J. Bob Alotta on countering the gaslighting of America

“We have a very real opportunity, to create this country, in its own image, for all of us, for the first time.”

Note: this opinion column, written by J. Bob Alotta, originally appeared in the digital pages of The Huffington Post in February 2017

What does it mean to stand in righteous community? During the first month of this new administration, it has meant standing with signs that read “you are welcome here,” marching alongside strangers while calling in unison “show me what democracy looks like,” and together responding, “this is what democracy looks like.” It’s getting and staying woke to the reality that democracy ― and it’s promise of governing by “we, the people,” is a practice. It is a practice taking the form of marching, chanting, voting, litigating, bearing witness, showing up, staying woke, and insisting that representative government be neither passive in its actual representation, nor aggressive in its undermining of the equality it is meant to unrelentingly instill and impart. It is a practice that doesn’t allow us to choose some of our rights, over all of our rights. And it is a practice that will succeed and thrive if it stands steadfast in the radical notion of love.

As a collective, we are resisting, not for spite or hate of this current administration; but instead because we choose to know better, to do better, to be better and love better than the barrage of policies coming down trying to divide us and deny our collective humanity.

The sweeping changes in conduct and content, policy and practice, all with considerable implication for our daily lives, is overwhelming. Each Executive Order, the onslaught of tweets aimed at targets as wide as our entire judiciary, or as oddly specific as Nordstrom, the constant calling out of any media critique as fake – requires us to be ever mindful of this purposeful chaos. The scrutiny required to discern the accuracy of this information, and the voracity with which “common sense” has been gaslighted and become untethered, requires daily vigilance.

And yet not only must we persist, we do. We are. All kinds of people are showing up in record number and taking a public stand on so many issues at once. People are asking how we are going to beat this, to get “our country back,” to win.

First, I don’t think we are going to get our country back. Just like I rebuke making it great again. I do think, we have a very real opportunity, to create this country, in its own image, for all of us, for the first time.  We have an opportunity to move from rhetoric to reality – to heal some of the very real ills that have been plaguing the United States since its inception because of the contradictions upon which it was built.

We are a country that was built on the backs and bloodshed of Native people and enslaved Africans. While our history books continue to erase this reality by minimizing the brutal effects of democracy-built-on-slavery, we know better. Standing in this truth and owning it, means loving truth however horrific, however contradictory.  Denying our national truths have only served to foster perpetual systemic oppression and violence.  We must not only heal as a nation but design a future and governance that needn’t strip any of us of our humanity or equality in order to continually veil us from the truth.  What will make it possible?  It will not be any policy that requires the ugliness of race hatred, an extreme wealth gap, turning corporations into people, or legalizing some of our bodies while criminalizing others.

The only thing that will allow us to make this critical course correction as a nation is: Love.  Love as resistance. Love as actionable honesty. In order for us to succeed, we must be able to stand together in our differences, learn from each other, build trust, and synchronize strategies. Practicing these components of love, is the only way we will ensure the best outcome for this democratic experiment we call America.

We would not march in the streets and at airports or have walkouts from schools if we weren’t stepping out with love and belief in the tenets of democracy. Resistance is an act of love. The willingness to place our bodies in line with our values to stand against oppression by any means necessary—whether taking water cannons to the face to protect all of our right to clean water; or suffering the bruises of batons and tear gas to protect our right to exist black and free, or love who we love, or have autonomy over our own body, or ensure our children can access a free and excellent education regardless of their zip code— we do so to truly enact our greatest participatory democratic possibility.  This love resistance posture is the alignment of our collective hope.

Activist, author and all-around badass Angela Davis once said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept.”  Some of us have had to fight for our rights for quite a long time.  Some of us are just being called to action.  But whatever day you come into your consciousness, it is a good day.

We do not need a more urgent moment than now for an unabashed and radical form of love like the display we saw at the Women’s March or countless protests over the past few weeks all over the globe —this persistent vigilance and unrelenting belief in the formation of a better and more reflective union is how we will continue to resist, organize and stand in our truth. This is our moment to seize; this is our uprising of love.

Save the Date for Astraea’s 40th Gala in NYC!

This is what forty years of lesbian feminist activism looks like!

This is what forty years of lesbian feminist activism looks like! On Monday, November 13, 2017, we will celebrate Astraea’s big 4-0 with an evening of art, cinema, music, food, and righteous community in New York City!

Mark November 13th in your calendars today.

Stay tuned for information on 40th Anniversary tickets sales in the weeks ahead.

PS – Host committee memberships and sponsorships for Astraea’s 40th are available. For more information, contact Astraea’s Director of Development, Barbara Jean Davis, at bdavis@astraeafoundation.org or 646.862.6586.

#FuelTheFrontlines Spotlight: Jorge and Paola Ramos

We’re only days away from Astraea’s Fueling the Frontlines Awards in Los Angeles!

On May 25th, 2017 at the Ace Museum, we will gather to celebrate the frontline voices who are leading the new era of #resistance: Patrisse Cullors, Jennicet Gutiérrez, Bruce Cohen, Jorge Ramos, and Paola Ramos.

The night will also feature an exclusive performance from Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Opera by Toshi Reagon and cast members, as co-authored by civil rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon. You won’t want to miss this bold and timely performance.

A limited number of tickets are still available. Get yours now.

Today, we are pleased to introduce you to father and daughter Fueling honorees, Emmy Award-winning journalist Jorge Ramos and Latinx public servant Paola Ramos. Together, Jorge and Paola have over 45 years’ experience in elevating the narratives and championing the issues important to queer Latinos and their allies across the United States.

Seasoned newscaster Jorge Ramos has documented five wars, covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, and interviewed countless world leaders. Ramos’ in-depth reporting and forthright commentary on human rights, immigration, white supremacy, and other issues that directly impact our communities is his invaluable contribution to the resistance. After being physically removed from a press conference in 2015 by asking how the then-hopeful Trump administration planned to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, Ramos did not cease asking the hard questions: instead, he went directly to the source, creating the documentary Hate Rising, an expose on the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis, and other emboldened hate groups in the United States.

“Discrimination is still present in this country. We need organizations like Astraea to make sure that the rights of everyone are being protected,” Ramos tells us.

Sharing her father’s vision for a just world, New York City Council spokesperson PaolaRamos works to protect human rights by fighting for the sanctuary and equity of immigrants in the five boroughs. A fierce believer in her communities, Ramos previously served as Deputy Director of Hispanic Media for Hillary Clinton’s 2017 President Campaign, where her efforts ensured that Secretary Clinton maintained an open dialogue with Latino and immigrant communities across the country. “We have Dreamers knocking on doors which never have before. We see Latinos lining up with their grandmothers and their cousins. It’s our job to capture those positive stories and to keep it going,” she urges.

Join us in honoring Jorge and Paola Ramos for their tireless commitment to migrant rights on May 25th.

Unable to attend the Awards? Still want to celebrate the intrepid spirits of grassroots activists? Donate a ticket so that a community member can attend this inspiring event. To learn more, please contact Loran Hamilton at lhwarner@astraeafoundation.org.

#FueltheFrontlines Spotlight: WHEN WE RISE producer Bruce Cohen

We are nearly a week away from Astraea’s Fueling the Frontlines Awards in sunny Los Angeles, California!

On May 25th, 2017 at the Ace Museum, Astraea will honor the frontline activists who are leading the new era of #resistance: Patrisse Cullors, Jennicet Gutiérrez, Bruce Cohen, Jorge Ramos, and Paola Ramos.

The night will also feature a special ensemble performance from Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Opera, co-authored by Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon––a production that was made for times like these!

Have you made plans to spend a memorable evening with us? If not, a limited number of tickets are still available. Get yours today.

Today, we excited to introduce you to 2017 Fueling the Frontlines honoree Bruce Cohen, who passionately believes in the intimate stories behind our queer liberation.

Academy Award-winning producer Bruce Cohen is renowned in Hollywood for producing nuanced films about everyday people, including our LGBTQI movement forbearers. In addition to an Academy Award win for American Beauty in 2000, Bruce was nominated in 2009 for his work on Milk and again in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook. Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, tells the story of Harvey Milk, the celebrated gay rights activist who became the first out elected official in California, thus paving the way for queer civil servants across the country.

In 2017, Bruce once more teamed up with Black on Black’s creation When We Rise, an epic television miniseries that tells the story of the first forty years of queer movement building in the United States. From Cleve Jones and Roma Guy to the Daughters of Bilitis and ACT UP, our community’s history is dramatized in six episodes that are masterfully staged by some of the greatest LGBTQI directors––including Astraea grantee partner Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie) and Van Sant.

Join us in honoring Bruce for his commitment to queer artistic collaboration and his championing of on-screen resistance on May 25th.

Get your tickets today.

#FueltheFrontlines Spotlight: Activist and trans organizer Jennicet Gutiérrez

Have you made plans to attend this year’s Fueling the Frontlines Awards yet? Please join us on May 25, 2017 at the Ace Museum in Los Angeles as we honor the frontline activists leading the new era of #resistance: Patrisse Cullors, Jennicet Gutiérrez, Jorge Ramos, and Paola Ramos.

We are organizing at the moment to mobilize our communities because the new administration came out heavily attaching the immigrant community. We want to make sure we have a plan in place to protect and defend.

Jennicet Gutiérrez

Tickets are selling quickly; get yours soon.

Today, we are excited to profile translatina activist and 2017 Fueling the Frontlines honoree Jennicet Gutiérrez.

Jennicet believes that her struggle for liberation began with her birth in Tuxpan, Jalisco, México, which was unaided by a midwife. In the three decades since then, she’s fearlessly advocated for her fellow trans people of color. An organizer with Los Angeles-based Astraea grantee partner Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Jennicet works to end the deportation, incarceration, and criminalization of immigrants and all Brown and Black folks. Recently, Familia has successfully campaigned to terminate Santa Ana County Jail’s contract with ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement), thus ending the inhumane detainment of immigrants.

In June 2015, Jennicet received national media attention and created a critically important platform for undocumented LGBTQI people when she bravely interrupted President Barack Obama’s LGBT Pride Month Reception speech to draw attention to the growing numbers of LGBTQ people being forcefully held by the United States. “I spoke out to demand respect and acknowledgement of our gender expression and the release of the estimated 75 transgender immigrants in detention right now. There is no pride in how LGBTQ immigrants are treated in this country and there can be no celebration with an administration that has the ability to keep us detained and in danger or release us to freedom,” she wrote in the Washington Blade the next day.

Currently, Jennicet and Familia are tirelessly working to end the deportation of Valeria de la Luz, an undocumented transwoman, through the #FreeValeria campaign.

Proceeds from Fueling the Frontlines benefit LGBTQI grassroots activists like Jennicet who are doing brave and bold work in the United States and around the world.

Get your tickets today.

Unable to attend the Awards? Still want to celebrate the intrepid spirits of grassroots activists? Donate a ticket so that a community member can attend this inspiring event. To learn more, please contact Loran Hamilton at lhwarner@astraeafoundation.org.

Warmly,

The 2017 Fueling the Frontlines Host Committee

What Will Be Different: A Conversation on LGBTQ Activism in a Changing America

Join us on April 30, 2017, for a powerful free forum on how LGBTQ activism will respond to an era of sweeping political change, moderated by Astraea Executive Director J. Bob Alotta.

Despite celebrated and hard-won advances in equality, the deeply diverse LGBTQ community has always been targeted by bias and hate. In recent months that antagonism has flared, along with other forms of intolerance.

Now, as people who openly disparage LGBTQ rights fill key posts within the U.S. Government, and an old, anti-Other sentiment gains new legitimacy, what are the challenges and goals of LGBTQ activism today? What is the historical context for this battle, and what guides those at its front lines? How do we organize across communities to build a future where our differences are prized and human justice is available to all, regardless of gender identity or gender preference?

Join us for a conversation with Apphia Kumar, Chair, SALGA-NYC; Bashar Makhay, Founder, Tarab NYC; Cara Page, Executive Director, Audre Lorde Project; and Mustafa Sullivan, Executive Director, Fierce. Moderated by J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.
Pre-talk performance by Angel Nafis, Author, BlackGirl Mansion.
Held at The Park Avenue Christian Church, one of the most progressive communities of faith in New York City.
Presented by the Astraea Foundation, The Park Avenue Christian Church, and The Tate Group.
Curated by Brian Tate.

 

#FueltheFrontlines Spotlight: Black Lives Matter’s Patrisse Cullors

We are nearly a month away from this year’s Fueling the Frontlines Awards at Los Angeles’ Ace Museum! On May 25, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm, Astraea will honor the frontline activists and cultural changemakers who are leading the new era of #resistance, including PatrisseCullors, Jennicet Gutiérrez, Jorge Ramos, and Paola Ramos.

When we say ALL Black Lives Matter, we mean Black trans folks! We mean black queer folks! …’We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’

Patrisse Cullors, quoting June Jordan

Tickets are limited! Get yours today!

This week, we are honored to profile 2017 Fueling the Frontlines honoree and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, artist, organizer, and freedom fighter Patrisse Cullorsbecame involved in grassroots activism as a teenager. During Patrisse‘s youth, her 19 year-old mentally ill brother was incarcerated and tortured by local law enforcement. “Growing up with this visceral experience of policing really shaped my organizing work,” Patrisse told Fusion last winter. “There were no organizers knocking on our door telling us to join a movement. There were no hashtags for social media. There was a lot of despair.”

Ten years later, Patrisse created the organization Dignity and Power Now, which pursued and won civilian oversight of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department––a victory that brought justice to her family while protecting countless others.

Watch Patrisse’s Fusion interview in its entirety:

In 2013, Patrisse, with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, co-founded Black Lives Matter as a response to the enraging aquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. What began as a hashtag soon became an urgent call to action against police brutality and criminalization in the United States. Black Lives Matter has since expanded into an intricate network of 30 local chapters and thousands of determined activists fighting anti-Black racism worldwide.

Patrisse has received many awards for her organizing and movement building, including being named a “Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century” by The Los Angeles Times. Her memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press.

Support Patrisse and others like her who are during brave and imperative work. Get your tickets to Fueling the Frontlines today.

Unable to attand the Awards? Still want to celebrate the intrepid spirits of grassroots activists? Donate a ticket so that a community member can attend this inspiring event. To learn more, please contact Loran Hamilton at lhwarner@astraeafoundation.org.

Join us in Los Angeles May 25th for Fueling the Frontlines!

The Astraea Foundation and our Host Committee invite you to a powerful night of art, music, cocktails, food, and friends. Join us Thursday, May 25 at Ace Museum in Los Angeles, California.

The Astraea Foundation and our Host Committee invite you to a powerful night of art, music, cocktails, food, and friends. Join us Thursday, May 25, from 6:30 to 9:40 pm PST at Ace Museum in Los Angeles, California as we honor the frontline activists and cultural changemakers who are leading the new era of #resistance.

This year’s luminary honorees include:

  • #BlackLivesMatter co-founder, executive director of the LA-based organization Dignity and Power Now, and queer author Patrisse Cullors. Patrisse resists by demanding a world where Black bodies and dreams can thrive and where state-sanctioned violence against Black people is abolished;
  • Activist and founding member of Astraea grantee partner Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Jennicet Gutiérrez. Jennicet resists by fearlessly challenging authority on the status of queer and trans immigrants and actively organizing to end the deportation, incarceration, and criminalization of our communities;
  • Univision anchor and critically-acclaimed journalist Jorge Ramos. Jorge resists through his intrepid, in-depth reporting and forthright commentary on human rights, immigration, white supremacy, and other issues that directly impact our LGBTQI communities;
  • New York City Council Spokesperson Paola Ramos. Paola resists by fighting for the sanctuary and equity of immigrants in NYC. Previously, Paola worked as Deputy Director of Hispanic Media for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign to ensure that migrant voices were heard.

Together we will celebrate these leaders whose commitment, passion, and work inspire others and meaningfully advance LGBTQI justice in our communities and around the world.

Read more about the honorees and buy tickets on our website. Don’t miss these inspiring movement leaders. Get your tickets now!

Your purchase supports Astraea’s endeavors to provide critical resources to LGBTQI grassroots activists and organizations across the globe.

Can’t make it to Fueling the Frontlines? Still want to play a critical part? Sponsor a ticket so that a community member can attend.

Be the first to know about Fueling the Frontlines developments! Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for the latest on our current and forthcoming honorees and performers.

Thank you for fueling our movements!

Warmly,

The 2017 Fueling the Frontlines Host Comittee

(in formation as of April 12, 2017)

Alice Y. Hom, co-chair
Mónica Taher, co-chair

Lynn Harris Ballen
Casey Bloys
Kelly Bush
Ilene Chaiken
Ryan Li Dahlstrom
Maria De La Cruz and Shawn Hogedorn
Melissa Etheridge
dream hampton
Jamison Herbert
Seana Johnson
Moez Kaba and Bjorn Lundberg
Mahdis Keshavarz
Isis King
Eric Kranzler
Robin Coste Lewis
Alec Mapa
Ellen Page
Paulette Pantoja
Katina Parker
Leanne Pittsford
Jenny Pizer
Alan Poul
Katrina Schaffer
Maria Shtabskaya
Mitchell Singer
Naomi Sobel and Rabbi Becky Silverstein
Corece
A. Sparks
Chip Sullivan
Tristan Taormino
Marquita Thomas
Jacob Tobia
Melanie Torbert
Christine Vachon
Linda Wallem
Doreena Wong

Join us for Molly’s Birthday Brunch in Massachusetts on April 9th!

Below is a note from Astraea’s friend Molly Girton, who is is turning 34 on Sunday, April 9th.

Hi friends!

We’re so fortunate to have shared this past year with so many beautiful people, including family, colleagues, friends, and one another. We’d love it if you’d celebrate with us! Two ways to do so:

Hope to see you on the 9th!

Much love,

Alison T. Brill and Molly Kiran Girton

A note from the web editor: Alison and Molly’s brunch was a wild success! View photos of the festivities here

This International Women’s Day, we rise up!

International Women’s Day is a moment to recognize and remember the efforts of our community members, organizers, and cultural workers who’ve fought and continue to fight for our right to not simply exist but thrive in all our beauty, dignity, and autonomy.

Left to right: Berta Cáceres, Marsha P. Johnson, and Audre Lorde

Today, Astraea celebrates the formidable efforts of women around the world who are rising up in incredible numbers to combat the growing tides of misogyny, xenophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia and white supremacy. International Women’s Day is a moment to recognize and remember the efforts of our community members, organizers, and cultural workers who’ve fought and continue to fight for our right to not simply exist but thrive in all our beauty, dignity, and autonomy.

We honor all the ways you may be activated today: striking, wearing red in solidarity with A Day Without Women, phoning elected officials, taking to the streets, or supporting your favorite Lesbian Foundation for Justice (!) because must use all available tools to resist and rise up.

iwd

Left to right: Colectiva Mujer y Salud, Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group, and BreakOUT!

Lifting up the visions of lesbian, queer, and trans women, Astraea grantee partners are building the world in which they want to live:

  • Colectiva Mujer y Salud produced the first-ever document to exclusively address the priorities and demands of lesbian, bisexual, and queer women in the Dominican Republic. Titled “The LesBiAgenda,” the text was created through a national process that included rural and small cities.
  • Thanks to the advocacy of Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG), the Supreme Court of Georgia found Levan Kochlashvili guilty of the murder of Sabi Beriani, a transgender woman, in December 2016. WISG has been accompanying Sabi’s mother to court since the murder two years ago and has been working to raise visibility of the growing violent backlash against trans women in Georgia.
  • In response to growing anti-trans violence in the United States, BreakOUT! issued a call to action to create sanctuary for young trans women and gender non-conforming people of color in New Orleans. They are also developing new strategies for community safety.

Astraea is proud of our four decade history of gender justice activism that supports the leadership of women, trans folks, youth, and people of color. Our lives depend on activists who are linking LGBTQI and women’s rights movements together, rising up, and resisting violence and discrimination that specifically affects lesbian, queer, and trans women. Today and all year round, we strive to find hard to reach groups in often-isolated areas and resource them to fight for justice in their own local contexts.

This International Women’s Day, we welcome you to join the uprising! Connect with the activists behind our movements through our Facebook feed, view and share our video on what 40 years of queer organizing looks like, or donate to the Uprising of Love Fund to support activists working against increased discrimination in the United States.