Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Promises of Pride Houston

As of today I received a few pieces of correspondence via email that I will outline in this post to highlight my distrust in Pride Houston keeping their promises. In the background information that I have listed below, Pride Houston on Oct 22nd of 2014 made the bold promise to create a diversity committee and to participate in the Juneteenth parade for 2015. I recently reached out to Pride Houston to get the progress of that effort in two ways, FIRST:

Ashton P. Woods <ashpierre07@gmail.com>Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 1:55 PM
To: Frankie Quijano <fquijano@pridehouston.org>
Bcc: Brandon Mack <brandon.d.mack@gmail.com>, Synthia Walton <synthia.walton@gmail.com>
Hi Frankie,
I wanted to touch bases with you in reference to Pride Houston's creation of a Diversity Committee and the organization's participation in the upcomimg Juneteenth parade. What is your current status on the creation of the Diversity Committee? I ask because many feel like Pride Houston is expecting those who made the request/demand for a Diversity Committee to create it themselves. Hopefully, this is not the case and a committee will be created by Pride Houston soon and that they participate in any planning for upcoming events. Also, have you had any success in getting in touch or reaching out to the planners of the Juneteenth Parade/celebration? Please contact me as soon as possible.
Thank You
Ashton P. Woods
[Quoted text hidden]

Quijano, Frankie <fquijano@pridehouston.org>Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 2:07 PM
To: "Ashton P. Woods" <ashpierre07@gmail.com>
Mr. Woods,

The Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC) is well underway in regards of creation and assembling the chosen individuals under the direction of Pride Houston board members. I understand that the DC will meet in the coming weeks. Pride Houston has sent multiple communications to the Juneteenth parade organizers and have had no response. Pride will continue its attempts to communicate with those organizers to solidify an entry in to that celebration.

The 2015 Houston LGBT Pride Celebration® will be held in Downtown Houston continuing the legacy that began on the steps of City Hall in 1977 with the protest against Anita Bryant which is widely considered Houston's "Stonewall Movement".

For more information on the Houston Pride Festival & Parade go to

https://www.facebook.com/events/1504645259747100/

Sincerely,

Frankie Quijano | CEO and President | Pride Houston, Inc.
 
Pride Houston, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization out of Houston, Texas.
[Quoted text hidden]

Ashton P. Woods <ashpierre07@gmail.com>Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 12:13 AM
To: "Quijano, Frankie" <fquijano@pridehouston.org>
Mr. Quijano,
Thank You for your speedy response! How far along are you in the creation process for the "Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC)?" What is the selection process/criteria for these "chosen" individuals and who, if any have you chosen so far?
[Quoted text hidden]
SECOND

I ran into Javier Ramirez one of the Pride Houston board members who told me that he is now "handling the diversity committee" and that "no selections had been made" and that a meeting is "scheduled in April." This is a very different response that I got in comparison to the email I received from Frankie Quijano. I inquired about Pride Houston's participation in the Juneteenth parade and he stated that they "have tried several times to reach the planners of the Juneteenth events and had not received any responses" until recently and that they "purchased a float" to be in the Juneteenth parade. Now in lieu of that conversation, I reached out to Juneteenth as well as went to their website:

The email I sent:

Message regarding the Juneteenth Parade
1 message
Ashton P. Woods <ashpierre07@gmail.com>Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 1:52 PM
To: performer@juneteenthfest.com, Brandon Mack <brandon.d.mack@gmail.com>, Synthia Walton <synthia.walton@gmail.com>, Monica Roberts <monicar62@gmail.com>
To Whom It May Concern,
Hello, my name is Ashton P. Woods and I was part of the group that demanded Pride Houston remove its event from Juneteenth weekend. I am concerned that Pride Houston has not held up its pledge to reach out to you all, to participate in the Juneteenth Parade. Can you confirm, if you have gotten any correspondence from Pride Houston and its participation with you all regarding this matter? Please contact me as soon as possible regarding this issue as it is time sensitive.
Thank You,
Ashton P. Woods
Juneteenth Response:

Pride Houston and the Juneteenth Parade
3 messages

JuneteenthFest @ Emancipation Park <info@juneteenthfest.com>Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 2:20 AM
To: "Ashton P. Woods" <ashpierre07@gmail.com>


2015 JUNETEENTH EMANCIPATON
CELEBRATION & PARADE
Commerating 150 Years of Freedom in Texas!

832-598-7469    |   Fax: 713-524-7599
 
No sir.  To my knowledge, we have not heard from Pride Houston.

Kijana Wiseman, Chair
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!
As you can see it is easy to understand why I and many others question Pride Houston's actions in the creation of the Diversity committee and participating in the Juneteenth parade as promised.

UPDATES COMING SOON

Background:

Pride Houston took a series of controversial steps in 2014 that entailed the move all pride related festivities to downtown Houston and then a date change from the usual weekend that coincides with the Stonewall anniversary to the weekend of the annual Juneteenth celebration.

There had always been a plan of action to address the issue of having this event on the same weekend as Juneteenth and when time permitted I and a group of other  Houston Black LGBT leaders and allies with multiple ties to mainstream African American community organizations set up meeting with the PRIDE Houston board members.  We held that meeting with three Pride Houston board members at the Houston Urban League downtown headquarters on October 22 to discuss the ramifications of  why the selection of June 20 date was unacceptable. We, as a group came up with a statement that we found to be appropriate to hand to the board members as well as read out loud during the meeting:

"As Black LGBT and allied leaders and activists, we strongly and collectively oppose the June 20, 2015 date  of the Houston  LGBT Pride Celebration.  We urge Pride Houston to move the celebration to June 27, 2015.  

Holding the Pride celebration on June 20 is a mistake for several reasons, but the top two reasons are 1) it directly interferes with Juneteenth, the oldest known nationally recognized celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the US and 2) it undermines the meaning of the Pride celebration, which at its core commemorates the Stonewall riots, the catalyst for the LGBT movement we know today. The effect of not moving the June 20th date will be disastrous, as it will erode the relationship built among the LGBT community and communities of color, specifically the Black community.

The erosion of these relationships will be detrimental to the Houston LGBT community with respect to the fight to keep the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Opponents of the ordinance have vilified it since its inception stating in hateful terms that the ordinance is an underhanded means to grant more rights to LGBT persons while denying others. Because leaders from the mainstream black community feel they were not consulted, they were inclined to believe this false rhetoric of the HERO opposition. It took many long nights from LGBT and allied leaders to correct that misinformation. By holding the Pride celebration the same weekend of the Juneteenth celebration, communities of color will likely be inclined again to believe the misinformation, thereby unraveling community trust and HERO support.

Politics aside, maintaining the June 20 date excludes the Black LGBT community.   At the very least, Black LGBT persons are put in a situation where they have to choose whether to celebrate Pride or Juneteenth with the corresponding communities. Far too often, people who live an intersected life must choose which part of their identity fits the occasion. During the Pride celebration, people, including those who live at those intersections, are able to bring their whole selves to the celebration. Why? Because the LGBT community contains all races, abilities, and identities. Moving the date to June 27the maintains the tradition of inclusiveness, something the LGBT community is continuously striving to attain.

Practically speaking, moving the date now will not cause any confusion and doing so quietly will prevent community uprisings.  At this time, the June 27th date is free, which means the process to change it should be simple.. However, not changing the date will definitely cause more problems than necessary.

So again, we urge you to move the Pride celebration back to the last Saturday of June, specifically June 27, 2015."

About two and a half weeks after this meeting we got this:

"November 11, 2014

Re: Request to move the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration

To Whom It May Concern:

The Board of Directors for Pride Houston® have discussed in length the recent request to move the
Houston LGBT Pride Celebration® from Saturday, June 20, 2015 to the following week on Saturday, June
27, 2015 by a group of local individuals that are unassociated with any one (1) local group. With a 6-2
vote the Board of Directors have decided to continue with the current date of Saturday, June 20, 2015
for the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration.
There have been previous instances where the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration has fallen on the third
weekend in June around the 20th of the month and similar requests were not made during those
instances. Furthermore, a substantial amount has already been invested into the Houston LGBT Pride
Celebration for its current date that would un-recoupable which can be crucial for any non-profit
organization.
As was recently confirmed by the Mayor’s office of Special events, currently on June 20, 2015 the only
parade listed is set to begin at 10:00 AM CST and end around 11:00 AM CST. With the Houston LGBT
Pride Celebration beginning its parade beginning at 8:30 PM CST it would show minimal impact on that
parade.

Pride Houston is willing to work with any organization that could be producing a parade on the same
date so that both can be equally marketed and supported by the Houston community.
Pride Houston also hosts public production meetings on the 2nd Tuesday of every month where our
volunteers discuss logistics, its events and of course the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration. This has been
an ongoing tradition for over 15 years and would be an excellent opportunity for those not associated
with the organization to observe, provide external insight, brainstorm new ideas and even volunteer for
the organization. For more information on these meetings please email volunteer@pridehouston.org.

Sincerely,

Frankie Quijano
President and Chief Executive Officer
Pride Houston, Inc.
fquijano@pridehouston.org
The march on the steps of City Hall against Anita Bryan in 1977 is widely known as Houston's “Stonewall
Movement”, so the legacy that began in downtown will continue on in downtown Houston in 2015."

Then this happened after the uproar got huge:

"It is with great pleasure that Pride Houston announces that the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration has been moved to June 27, 2015 in respect of the historic Juneteenth holiday. Pride Houston understands and celebrates the importance of the equality of all humanity and the significance that Juneteenth means to African Americans. Specifically we understand that although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, it was not until two and a half years later on June 19, 1865 that African Americans in Texas learned of their freedom from slavery. That fact is why Juneteenth weekend is so important and why we chose to move our date.

It is important to note that Pride parades celebrate the 1969 Stonewall Riots when the LGBT community and its allies stood up against police raids and brutality in the LGBT community. This awareness puts us in a unique position to see the parallel struggles of our communities especially in this time when racial profiling of African American men and boys such a relevant topic in America today.

In a time when the civil rights of historically disadvantaged people are under attack it is imperative that the LGBT and African American communities maintain a coalition against hate, racism and homophobia. It is to that end Pride Houston has also created a Cultural Diversity Task Force to celebrate the cultural uniqueness of the various members of the LGBT community to be incorporated into actual the Pride Weekend festivities.

So please mark your calendars for June 27, 2015 to celebrate the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration in downtown Houston. Also, remember the weekend of June 19, 2015 to celebrate Juneteenth. We will be at both and we hope you will too.

Board of Directors:

Cristina Martinez, Frankie Quijano, Jason Gallegos, Javier Ramirez, Joey Guerra, Karen Mory, Paul Pettie and Rob Higdon."





This was released shortly after the meeting on Thursday, October 22, 2014 where they also stated that they wanted to actually make an effort by creating a DIVERSITY COMMITTEE AND BE IN THE JUNETEENTH PARADE

Monday, March 16, 2015

Take Back Montrose (From Who?)- Through My Lens

Background on the crime that caused the event:

"Ramirez and a friend were walking to their car when police say two armed men rushed them, stole his car, robbed his friend and fatally shot him. Police said Ramirez refused to give his keys to the carjackers, so one of them pulled out a gun. According to investigators, Ramirez tried to run for help after he was shot, but ended up collapsing in the parking lot next to F Bar. He died at the scene."
The event: Click here
"We need to take back our beloved Montrose. Let's demonstrate Friday after work so we have the full attention of the public, media, and HPD. The crime is ridiculous and police presence is lacking. We need patrols! Make a sign and let's meet at the corner of Montrose and Westheimer by the new Mattress Firm and do something about this crime! Bring signs!"
My Experience:

In a conversation leading up to this event, I had very strong reservations about how this event would play out. The first question in my mind was and still is: "take back Montrose from who?" Who are we taking Montrose back from, gentrification, the wholesale exodus of LGBT establishments, mattress stores? Our community lost someone and it is tragic, I truly hate that this has happened. Also, there is tragedy in the fact that two teens had to rob someone to get something that they are lacking. Think about why crime is on the increase in the Montrose area... at every turn is a town home with a Jaguar parked in front of it, high end restaurants, and then there are the patrons of LGBT establishments who don't always live in the area but come to be around those that they identify with. People who commit crime in that area think WE have money because of all of this development going on. Now you think about all of the homeless LGBT youth, homeless youth in general and even if they aren't homeless; the socioeconomic status of those who may turn to a life of crime.  In order to address this tragedy we have to examine the biotic and abiotic factors that led up to it. 

A post leading up to that event:



"In the SPIRIT of #‎BlackLivesMatter‬ THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION:
No matter HOW YOU MAY FEEL ABOUT the lack of support from THE LGBT COMMUNITY during this ongoing movement to stop POLICE BRUTALITY AND USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE, we need to stand up for our fallen brother Juan Carlos Ramirez. NO, his life was not taken by police AND what we need to ASK is: would this have happened IF many conditions that the PERSIST in the black community including but limited to bad policing policies? Furthermore, this is an opportunity to RECOGNIZE OUR INTERSECTIONS and come together and be there for each other in ONE VOICE, a HOUSTON VOICE! A life taken in ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM IS UNACCEPTABLE! This is a chance to take stock of who we are as the LGBT community and HOUSTONIANS at large, to re-evaluate how we treat each other and how we can better PROTECT each other.
SOME OF YOU WILL DISAGREE, BUT DON'T THROW THIS CHANCE AWAY TO CREATE CHANGE!"

During the event:
I saw a few folks that I know and a huge amount that I don't know which was fine until I saw an "all lives matter" banner and If have been part of the movement like I have, then you know that slogan is a big issue. Now, what I didn't see is many people of color and that bothered me as well, because as well meaning as that even was meant to be, it still fed in to my reservation about the title "take back Montrose" being projected by a predominantly white crowd.








Links:
- ProjectQ
- KHOU
- Towelroad
- Fox26
- etc...

I encourage you to attend the vigil and you can click here for more info...



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Guest Post: A Black SGL Call to Arms Part Two - Brandon Mack


I recently attended an event that discussed Black Leadership and its relationship with the Black LGBTQ community. The event was seeking to answer the question:  Are Black LGBTQ people being left behind by Black Leaders?  In my opinion, we are being left behind, but that is partly due to our own fault as a Black LGBTQ community.  We are not answering the Call to Arms to fight for ourselves.  We are not utilizing our voices to assert our humanity and existence enough to have our issues addressed. We do have many great advocates, activists, and allies who are doing the work, but we need more.  The phone is ringing but the call is going unanswered. In my opinion, this call is not being answered for three reasons: fear of rejection, fear of recognition, and fear of being labeled.


 FEAR OF REJECTION

As African Americans we have a history of having our voices being rejected or not equally considered. Slaves could not speak out against their own oppression and enslavement. Early African Americans could not use the tools of the government through the ballot box and public service representation to have their voices heard.  There is a history of our voices being drowned out or not considered.  Couple that with the rejection experienced on a personal level when your family and community reject you for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, then it is easy to see why it is hard to raise your voice. However, we have to overcome this fear of rejection and utilize the tools we do have, because the SILENCE is killing our community and us.

FEAR OF RECOGNITION

Even though there is a greater visibility of GLBTQ people in the media and our society, there is still a fear of being recognized as a GLBTQ person that prevents people from participating in advocacy and activism.  People are worried about if they are going to be seen at a particular event or speaking out in support of the GLBTQ community, they are now going to have their identity questions by their family and community.  Often, I hear from SGL/GLBTQ people that, “its nobody’s business who I sleep with, or what goes on in my bedroom.” My problem with these statements is that it reduces who we are as SGL/GLBTQ people to sex. We are full human beings with full lives.  All of those aspects of ourselves should be respected and protected. You can’t be respected or protected if people cannot see you.  Therefore, we need to get over the fear of “what is this person going to say, or what will happen if they think I’m gay,” because the SILENCE is killing our community and us.

FEAR OF BEING LABELED

This may seem that it is similar to the fear of recognition, but it is different.  The fear of being labeled comes from the fear of being labeled as an activist.  Activists are often labeled as angry or difficult because they are always advocating on behalf of their communities. Activists are often accused of turning everything into a cause. This fear of being labeled as an activist or becoming bitter and angry because of the work causes people to not participate. My response to that: GET OVER IT.  Activism can be done in a variety of ways. It can be a simple as sending an email or letter to your Council Member or Congressperson. It can be as simple as casting your vote in an election. It can be joining a protest. It can be speaking out on the news and in front of decision makers.  All of these actions are needed to get our issues addressed. Therefore, we need more people to do the big and small acts of activism. Also, if you do not like what is currently being done by those who are doing the work, STEP UP and TAKE OVER.  Many times activists remain in their roles in organizations and on the front lines because there is no one to take the baton and keep the fight going. If you have a new approach, or want to take the lead, come take it! We need all soldiers to advocate on behalf of our community, big and small, but we need to get over this fear of being labeled the “angry activist” because the SILENCE is killing our community and us.

ANSWERING THE CALL

GLBTQ rights and equality is going to be achieved. However in order to do is we need to show up and show out. We need to bring all of ourselves, our race, gender, sexual orientation, education, talents, etc. to the table. We need to be unafraid to raise our unapologetic voices. We need to demand the recognition of our full humanity and all of who we are. We need to advocate for our community through the ballot box, the meeting rooms, and halls of government. This movement needs to be radical, conservative, intersectional, multipronged, and inclusive. In order for that to happen, we need to answer the call. The phone is ringing, are you going to pick up?


Guest Post: A Black SGL Call to Arms - By: Brandon Mack

Originally written June 2014.*

Black SGL men I have to ask you…Where are you in the fight for your rights?

This past week, the Houston City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (#HERO) after hearing several hours of testimony from members of the Houston GLBT community.  One of the most notable absences during those testimonies was the voice of Black SGL men. Less then 10 men testified as members of the Black SGL community. There was representation by transgendered, lesbian, and bisexual people of color, but our presence was notably absent. Thankfully, the measure passed, but it left a big question as to where are we in the fight for our own rights.

Throughout Facebook I see several groups devoted to conversations among Black SGL men to talk about our issues and to share our commonalities and differences. There are public groups and gatherings where Black SGL men talk about their issues and what they can do to address those issues. However, these conversations and dialogues often just remain online or behind close doors and rarely translate to action. Too often we become comfortable in letting others speak for us, or take up the torch for us. We separate ourselves from our sexuality by whittling down our sexual orientation to simply what is done in the bedroom and stating that it is nobody’s business what I do in the bedroom or who I sleep with. We often wattle down each other to just simple dicks and asses and don’t participate in our own rights struggle.

I’m here to say that we are FAR more than that. That we have to, need to, absolutely must, participate in the fight for our rights. While Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medger Evers were the public faces of the Civil Rights Movement, they were not the only actors. It took a large portion of the African American race to participate in marches, sit-ins, and speak on behalf of our rights. Those small actions collectively created a movement and that created change. We are never going to create changes if we do not participate in the efforts to attain rights. Civil rights and change come to those who show up. By not showing up we are allowing others to dictate our lives and our rights. Even if we have victories like HERO, it is our duty to participate to make sure that our voices and concerns are addressed and not just left to the few who do participate. Those brave few can’t always be the workers because when they get tired, weary and unsupported who will then pick up the torch for them, and therefore for all of us. If Bayard Rustin had been tired and not been apart of the movement, we would not have had the March on Washington, and the world would have never heard Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  Therefore, it is imperative that we take action!

I am calling my Black SGL men to pick up their arms and take action on behalf of themselves and our community. We need to take our dialogue and conversations offline and to full frontal action.