ministers, and Lowery’s seized property was returned. In 1957, Lowery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and Lowery was named vice president. In 1965, he was named chairman of the delegation to take demands of the Selma to Montgomery March to Alabama’s governor at the time, George Wallace.

Lowery is a co-founder and former president of the Black Leadership Forum, a consortium of black advocacy groups. The Forum began protesting apartheid in South Africa in the mid-1970s and continued until the election of Nelson Mandela. In 1979, during a rash of disappearances of Atlanta’s African American youth, Lowery provided a calm voice to a frightened community. After becoming president of the SCLC in February of 1977, Lowery negotiated covenants with major corporations for employment advances, opportunities and business contracts with minority companies. He has led peace delegations to the Middle East and Central America. In addition to serving as pastor to several churches over the years, Lowery’s efforts to combat injustice and promote equal opportunities has led to the extension of provisions to the Voting Rights Act to 2007, the desegregation of public accommodations in Nashville, Tennessee and the hiring of Birmingham, Alabama’s first black police officers.

After serving his community for more than forty-five years, Lowery retired from the pulpit in 1997. He also retired in January of 1998 from the SCLC as president and CEO. Despite his retirement, Lowery still remains active. He works to encourage African Americans to vote, and recorded a rap with artist NATE the Great to help spread this message.

Lowery has received numerous awards, including an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, the Martin Luther King Center Peace Award and the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Ebony has twice named him as one of the Fifteen Greatest Black Preachers. Lowery has also received several honorary doctorates from colleges and universities including Dillard University, Morehouse College, Alabama State University and the University of Alabama.