Ways You Can Support Charlottesville

Though President Trump refused to immediately condemn the act of terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, VA, people across the US are organizing to combat these folks and their attempts to spread hate. Though we live far from Virginia, there are still steps people in Minnesota can take to support efforts in Charlottesville and around the country.

1. Donate money to those in need in Charlottesville

A number of GoFundMe fundraisers have been set up to cover the medical expenses of counter-protestors who were injured by white supremacists, including one started by a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and one hosted by Unity C-Ville. If you are interested in donating to an organization rather than a GoFundMe account, you can find a list of Charlottesville organizations that focus on supporting the community here.

2. Attend a vigil or protest

Both vigils and protests have taken place in Minnesota to express solidarity with the Charlottesville counter-protesters, and a march is planned for this weekend in order to continue the support. If you’re interested in taking action in the future, be sure to check out the TakeAction calendar to find information on  lots of relevant meetings and action events. Also, check out organizations like Voices for Racial Justice, ISAIAH, Jewish Community Action and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, who do important work in our state on issues like economic and racial justice.

3. Contact your legislator

Contacting your legislators to express your concerns regarding white supremacy and Trump’s silence on the topic is always a good idea, and you can do so by finding your legislator and either writing to them or calling their office. If you want a step-by-step guide to contacting your legislator, follow this guide for clear instructions on how to make your voice heard.

4. Stay updated on any new developments

Even though the news coming out of Charlottesville is hard to hear, it is important to stay abreast of all of the information that develops over the next few days. Most major publications are already keeping track of the events coming out of Charlottesville, but some especially informative opinions are coming out The New Yorker, so feel free to check out these articles in between news reports.

Americans Agree: Transgender Individuals Should Be Able To Serve

President Trump’s most recent tweet storm stirred up controversy last week when he announced that he intends to deny transgender individuals the ability to serve in any branch of the U.S. armed forces. This announcement befuddled and outraged many Americans, and an outpouring of support for the transgender community came in from activists, prominent service members, and government officials alike. And now, a week after Trump’s announcement was posted on Twitter, the American people themselves have spoken: recent polls show that the majority of American citizens do not agree with the banning of transgender individuals from military service.

Here are the stats you need to know: an AOL News poll found that 54% of Americans believe that transgender individuals should be allowed to serve in the military. This finding is backed up by a similar Reuters poll, which reported that 58% of Americans support the idea that transgender individuals should have the opportunity to serve if they so wish. Apparently, Americans are less concerned about the associated with the medical care of transgender service members (which would be minimal, according to a 2016 Rand Corp. Study,), and more concerned about the issue of civil rights that such a ban would create.

It is President Trump’s job to represent the people, and the people–from a group of 56 retired admirals to the Human Rights Campaign to the American people themselves–have spoken: transgender individuals most definitely should have the opportunity to serve in the military.

How Women Killed The Recent Attempt To Repeal Obamacare

Trump’s campaign-trail promise to “immediately…knock out Obamacare” is proving to be more difficult than the GOP originally anticipated, as we are now over one-hundred and eighty days into the Trump presidency and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still intact.  Initial attempts to repeal and replace the ACA have led to resistance on both sides of the aisle, with members of Congress expressing concern that the bill written to replace the ACA would not do enough to ensure that low-income individuals had access to health insurance. This fear is a legitimate one, as repealing and replacing the ACA would leave 22 million Americans without healthcare and would also cause out-of-pocket medical payments to increase. Due to these issues (and others), Senate Republicans’ two attempts to dismantle the ACA have failed.

However, the message that the Senate was sending to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently wasn’t getting through, as McConnell decided to vote on repealing the ACA without a replacement earlier this week. This decision posed a very real threat to Americans, as repealing the ACA without a replacement–a decision that Trump has supported in the past–would leave 32 million Americans without access to healthcare and would “blow up the insurance markets.” Those who support the ACA were waiting for this vote with bated breath–but it never came to pass.

The morning of July 17, three GOP Senators–Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska–all announced they would nix the repeal of the ACA should it come to a vote. These refusals, due to the laws of the Senate, halted the repeal attempt in its tracks. When asked why she voted against her party’s platform, Senator Murkowski said “I cannot vote to proceed to repeal [the ACA] without reform that allows people the choice they want, the affordability they need, and the quality of care they deserve.”

Though these three Senators’ views on other issues don’t align with mine (or Minnesota NOW’s) their stand against McConnell’s risky attempt to repeal the ACA without a replacement plan is a reminder that the fight to save the ACA is still alive and kicking, and getting support from unlikely places.

Update: On July 25, 2017 Senate Republicans voted to open debate on the healthcare bill. Two Republicans — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — voted no. 

The Often-Forgotten Daughters of The Revolution

Having just spent the Fourth of July celebrating the Founding Fathers and their greatest achievement, it comes as no surprise that important figures of American history are on everyone’s minds. While most people know the stories of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, the women of the American Revolution are often forgotten. Though the fireworks may be over and the BBQ grills put away, let us remember a few of the  important American Revolution-era women who helped mold the best parts of our country, from sea to shining sea.

1. Sybil Ludington

In April of 1776, two individuals were sent out on a midnight ride to warn their communities that the British were invading American soil. One of these messengers was Paul Revere, a famous figure in American history. The other messenger was not, however, a Founding Father or a military hero. She was a sixteen year-old girl named Sybil Ludington. Though Sybil rarely gets the credit she deserves as a hero of American history, her ride on horseback was actually twice as long as Revere’s, and her efforts allowed the local military regiment to assemble and march against the British.

2. Phyllis Wheatley

Though she had been kidnapped from her native Gambia and forced into slavery upon reaching the United States, Phyllis Wheatley overcame many obstacles in order to become the nation’s first published African American poet. The publishers of her book were concerned that no one would believe that a female slave had written such beautiful poetry so they asked nearly twenty distinguished men in Boston to authenticate that she had. Wheatley’s work was so well-regarded that she was invited to meet George Washington after sending him a letter and poem of support. Soon after that she became recognized far and wide for her talented artistry and for her support of the Revolution.

3. Polly Cooper

Long before the French joined the American Revolution as allies to the colonists, American revolutionaries received support from the Oneida Nation, a Native American tribe that played an important role in providing aid to the colonists. One Oneida woman in particular was integral to the survival of the Revolution during the winter of 1777. Her name was Polly Cooper and she has been described as “an example of the courage, generosity and indomitable spirit of the Oneida people”. As one of forty members sent to Valley Forge in order to deliver food and medical aid, Cooper remained with the Revolutionary Army throughout the winter in order to insure the survival of as many soldiers as possible.

4. Abigail Adams

Easily one of the most famous women on this list, Abigail Adams was the wife and private advisor of eventual President John Adams. While she is most famous for urging her husband to “remember the ladies” when making new laws for the young nation, she also acted as a military organizer and “an adamant advocate of equal public education for women and emancipation of African-American slaves”. She was friends with a number of early American feminists, including Mercy Otis Warren, a political writer and satirist.

These women are just a few of the many ladies of liberty that history too often forgets. As you enjoy the last few fireworks and frankfurters from the holiday, remember to celebrate America’s earliest feminists as well!

The Fight For LGBT Rights In MN: Pride All Year Long

Though the Twin Cities’ weekend-long Pride Festival has drawn to colorful close (check out this photo essay by Tony Nelson if you weren’t able to celebrate the festival in person!), there are still many ways to support and continue the spirit of Pride all year long. Whether you’re interested in attending more events like the Pride Festival, becoming more active in Minnesota’s LGBTQIA community, or simply learning more about social activism, we’ve compiled a handy list of resources for you to celebrate Pride all year long.

While the Twin Cities’ Pride Festival is one of the larger celebrations of Pride in Minnesota, it is certainly not the only Pride event that takes place during the year. In fact, the Twin Cities Pride website has a full calendar of Pride-related events for interested LGBTQIA community members and allies: upcoming events include the Rochester Pridefest on July 21st, the J-Pride Shabbat service on July 28th, and a series of monthly Twin Cities Pride board meetings where you can observe firsthand the efforts Pride leaders are making to further the LGBTQIA community. This calendar is constantly being updated, so be sure to check the Twin Cities Pride website regularly in order to not miss any of the action!

If the Pride Festival inspired you to become more active in the LGBTQIA community as a volunteer, then check out OutFront Minnesota, one of the state’s premier organizations that supports the LGBTQIA community though volunteer services. Whether you’re interested in volunteering as an anti-violence advocate, a lobbying advocate, or an artistic advocate, OutFront has a place for you! The application process to volunteer is easy, and through your work you’ll be able to make a difference in your community all year long.

Activism goes hand-in-hand with education, which is where the our third resource comes in: the Twin Cities Pride Podcast. Each episode is hosted by different members of the LGBTQIA community, discussing a variety of topics within the themes of art, culture, education, and activism. You’ll be sure to learn something new with each new episode, so be sure to check out the podcast on their website in order to catch up on the most recent episodes!

The Fight For LGBT Rights In MN: The Pride Celebration

Summer in the Twin Cities isn’t truly complete until the arrival of the Pride Festival, the weekend-long celebration of LGBT culture that both inspires and honors the LGBT community. The MN Pride Festival is the ideal place to acknowledge the sacrifices and hard work that the LGBT community and its allies have put in over the years, but is also an opportunity to let your hair down and join in on an all-out celebration of life.  It’s a moving and exciting two days full of history, hope, and some pretty amazing costumes.

Though the Twin Cities Pride Festival, now includes a concert, a 5K, a family picnic, and the ever-popular parade, it was not always a place of carefree celebration. In fact, the first Pride parade held in Minnesota wasn’t an all-out street party but a protest. Established as a show of solidarity with the LGBT community in New York City, where the Stonewall Riots had recently occurred, the first MN Pride “parade” involved around fifty people, about half of whom marched while others waited in Loring Park in case they needed to bail the marchers out of jail, should they get arrested.

Despite this fear of arrest, the marchers who participated in the protest bravely made their way down Nicollet Mall, a path that is now traversed by thousands of people each year during the annual Pride Parade. LGBT historian and original marcher Jean-Nickolaus Tretter said in an interview with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, “I think some people were hoping we’d get arrested” but that the event still resulted in “joy and happiness.” That same joy and happiness is still seen and felt each year when the Pride Festival, a much-anticipated summer event for many people, kicks off in the Twin Cities.

If you want to check out the Pride Festival and all the history, happiness, and hope that it has to offer, make sure to plan ahead and figure out what events you’re interested in attending. More information can be found on the official Pride Festival website, and be sure to keep an eye out for the Minnesota NOW booth.



The Fight for LGBT Rights in MN: Amending the Minnesota Human Rights Act

Much progress has been made in the fight for equal rights for LGBT Minnesotans, particularly in the last 25 to 30 years. In the 1970’s the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis amended city ordinances to prohibit discrimination against gay men and lesbians. St. Paul’s ordinance was repealed a few years later (and eventually successfully amended again in 1989) and Minneapolis made theirs trans-inclusive in 1975. Though the State of Minnesota had anti-discrimination laws on the books since the 1960s they did not protect LGBT people. It wasn’t until 1993 that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals were guaranteed the same protections as all other Minnesotans. The basic human rights of employment, housing, education, and public services that should be afforded to all could, before this amendment was made, be denied under the law. State Senator Allan Spear and State Representative Karen Clark helped lead the fight to include protections for LGBT Minnesotans in anti-discrimination laws. 

Both members of the LGBT community, Spear and Clark were the first openly gay and lesbian members of the Minnesota legislature. They made waves with their annual attempts to introduce an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act that would protect LGBT individuals. For many years their efforts were thwarted by fellow legislators, but they remained determined to succeed. Even the recommendations of a commission appointed by Governor Rudy Perpich could not sway legislators.

A second commission, appointed by Governor Arne Carlson, toured the state and held listening sessions that included sharing stories about the lived experiences of LGBT Minnesotans. These efforts, along with the grassroots organizing of the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council (which has evolved into the influential OutFront Minnesota organization) and the Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action, mobilized a large number of people from different walks of life to support protections for LGBT Minnesotans. Alexa Bradley, who cochaired the grassroots campaign known as “It’s Time Minnesota,” said, “People went all over. We went to rural gay softball leagues, to labor unions o women’s organizations—anyone we could think of that we thought might possibly be allies”.

Legislators began to take notice, and word eventually reached Republican Minority Leader Sen. Dean Johnson, who gave a passionate speech on the floor in support of the amendment. His support cost him his own career in governmental politics; he eventually moved to full-time civil rights work. With the combined efforts of all of these individuals and groups, so many people coming together to fight for the rights of many, the amendment to protect LGBT individuals in Minnesota finally passed in 1993. This was a huge step for minority rights in Minnesota, and set the bar for other states in terms of human rights advancements. Due to the passion and determination of legislators, activists, and volunteers, Minnesota is a safer and more respectful place for all, leaving a legacy that is still wholly visible today.